Supplier Spotlight: American Standard Circuits' AS9100 Journey
I had the privilege of working with American Standard Circuits (ASC) over the past year with their successful pursuit of AS9100 quality management system certification. The company has chosen to share their approach, lessons learned and benefits gained by going through this formidable process.
What is AS9100?
AS9100 is a quality management standard for the aviation, space, and defense industries. AS9100 is based on the ISO 9001 standard, and in fact, includes 100% of the requirements of ISO 9001 plus more than 100 additional requirements specific to the aerospace industry. In other words, ISO on steroids! Being registered to AS9100 means being registered to ISO 9001 by default; however, many companies choose to maintain both certifications primarily due to this misunderstanding with their non-aerospace customers. Both standards are organized in the same way and use the same numbering system.
This is the first question I asked ASC CEO Anaya Vardya, as we discussed the resources, discipline and hard work that was going to be required by his team. Anaya stated that ASC was currently supplying many of the tier-one aerospace and defense OEMs under their ISO and ITAR certifications, but recently, customer pressure was increasing for them to add AS9100 to their quality portfolio. He also shared that without AS9100 certification, ASC was prohibited from participating in new programs with many potential customers.
My second question was focused around understanding what Anaya’s expectations were for his company’s AS9100 implementation. There are two potential answers to this question, and Anaya’s answer was the sole reason for our joint success in gaining certification. He said, “Steve, I want to use this process to make my company better. I see this as a tool to drive operational improvement throughout every single process and become a better supplier to our customers.” Had he chosen the other answer, “It’s a sales tool, I want the certification because my customers are forcing me to,” we would not have engaged. There are a lot of consultants that can do that; my philosophy is to use the process to improve organizational performance, so Anaya and I were well aligned from day one.
Step One: AS9100 Team ID and Awareness Training
The first step was identifying the ASC team that would be tasked with execution of the implementation plan. This is sometimes called the AS/ISO Steering Committee, or something similar. ASC chose to utilize their current leadership team, or “top management” in the vernacular of the standard. The important element here was that ASC’s team represented senior management of every major functional area of the company. While it is cliché, it is also a fact; without full support of top management any effort of this magnitude will not be successful. Under Anaya’s leadership, ASC’s management was fully on board, which is another reason for their success and realization of organizational improvement.
The ASC Leadership Team
- Gordhan Patel, Chairman & Owner
- Anaya Vardya, CEO & Owner
- Jay Hirpara, Executive Vice President & Owner
- Dave Lackey, VP of Business Development
- Dave Olson, VP of Operations
- John Bushie, Process Engineering & Technology Manager
- Jim Zeman, Director of Quality
- Mohammed Khan, Quality Manager
- John Rupp, Quality Systems Manager
The second part of this step was AS9100 Awareness Training, and Anaya was adamant that ASC’s entire top management go through my two-day course. Reviewing each requirement in straightforward language, deep-diving into the standard and a mock audit to AS9100 requirements left the members with a solid working knowledge of the requirements, and expectations of each of them—a benefit that would pay tremendous ongoing dividends as we would move through the implementation.
Step Two: GAP Analysis Audit
The next step was to perform an in-depth GAP analysis of ASC’s ISO 9001: 2008 quality management system (QMS). The audit was a 50-page comprehensive evaluation of 221 elements of the standard, with the purpose of identifying areas of the QMS (GAPs) that would need to be upgraded to be in compliance with the aerospace requirements. The results of the GAP Analysis showed that the current QMS was 76% compliant to AS9100, which is a pretty good starting point. Keep in mind that American Standard had been ISO 9001 certified for a very long time, and has a very robust QMS. The GAP results illustrate just how difficult aerospace requirements are and the degree of difficulty transitioning from ISO 9001. Remember, AS9100 contains 100% of ISO 9001 requirements, plus an additional 100!
Step Three: Custom Implementation Plan
This step involved using the GAP results as inputs to developing a detailed 5-Step Implementation Plan customized to ASC’s needs, backwards scheduled to fit with Anaya’s goal of achieving AS9100 certification in less than 12 months. Working with the Leadership Team, we established specific tasks, owners and due dates. One of the major concerns with the staff was the overwhelming amount of work that needed to be done, which is understandable when looking at the project as a whole. The beauty of a well-designed implementation plan is that it breaks the project down into small, bite-size buckets that provide ongoing motivation as they get completed and checked off.
