QMT Features: April 2010
Flight path to supplier graduation
Global supply chains in the aerospace sector require a competency audit and a strategic approach to capture, retain and enhance critical skills.

There are many organizations around the world that want to integrate into the aerospace supply chain: the industry has not suffered as much as others in the recent economic downturn and a trusted supplier can be rewarded with significant orders.

Arshad Hafeez, Executive Director of Global Business Operations & Corporate Strategies at PRI explains: “With efficient operations and increasing emphasis on quality, the aerospace industry has proved robust in during the recent downturn. As a result, it appears an attractive prospect to potential suppliers.”

But aerospace is not an industry for everyone: only the best of the best can compete in this highly technical, quality focused engineering field and it is not easy to determine whether the effort will be worthwhile in the end.

The best way to verify that your current capabilities match those required to be a key member of the aerospace supply chain is to perform an audit of your competencies. eQuaLPrep is a maturity assessment that evaluates current capabilities and develops a customised strategic plan for companies to become “aerospace-ready”.

For some organisations, the steps identified from the eQuaLPrep assessment may be a welcome pointer in the right direction while for others, the work required to achieve that level may be cost- or time-prohibitive.

People play a key part in the maturity assessment and should not be overlooked: they are a vital resource and must be appropriately qualified and/or experienced in order to effectively handle the unique requirements of the aerospace industry.

Even the established aerospace companies recognise this: Kevin Ward, Enterprise Quality Director for Special Processes at Goodrich Corporation explains: “The focus now must be to capture today’s knowledge and pass it on to the next generation. Or we will find ourselves looking at a product in the future and not knowing what to do with it. Sharing our knowledge and harmonizing it throughout the industry is the best thing we can do now for the future.

To give an example of the involvement of Goodrich: we had developed our own internal auditing class. Our internal auditing skills varied around the world, meaning that the audit results could not be relied upon. Goodrich shared their training material with PRI, as did other companies.

“The eQuaLearn Internal Auditing class is the result. Approximately 100 Goodrich personnel have taken that class which, as a result of input from other companies as well as Goodrich, represents industry recommended best practice. At Goodrich today, to be an internal auditor, you must have taken the eQuaLearn Internal Auditing class and ideally the Root Cause Corrective Action, Problem Solving Tools and (for heat treaters) Introduction to Pyrometry as well. Our internal audits, which are still conducted using the Nadcap checklists, produce consistent and reliable results now.

“Having sent several hundred staff to various eQuaLearn classes and continuing to be involved in course development, it made sense to become an eQuaLearn member. It is the most economical way for Goodrich to train a global workforce consistently in order to benchmark ourselves. The fact that training is held around the world is advantageous: in fact, some Goodrich sites have hosted training sessions, for example in Toulouse, France and in Bangalore, India.

“Ultimately, increasing the knowledge and skills of our staff and suppliers contributes to making the end product better.”

This is the rationale behind the latest development, which takes training a step beyond general quality into special process personnel training and qualification through eQuaLified.

Martin Bridge, a Nadcap auditor since 2003 performs hundreds of audits each year and knows the state of the industry: “I’ve seen from the Nadcap audits I’ve participated in that this training is really needed. As the workforce ages and younger generations of employees enter the workforce, there’s a natural degradation in knowledge. The colleges and universities don’t teach this anymore. Somebody has to do it.”

Already available for chemical processing, heat treating, non-destructive testing and welding, eQuaLified aims to create a global proficiency understanding by dividing personnel into three levels. This will help companies determine their capabilities and improve the competence of their special process staff. 

Chet Date, Director of Quality Systems & Regulatory Compliance at Honeywell Aerospace sees the value in the program: “Through eQuaLified, we can reliably judge the suitability of a candidate to perform special process tasks because it indicates a certain level of individual proficiency, all over the world.”

For organisations that are already involved in aerospace – or in a position to strengthen their efforts to penetrate the market – their commitment to excellence can be demonstrated through Nadcap accreditation. Nadcap is the leading worldwide cooperative program of major companies designed to manage a cost-effective consensus approach to special processes & products and provide continual improvement within the aerospace & automotive industries.

Over 4,000 Nadcap special process and product audits take place around the world each year and accreditation, approved by aerospace industry experts, is recognized as a mark of excellence as well as compliance.

Lloyd Barker, Director of Corporate Quality at Alcoa explains “The inauguration of the Nadcap program impacted Alcoa’s license to trade as accreditation became a customer requirement. Our motivation is, naturally, to meet our customer requirements.

“However, we quickly saw benefits of Nadcap accreditation and recognized the importance of being active in the program. This has served us well: in addition to the obvious benefit of maintaining customer approval, participating in Nadcap has improved the discipline and stability of our special process execution and the capability of our people and, ultimately, the quality of the product that is released from our plants.”

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