AS9100 is the quality mark for quality management in the aerospace industry, an industry that places particularly stringent demands on quality. Mifa is one of a select group of companies in the Netherlands that is AS9100 certified. An absolute must for doing business in this industry. In February 2022, the certificate was renewed for another three years after a strict audit. We would like to give you a look behind the scenes.
The better known ISO 9001 is a globally recognised standard for quality management. With this quality mark, organisations show that their products and services meet the quality requirements of their customers. The standard describes things you must and may comply with.
"Great idea", was the thought of organisations in the aerospace industry, "but we have additional requirements". This is how AS9100 came into existence in 1999. What is optional in ISO 9001 is a requirement in AS9100. In addition, there are quite a few extra requirements, as quality and perfection are crucial in the aircraft and aerospace industry.
Parts for the aviation industry demand perfection
Within the aviation industry, you have to deal with many different suppliers. Structural parts, such as landing gear, jet engine parts and turbine blades, are critical components. If they fail, the safety of an aircraft is at risk. It goes without saying that precision and perfection of such parts are crucial.
Mifa is largely active in the market for interior parts and is one of Airbus' largest suppliers. These are interior parts, such as aluminium strips of luggage racks, trolleys, kitchen units and the doorpost of the cockpit. The impact of these parts is much less, but still the AS9100 standard must be met.
"There is no AS9100 light. It is all or nothing".
~ Auditor Lloyd's Register
These are all parts with extra high decorative (sight plane) requirements. The construction of a new Airbus costs around 350 million euros. The product requirement for the finish of each part is simple: perfection. Defects larger than 0.5 mm, every tiny point or scratch, are not accepted. This demands absolute perfection and no concessions are made.
By way of comparison, in the automotive industry you can have 0.01% rejection per 100,000 delivered parts. In aviation, it is 0. The so-called zero defect philosophy. The reason for this is that no delays may occur in the supply chain. An AOG (aircraft on ground) is extremely expensive and therefore unacceptable. This is why high demands are set for every component.
One stop shopping: high quality extrusion profiles, finishing and surface treatments
In the supply chain of the aviation industry, it is preferable to work with as few suppliers as possible in order to reduce dependence and the risk of delays in the production process. The one-stop shop experience that Mifa offers is a major advantage. Lightweight aluminium extrusion profiles with very precise tolerances and great flexibility in shapes and complex constructions, bending (to length) and brushing and high quality finish and surface treatments to make the surface hard and wear-resistant. Mifa has everything in house and is not dependent on other suppliers for this. So Airbus gets a completely finished product, from rough extrusion to end product, without any suppliers getting involved. A major advantage of this is that the properties of each process can be attuned to each other, because Mifa understands the interaction between all processes.
If a certain alloy is chosen for extrusion, certain treatments have to be avoided in the next process step, because you will then see crystal texture or black bands, for example. Mifa tailors the process to the end product and its strict requirements. That is the advantage of having all processes in-house and having a lot of experience with them.
AS9100 certification audit: the process
The full certification audit is a rigorous assessment conducted every three years by an external, independent audit agency, Lloyd's Register. Compare it to the MOT inspection of a car. All elements are tested and if you pass the audit, you receive a certificate of renewal. After that, a surveillance audit takes place every year, comparable to a maintenance check of your car. This audit will only test the main elements to see if you still meet the requirements.
The duration of both the certification audit and the surveillance audit depends on the size of your company. At Mifa, two auditors worked full time for five days on the certification audit. The surveillance audit takes 4-5 days and is conducted by one auditor.
The audit touches almost all departments, from HR to Purchasing and from production to IT and Sales. Apart from the Administration department, not much is left out of the audit. The departments are tested on the implementation of procedures and they look at how things are arranged. They look at subjects such as safety, but also whether the workplaces are clean, whether there is food and drink in the production department and whether rejected products are properly identified.
According to Mifa's Quality Insurance manager Chris Veringmeier, it is important to realise that the process is audited, not the people. "If something is found in the audit, it means that the process is not good. It is then important to improve the process, but also to find out why that error was not detected earlier. The PDCA cycle (plan, do, check, act) should be implemented throughout your quality management system. During an audit, they want to see that you measure, monitor, steer and, if things are not going well, take corrective action. You don't have to show perfect results, but they want to see that you are executing the process properly."
Deviations in the process are graded on three levels:
Opportunity for improvement (OFI)
Minor non conformity
Major non conformity
During an audit, it is absolutely crucial that you do not hide anything. If an auditor sees that you are hiding something, he has the right to stop the audit immediately. In the worst case, you will lose your certificate.
High quality profiles through quality awareness and co-engineering
According to Veringmeier, Mifa has its affairs in excellent order. So they are not waiting with sweaty hands for the audit. "Our business processes are in excellent order and employees are actively involved in quality".
Within the AS9100 and in the aviation industry, quality awareness is extremely important. Employees must understand that it is not an aluminium profile with a brush structure, but an aviation part that is built into an interior with extremely high requirements.
During the last audit, the auditor said: "Mifa breathes aerospace. You understand very well what the requirements are." In addition, it became clear that Mifa excels in partnership with the customer; due to the great emphasis on co-engineering, the company understands exactly what the customer wants.
What’s new in AS9100
Every four years, the standards of AS9100 are reviewed by the ISO and AS9100 board. The last revision took place in 2016. The standard was fundamentally overhauled and a number of new parts were added.
The reason for this was that it happened too often that contaminations in parts led to stoppages and delays. Foreign Object Debris (FOD), where for example a screw, a piece of dust or a rag is left behind in a component. In 2020, pieces of metal, tools and even rags were found in fuel tanks during the construction of new Boeing 737 MAX in the United States. That is extremely dangerous. Tightening up the standard must now ensure that FOD is eliminated from suppliers. At the same time, counterfeit materials from the US were the reason for adapting the AS9100 standard. The US exports much of its electronic waste to China, where it is recycled or dumped. Chinese companies turned out to extract electronic components and PCBs on a large scale. These were refurbished and put on the market as new. The problem was so big that 25% of the American defence apparatus operated with counterfeit parts from China.
The Turkish Airlines aircraft that crashed in front of the runway in Amsterdam in February 2009 also turned out to have a counterfeit part, as a result of which the height sensor did not work properly. This is something you want to avoid at all costs and that is exactly what the AS9100 was created for.
AS9100 quality certificate renewal
Quality is very simple, especially in the aerospace industry with its strict requirements. It is either right or wrong; there is no in-between taste. With the new renewal of the AS9100 quality certificate, Mifa shows that it applies the global best practices from the market, so that quality is guaranteed in all its facets in the company. The aircraft and aerospace industry may continue to rely on the highest quality aluminium extrusion profiles from Mifa in the years to come.
Want to know more about aluminium extrusion profiles? Read more about aviation precision extrusion here or contact our sales by filling in the contactform.