Aerospace companies operate in a highly regulated sector, filled with complex safety requirements and a critical focus on a wide range of quality and compliance tasks.
While on one hand aerospace companies are responsible for the safety of their passengers, while on the other hand is the steep cost of manufacturing and sustainable manufacturing practices. Both are compelling the entire sector to opt for digital transformation and automation.
Needless to say, complex engineering is part and parcel of the entire industry that eventually feeds into airplanes and a range of other airborne vehicles like missiles, military airplanes, sea planes, space launch vehicles and spacecrafts.
Automated Quality Management is needed for the entire aerospace industry, including OEMs, Tier-1 and Tier-2 Suppliers, and next-generation aerospace startups of the future. It is also crucial for software and hardware providers, IoT-based preventive maintenance service providers, and other ecosystem stakeholders to manage an end-to-end quality process.
As is often repeated, the case of Boeing 737 Max is a classic example of what can go wrong when quality processes fail. After two mishaps, Boeing has grounded all its 737 Max aircrafts due to safety issues, a failure that is estimated to cost the company over $18 billion by NYTimes.
The point is this: a robust, detailed, well-designed end-to-end quality and compliance process is the way forward in the aerospace sector.
What are some macro trends in this space?
- In 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration and other equivalent regulators around the world certified Boeing Max 737 as safe. Following the first crash that year, trim control issues due to faulty angle-attack indicators surfaced and FAA and Boeing issued an Airworthiness Directive warning. Then, in 2018, all Boeing 737 Max aircrafts were grounded. Though the manual indicated what to do in case of this problem arising mid-flight, it did not provide suitable training. The Boeing issue pushed the regulators to become extremely stringent.
- A new study by AlixPartners, a global consulting firm in the aviation space, shows that this has had an impact on not just Boeing but the whole aerospace supply chain, even possibly leading to new certification requirements.
- The commercial-aircraft supply chain for the manufacture of the cabin, engine and aerostructure sectors in particular needs strengthening, experts believe.
- Needless to say, the recent COVID-19 situation has resulted in an unplanned economic downturn for the airline industry, one that may take a while to recover from.
- However, over the long term, there are several opportunities waiting to be tapped by aerospace startups. We’re seeing a range of exciting startups coming into the fray including:- Unmanned Aircraft startups
– Enterprises trying to come up with battery-operated commercial airlines with less dependence on oil
– Weather Satellites
– Technology solutions – both IoT and software-based ventures – serving the aerospace segment
– Innovative startups trying to improve and enhance part of the aerospace / aviation supply chain
– Space tech ventures
Digital Transformation, certainly the way forward
- While digital technologies can enable the businesses to be a step ahead of the competition, they are also adding a layer of complexity. Next-generation software products that are cloud-based, elastic, flexible, scalable and customizable is required.
- Mergers and acquisitions will add their own layers of complexities as it will require seamless integration of employees as well as technologies of the merged entities quickly, a trend we expect to see more and more in the aviation space.
How can an EQMS like ComplianceQuest help?
- EN/AS 9100, based on ISO 9001, lays down additional processes and regulations specific to aerospace industry. The CQ product has the exact environment to automate the process of getting this compliance right. We also have the ability to customize and scale the product as per the requirements of a customer.
- AS 9100 governs the entire supply chain of the aircraft manufacturing process, addressing specifications right from design to manufacturing, processes, inspection, specifications and project management procedures.
- This stresses the need for the integration of the supplier systems with that of the manufacturer, in addition to visibility to key customer-related quality events. Seamless integration across the full lifecycle is key.
- The aerospace sector also has a diverse workforce with varying competencies and skills that need to be constantly refreshed and upgraded to keep pace with the changing needs of the industry. A training management solution is a key element of the quality and compliance process.
- Sustainability and green-business practices are also being stressed by the Aerospace Industries Association.
- The ComplianceQuest product can automate and make the following processes more efficient for the aerospace sector:- First Article Inspection: to ensure that each part and the completed product function as promised and identify and address areas of non-conformance
– Traceability: Accurate reporting and traceability throughout the product lifecycle is essential, needing documentation of all parts as part of the audit trail
– Periodic Audits: Thorough and timely audits are important for ensuring the process is on track and for course correction in case of any deviations
– RCA: Root cause analysis, in case of any errors or variations, will help not only address the problems but also prevent them in the future
– Customer Relationship Management: An effective way to handle customer complaints and bring them to closure for ensuring customer satisfaction is essential
– Supplier Qualification: Given the stress on suppliers meeting regulatory needs today, the aerospace business needs a system that helps identify, train and retrain its suppliers to meet its requirements
– Collaboration and Document Management: Given the multicultural teams and the need for collaboration and documentation across locations, a unified system for version control and improved communication are crucial
A cloud-based enterprise wide quality management system such as the one from Compliance Quest is most suited to meet the quality, safety and regulatory needs of the aerospace industry. Its modules enable several processes, from supplier qualification to facilitating collaboration between teams, CAPA, RCA, customer management, document management and more, all of which are essential to get a holistic view of the processes and to correct in case of deviations.
If you are a quality leader in the aerospace industry or building a startup in this space, give us a shout. We’d be happy to share more information, case studies and our expertise serving this sector. Write to us at [email protected].