By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East
CHERRY POINT — Every industry has certifications that indicate standards of excellence achieved through the use of best practices.
In the aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul industry, Aerospace Standard 9110 serves as the benchmark for excellence. Following a recent third-party surveillance audit, Fleet Readiness Center East became the first aviation depot within Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers to pass an AS9110 audit with no findings.
The result represents years of hard work and collaboration between many of FRC East’s internal departments, including Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Production; MRO Logistics; MRO Engineering, Facilities and Infrastructure Management; and Compliance and Quality.
“As the first Fleet Readiness Center to complete an AS9110 audit with zero findings, it’s clear that our team’s hard work is paying off,” said Tina Rowe, MRO Production director at FRC East. “We are becoming the benchmark for the enterprise in how we do business; now, we need to keep the momentum going and sustain our standings so our customers continue to send work and to entice new customers and their potential workload.”
The AS9110 assesses the processes, procedures and efficiencies of an organization’s quality management system. Conformance to the AS9110 standard is voluntary, and represents an above-and-beyond commitment to quality, said David Spencer, director of the Standards Division within FRC East’s Compliance and Quality Department.
“Customers can bring their business here knowing that our services are going to meet or exceed the intent of industry certification standards,” he explained. “Because we maintain this industry standard, our customers don’t need to come into our depot and do their own review of our processes. They can rest assured knowing that we're certified, that our systems are going to be right and tight, and that we’re going to get the job done with their products.”
Having the AS9110 certification makes FRCE an attractive choice for potential industry customers and helps the command retain existing customers, added FRC East Quality manager Jeffrey O’Connell.
“In the public-private partnership environment that we’re in, a lot of private industry weighs the AS9110 certification heavily in considering where they go for work,” O’Connell said. “For some of the companies that work with us, having this certification makes it easier for them to partner with us than it would have been without it.”
The AS9110 standard, developed by the International Aerospace Quality Group, is not prescriptive – it doesn’t provide an organization with specific instructions to do the things required for certification, Mr. Spencer noted. Rather, it provides an outline of the requirements and certification to this standard assesses conformance to those requirements through a series of audits.
A full recertification audit takes place every three years; in between, annual surveillance audits like the one conducted this summer take place at certified facilities to ensure continued conformance to the standard.
In addition to being the first FRC to complete AS9110 certification or surveillance with no audit findings, FRC East also became the first depot to earn certification from fence-to-fence, geographically speaking, rather than working to earn certification in individual buildings or lines.
Confidence in the depot’s quality management systems led the team to implement a new approach when the auditors arrived. Instead of having a set tour schedule, Mr. Spencer and Mr. O’Connell let the auditors guide the process.
“It was completely open: This is our business, and this is how we’re doing it. If you see things to improve, we want to know because we want to improve it,” Mr. O’Connell said.
Mr. Spencer said the level of performance required to be comfortable with this free-range approach took years to achieve.
“If the auditors wanted to go see a process at the materials lab, we’d call the materials lab. They asked when the auditors wanted to come over, and I’d tell him they’d be there in five minutes,” he said. “And then it was, what would you like to see next? And the auditors had entourages of leadership, from the senior to junior levels, guiding them around throughout the entire process. That’s indicative of a remarkable commitment to the program and level of support, and it has taken years to get here.”