The implementation plan allowed ASC’s management to think through critical challenges before beginning, thereby saving time, energy, and money. By detailing all milestone steps before starting the project, the individual owners can anticipate factors they otherwise would not consider until encountered and identify potential problems and challenges on the front end. The planning becomes proactive instead of reactive, which allows best practices to be used and ensures that energy and time are spent on implementing a high quality, well‐thought‐out plan rather than “putting out fires.”
Step Four: Execution and History Building
Execution is where the proverbial rubber hits the road, turning the planning into reality. The Right Approach Consulting has a 100% certification success rate, and when we are hired to either transition a QMS, or build one from scratch, I offer the client an ironclad guarantee that together we will achieve certification. The only stipulation to my guarantee is that the client owns the execution. I own the implementation plan, the system and the training, but I cannot execute for them.
Anaya and his management team not only owned the execution, they killed it! American Standard recognized the value AS9100 would provide to the company and they were committed. From the management team, through the supervision and the front-line workers, every single employee gave 100% to the effort over and above their day jobs.
Compliance & Process Improvement
American Standard had 20 primary procedures that had to be scrubbed and upgraded to comply with AS9100. There were also several new processes that had to be created as there is no requirement in ISO. The next month was spent in what I call the “discovery stage,” as every procedure, form, checklist, log, work instruction, flowchart, etc. in the QMS had to be accounted for and evaluated for inclusion going forward. The next three months were spent in the process review and improvement stage. Every procedure was reviewed with the process owner with two goals in mind: 1) Upgrading to AS9100 compliance, and 2) Improving the process. This is a critical activity if a company wants to maximize the benefits of any quality system upgrade. Using the system to improve operational performance is the “right approach,” as opposed to merely as a sales tool. At the end of the day, American Standard’s quality management system looks vastly different from the ISO version, with commensurate results.
American Standard has realized operational improvement in every critical performance metric. Yields, customer satisfaction and employee morale are up, warranty costs and rework are down. In the advanced technology arena that ASC dominates, these improvements go right to the bottom line.
What are American Standard Employees Saying About AS9100?
John Rupp, Quality Systems Manager:
Some of the crucial things that I learned during our implementation of AS910 are:
- Our staff is very culturally diverse
- It’s all about the relationships with the entire staff
- To have the ability to readjust yourself to who you are interacting with so they will have a better understanding of what I had to share
- To demonstrate cause-and-effect to relate situations from their personal lives to their daily jobs
- Using opportunity to motivate our workforce to achieve our collective goals and ultimate success of the AS9100 project
- Then finally, to understand that everyone at work are internal customers to one another. Once we satisfy each other as internal customers, our outside customers will be satisfied too. Everyone at ASC is the hands and feet of our QMS
(Author’s note: A special recognition of appreciation to John, ASC’s quality system quarterback, whose relentless focus and drive directly correlated to our collective success.)
Dave Olson, VP of Operations:
After going through AS9100 with other companies, I was pleased to see ASC take this on, for the following reasons:
- If you believe that the most important part of your job is driving continuous improvement, AS9100 is your friend
- Systems management in every aspect of your organization is key to your long-term success. AS9100 demands complete quality systems to be in place and functioning
- People are our most valuable asset; whatever tools that help our people become more knowledgeable and invested in our company is a large part of making great products for our customers
- AS9100 cannot be delegated and only applied to the workforce. Everyone is held accountable! Risk management is one area that is being evaluated daily now at ASC, and the payback has been tremendous, especially with some of the crazy technologies we are asked to build.
Dave Lackey, VP of Business Development:
Taking on the challenge of achieving AS9100 at ASC was particularly important to me for the following reasons:
- The most successful way to maintain an exceptional quality system is by involving the entire organization. AS9100 is not just a certificate you hang on the wall; it is a way of running your business
- Being AS9100 compliant requires risks to be looked at and evaluated right from the quote stage. This is important to not only get the pricing right, but to position us to be successful in meeting customer needs before ever receiving an order
- Being in sales, having AS9100 as a quality achievement sends the message to our customers that we are serious about quality. It also helps in opening doors to new opportunities. A potential customer knows they are dealing with a world-class company that has invested in its people and overall organization
Anaya Vardya, CEO:
Achieving our AS9100 is a very important milestone for us here at American Standard. I like the idea that everyone on our team was dedicated to accomplishing this common goal. Taking this journey has not only made our company stronger but it has made our team stronger. This was a good experience for all of us and I am grateful that everyone pitched in and made it happen.
In closing, I would personally like to thank American Standard’s Leadership Team and employees for their relentless dedication to the transition, unquestioned support, and hundreds of hours of collaboration time spent hammering out a system that would work in their business environment.