Most companies aim to provide a high level of quality in the services and products they offer daily, as this is aligned with the organization values. However, receiving a certification from an external agency is one step further for which companies need to prepare. This preparation should include an alignment of the company values and working methodologies into a comprehensive Quality Management System (QMS).

Quality systems ensure that the processes of a company satisfy all the requirements and expectations of customers, in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Especially in the aerospace industry, a certified QMS is often an essential requirement, as most big players demand it from their suppliers. A Quality Management System can be certified under ISO 9001:2015 and, additionally for the aviation and aerospace sector, under ISO 9100:2018. For companies that design, manufacture and/or maintain airborne products, a QMS is a valuable first step to obtain a quality approval from EASA such as Design Organisation Approval (DOA), Production Organisation Approval (POA), or Maintenance Organisation Approval (MOA) which greatly facilitate the path to holding type certificates or issuing permits to fly.

Irrespective of the quality certificate pursued, there are some key principles to follow in order to obtain an agency approval when setting up a Quality Management System.

Be focused

Even before building the structure of your quality system, work with your team to define the concrete and objective goals for every process you follow and keep a written track of working procedures and the strategies behind. If the company is aware of how and why things are done, the implementation of the QMS shapes naturally around the previous work done.

When designing the QMS structure, you’ll need to define a clear and concise goal. Having a clear picture of all the existing processes in your company will help redefine them if they do not organically respond to global scope. This is important to clearly identify and limit the applicability of the QMS to the company processes.

Measure results

For traceability and quality control, the goals defined should be periodically tracked through several parameters to ensure their compliance. Successful organizations start continuously tracing and evaluating their goals based on evidence even before thinking of certification. Risks, indicators and non-conformities should be assigned to each process.

Giving our processes a customer focus is also a must.

There should be numerous key parameter indicators in order to measure the customer satisfaction also ensuring that the staff is aware of customer needs. Their direct feedback is invaluable to improve.

Engage

For a quality system to truly deliver results, it can’t remain as good intentions written in paper. It must truly speak to the company staff and most specially to the leadership figures, who with their example and involvement will engage the rest of the team. Quality means, first and foremost, a true engagement with the company values and goals as this is the only way to achieve the expected results.

This aspect has become even more important for final certification. The auditor should feel the involvement of the upper management in the Quality Management System. This is one of the most important changes of ISO 9001 version 2015.

The employees shall show enough awareness of the company goals and the relevant aspects of the QMS to their position, so that they can perform their daily activities bearing in mind the importance of quality for the organisation.

Never stop learning

An analysis of the context of the organisation is performed when initially planning the QMS. The quality team deeply considers the strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities, and benchmarking. In this way, several risks and opportunities can be identified. However, the philosophy behind the QMS is not just to obtain a certification, but to continuously improve all aspects of your company. Thus, it is important to keep track of all the non-conformities and risks so that the company can learn from the past and adapt initial analyses to a complex and changing environment.

A continuous effort must also be put into relationship management with relevant partners. It is paramount to evaluate your suppliers for performance and establish an honest and open relationship with them so that both ends benefit from it.

To follow the organization progress and history, gather records that are both useful for the company and that can demonstrate the tracking of each process to the corresponding auditor. Everything shall be documented and tracked.

Prove yourself

Once the team and the paperwork are ready, it is time to show the work done to the certification agency. It will be an auditor to check and review the company processes. If a good planning of all the activities related to the Quality Management System is performed, it will be easy to avoid a non-conformity. During the audit, the quality manager should just show the required information/records to the auditor, but never try to convince them. If the work performed is solid, it will speak for itself.

Finally, implementing the proposed suggestions and improvements will be a great help, not only to achieve the final certificate, but most probably to allow the organisation to grow and perform in ways unexpected before the process of implementing a certified QMS.

These principles should be followed as much as possible. However, the important thing to bear in mind is that they should be adapted to the way of working on the company so that minimum changes are necessary for certification. It is preferable and more useful to continuously improve than to make a radical change of processes to achieve a certified QMS that is hard to keep up with on the organisation’s day-to-day basis.