From its commencement in 1998, the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) has focused on achieving a single certification based on common standards recognized by all members across the global aviation, space, and defense industries.
Resolving to continuously improve the process, and with the last revision of the common standards in early 2009, all agreed that a major update of the assessor approval process was required. Per IAQG’s commission, a single training provider was selected to develop the Aerospace Auditor Transition Training (AATT), with the intent being that one curriculum and one training method could be used to reduce auditor variation. With the new revision of the standards, the assessment process and philosophy reflected the change from a checklist or elemental approach to a process-based approach. Transition timelines for third-party auditors and aerospace suppliers were set into motion.
All aviation, space, and defense companies, Goodrich included, had to face their first Surveillance Audit to the new 9100 Rev C standard by July 2012. In 2010, Susie Neal, Enterprise Director, Quality Systems (CQA, SS BB, AEIA, IAQG AATT Master Trainer) for Goodrich, Chair RMC and Vice Chair of OPMT committee, and lead of the 9104-1 transition team, sat down with Goodrich’s Certification Body (CB), the British Standards Institution (BSI), and discussed the transition timeline to establish a recertification audit timeline for all of Goodrich’s sites. Neal had to face three challenges: internal skepticism, change of focus from elemental to process-based auditing, and new expectations for the CB.
Working through the skepticism
Before the launch of the IAQG-sanctioned Aerospace Auditor Transition Training (AATT) in 2010, there was skepticism within Goodrich regarding the mandated transition timeline—specifically, whether the timeline was unreasonable, as there was no training even available at the time of the deadline designation.
Neal believed it would be in the best interest of Goodrich and its associates to be trained to the same level as the existing third-party certification body auditors. She was adamant from the start that the quality directors at each of Goodrich’s sites worldwide should be trained through the AATT.
Initially, senior management and others at Goodrich questioned why they should receive third-party auditor training when they were not required to undertake that level of training.
Most companies hand their internal auditor the standard and send them out. Being a part of the 9101-1 transition team, Neal knew that one could not understand that standard without the proper training and would not be able to go out there and successfully audit.
Goodrich worked proactively with Plexus International, the IAQG, BSI Group, and the aerospace manufacturing industry as a whole to establish a realistic recertification audit timeline for all their sites and devised the proper plan for global implementation. Neal developed a detailed facility-by-facility plan to ensure the timely outcome of the transition/upgrade audits at its facilities.
In May 2010, Neal attended the first AATT instructor-led session held by Plexus. Goodrich formed an agreement with Plexus, which allowed it to deliver both the 9100 and 9110-sanctioned training internally. Along the way, Goodrich has collected data concerning training costs, estimated both savings—by bringing training in-house—and the impact/benefits to each participant who underwent training during the transition process. In enrollment fees alone, Goodrich saved an estimated 79% on every 9100 AATT, 48% on 9110 AATTs, and 73% on every 9100 Internal Auditor course.
Plexus helped Goodrich develop an internal train-the-trainer process that enabled participants who had attended the 9100 AATT (and completed it successfully), as well as the three-day AS Internal Quality Auditing Training (AS IQA), to have the ability to train others. Internal trainers would then be evaluated during their first training by a previously accredited trainer.
Goodrich currently has 100 AATT auditors, 88 internal trainers, and 725 internal auditors trained to date and additional trainer and auditors classes are scheduled to be completed in 2012. Today, it is approximately 100% complete with its facility transition assessments.
Neal knew that Goodrich would have to change the focus of its approach to auditing. This would be a dramatic transition from elemental auditing to process-based auditing. Before the change, one location was doing 300 audits a year, clause by clause or document by document. After the focus changed to the process approach, with six core processes identified, that same facility now does one audit every month or month-and-a-half, but it concentrates on one process at a time and follows it throughout the organization.
This type of audit may take all month, but the value added is worth the effort. The process approach led Goodrich to audit trails that had issues all along, whereas under the elemental approach, it did not see the “whole picture,” just bits and pieces.
The new standards are clearly more challenging than the previous revisions. Goodrich has seen a significant increase in minor and major nonconformities per audit, which is attributed to the change in the audit approach that was introduced along with the revised standards.
Goodrich believes the process-based audit approach provides a more thorough assessment of its quality management systems. Its internal processes are now being assessed from start to finish, which may not have been the case under the previous clause-based approach. Three issues jumped out immediately.
• Work transfer—By defrocking its work transfer process, Goodrich was able to develop a consistent approach that can be used throughout the company. The integration of the process approach allowed Goodrich to look across the entire company and make recommendations at an enterprise level that would trickle down into the supply chain.
• Goodrich auditor competency—Goodrich now has an Internal Auditor database. If the Internal Auditor passes the AATT, a copy of the certificate is issued. Then, the CB can review what Goodrich’s policy is and audit for that particular site, determining whether it meets the qualifications. Goodrich says it is definitely seeing the findings improve in the area of internal training documentation.
• Internal major nonconformities went up—Goodrich expected them to. Nonconformities are reported to upper management every month, with a particular eye on duplicates from month to month. If it is systemic, it needs to be looked at across the corporation. Before, Goodrich looked at such information from the clause perspective. Now, its focus has changed, which will eventually lead to a decrease in the number of major and minor nonconformities issued by third-party CB Auditors.
At first, people did not see the value of the training, but as they became more familiarized with the process approach, they began seeing the value. They have come to the realization that CBs are there to aid Goodrich in the transition process by pinpointing nonconformities that, if corrected, would immediately add value to the organization.
New CB expectations
Neal was quite aware of what the CBs would be up against trying to get their own auditors trained and recertified, while simultaneously assisting both new and existing clients in the Revision C certification process. The industry as a whole was now expecting more from their CB auditors, partially due to the integration of the process approach.
If Goodrich had an audit and the CB auditor did not find anything wrong during the audit process, there was no added value to the plant being audited.
If no findings were noted, Goodrich would not be pleased with the work conducted, and if the CB auditor continued to find no problems, it made it clear it would request to have a different one sent on-site to conduct the assessment. Audits became more rigorous and resulted in more findings.
Today, if a major nonconformity is found, the Goodrich Account Manager is immediately notified and a conference call is arranged. Neal is brought in to ensure that the CB auditor and the site personnel are in agreement on the finding. By acknowledging the finding, site personnel understand its implications and can immediately go to work on taking the necessary corrective action, rather than argue over whether the major finding actually exists. As Goodrich deals with these issues, NCs should gradually reduce and its QMS will improve.
Since the plan’s implementation, there have been a number of transition benefits to Goodrich. In the end, Neal says, the company has a better system in place, fewer customer complaints, less risk with its suppliers, a work-transfer process, management-review improvement, and value-added documentation.
Process-based auditing techniques have alleviated stress surrounding CB auditing because personnel have realized that “CB auditors are just here to help us get better,” and that when these auditors find nonconformities and the findings are corrected, immediate value is added to an organization.
Jacqueline Cannon, Communications Specialist, Plexus International, wrote this article for Aerospace Engineering.