Achieving AS9100 Certification: The Step-by-Step Process

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woman signing AS9100 certification audit documentationFor companies in aerospace, aviation, and defense, implementing the AS9100 quality management standard culminates in the significant milestone of formal certification. This rigorous certification process verifies your organization has a fully compliant system that meets all requirements in the standard.  Obtaining independent, third-party AS9100 registration brings major benefits like meeting customer requirements, opening new business opportunities, and driving continual improvement. In this article, we will walk through the key steps involved in attaining certification.

Conduct a Thorough Gap Analysis

The first major step is performing an in-depth gap analysis comparing your existing quality management system against the details in the AS9100 standard. This analysis uncovers any deficiencies where your current processes, documentation, or implementation do not yet meet AS9100 requirements.  Closely evaluate each clause and subsection of the standard to pinpoint potential non-conformities. If your organization is not currently certified to ISO 9001, gaps may include lack of:

  • A documented quality policy and objectives
  • Work instructions for production processes
  • Change management and configuration management procedures
  • Required quality records and forms

Identify any shortcomings in responsibility, accountability, training, infrastructure, or resources needed to fulfill AS9100. The gap analysis report becomes an action plan for the work ahead to upgrade your quality system. Working alongside an experienced AS9100 consultant through this process can help ensure all the gaps are identified and your organization will have a plan in place for the steps to come.

Implement an AS9100 Quality Management System

With gap analysis complete, you can now tackle the necessary enhancements to implement a system aligned with AS9100 requirements. This involves:

  • Creating an AS9100-compliant quality manual, procedures, work instructions, and forms. Use the standard as a model.
  • Integrating new documented processes into everyday operations.
  • Training all employees on their roles and responsibilities within the quality system.
  • Assigning accountability to specific personnel for key processes.
  • Providing necessary resources like staffing, tools, and budget.
  • Updating infrastructure if needed to comply with standards.

This stage takes dedication to integrate AS9100 into the full organization. But the work pays dividends when well-executed processes become second nature to staff.

Choose an Accredited Registrar

A critical prerequisite is selecting an auditing firm accredited specifically for AS9100 to conduct your certification. General ISO registrars cannot issue official AS9100 certification. Verify the scope of accreditations held by the registrar. Also, assess the audit approach used by the firm:

  • Do they emphasize coaching and partnership or just rigid assessment?
  • What qualifications and aviation/aerospace experience do their auditors have?
  • Can they share other clients as references?

Choose a registrar that fits your organization’s culture and needs.

Undergo the Stage 1 Audit

The registrar first performs a Stage 1 audit on-site. This involves auditing your AS9100 quality documentation for completeness, compliance with the standard, and alignment with actual business processes.   Any gaps or non-conformities are identified and must be addressed before Stage 2. Ensure any deficiencies noted get corrected and necessary changes made for a smooth Stage 2 experience.

Undergo the Stage 2 Audit

In the Stage 2 audit, the registrar sends auditors to your facilities to verify the effective implementation of your AS9100 quality management system. Auditors inspect processes, interview employees at various levels, examine records, and trace specific work examples end-to-end through your system. Any remaining non-conformities or weaknesses get documented. Your organization must take corrective action and prove the issues have been resolved before certification can proceed.

Receive Formal Certification

Once all AS9100 requirements are adequately met without outstanding non-conformities, your organization is recommended for certification by the audit team. The registrar then makes the certification official by issuing the AS9100 certificate. Certification is valid for three years as long as ongoing compliance is maintained. Now the real work begins of living up to your certified status!

Maintain Ongoing Compliance

At least annually, your registrar will perform surveillance audits on-site to verify your organization still conforms 100% to AS9100. Any non-conformities that arise must be immediately addressed. Surprises identified during surveillance audits could put your certification at risk if not corrected quickly. These ongoing assessments ensure you never become complacent in following or improving quality processes. Within three years, your system must undergo a full recertification audit to renew AS9100 registration.

Achieving Certification Opens Doors

Gaining AS9100 certification takes dedication over many months, but success delivers rewards for years to come. With a compliant quality system validated by accredited auditors, organizations in aerospace, aviation, and defense unlock access to new business, meet customer requirements, and reach new heights of safety, quality, and performance.