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Volume 8 · Issue 4 · April 2003


3 QMS Questions for Organizations in Aerospace and Defense
The Impact of ISO 9000 in the Aerospace Sector

What meaning does "Quality" have in today’s world? A new millennium began 17 days after the latest ISO 9000 quality management system (QMS) requirements and performance improvement standards were published, and within 16 months the sector-specific QMS requirements for the telecommunications, aerospace and automotive industries were aligned with ISO 9001:2000. And, at press time for this issue, the United States and its allies appeared to be on their way to concluding a military campaign that is likely to be noted for the precision of the performance of the equipment and weapons used in that campaign, resulting in reduced civilian and allied casualties.

So, THE OUTLOOK wanted to find out if the increasing precision of aerospace and defense products is an impact of the use of ISO 9000 and the aerospace standard aligned with ISO 9001:2000, AS/EN/JIS Q 9100:2001, Quality Management Systems—Aerospace—Requirements, which is being adopted widely in the US and global aerospace sectors (for a recent report on AS9100, see "Aerospace Focuses on Reduced Auditing, Continual Improvement", THE OUTLOOK, March 2003).

To get a sense of the impact of ISO 9000 in the aerospace sector, several quality professionals in the sector were contacted and asked to respond to three questions. Gene Barker, Boeing Technical Fellow, with Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Quality, and Dale K. Gordon, Director-Quality Methods, at Rolls-Royce North America, which manufacturers jet engines and other aerospace products, provided responses on behalf of their companies. The questions and their answers are provided below.

1. Does your organization use and/or require compliance with/registration to ISO 9000 or ISO 9001-aligned standards (i.e., ISO 9001:2000, ISO 9001/2:1994, AS9000/9100)? If so, roughly how long have these requirements been in effect and what is the key reason this is being done/required?


  • The Boeing Company uses AS9100 internally and with our suppliers.
  • We recognize industry-managed other-party registrations to AS9100 (i.e., registrations by third-party registrars accredited by the ANSI-RAB National Accreditation Program for AS9100, with oversight by the Americas Aerospace Quality Group and International Aerospace Quality Group). Boeing is very active in providing industry oversight of this process.
  • Boeing requires compliance with AS9100 in support of the International Aerospace Quality Group’s objective of minimizing variation across the supply chain.
  • For the last five years, Boeing and our suppliers have been in the process of transitioning to AS9100 from a number of alternate QMS requirements standards. This process has required us to work with our customers, the regulatory authorities and our suppliers.


  • Yes, Rolls-Royce has had in place an ISO 9001-compliant and -registered quality system for about 8 years now. The quality system has evolved with the applicable systems in place for the industry. Rolls-Royce Indianapolis is currently AS9100:2001-compliant and -registered today. The use of AS9100 is seen as a best practice and Rolls-Royce has been a leader in this activity. Rolls-Royce uses the current AS9100 standards both internally and externally. This is done to meet customer and regulatory needs in addition to internal requirements.

2. What has been the overall result of implementation and use of QMSs that conform with an ISO 9000 or aligned standard in your field?


  • The primary benefit of using the industry consensus standard—AS9100—externally has been the ability to speak with an industry voice to our suppliers and to use industry-managed other-party audits as a means of determining compliance.
  • Internally, it has provided a single standard that meets the needs of our many customers and regulatory agencies.


  • AS9000/9100 have provided a clear understanding within our organization of the importance of working to a Quality System and of the need for the entire organization to be compliant with the standard’s requirements, not just the Quality Organization.

3. In light of the use of aerospace and defense products/services in the war in Iraq and the phase-out of the Mil-Q standards, has the use of ISO 9000 and other international QMS standards made a difference in the ability of your organization and its supply chain to produce these products/provide these services? If so, what are the differences? Can you provide any general examples of how use of an ISO 9000-conforming QMS in your organization (or one you are aware of, such as a supplier) has made a difference in the effectiveness and/or reliability of your product and/or in the ability of your organization or another organization to meet customer requirements and to do so with increased efficiency, greater cost-effectiveness and higher customer satisfaction?


  • The industry’s ability to speak to the supply chain with a common voice has made for a more effective deployment of QMS requirements. And since the AS9100 standard is globally accepted, it has allowed us to deal with global suppliers on an equal footing.
  • As we have been able to use the results of industry-managed other-party audits to assure the compliance of a supplier’s QMS, it has allowed Boeing resources to be deployed in conducting product and process audits. Such audits provide additional assurance that the suppliers understand our product requirements and are adequately addressing them within their manufacturing processes.


  • No, there is no current effect on product as a result of ISO 9001 compliance. However, the long-term effect has been an increased use of metrics focused on customer satisfaction and process control and increased performance improvement over time.

THE OUTLOOK also spoke with Lawrence A. Wilson of Lawrence A. Wilson and Associates, who has served on the task groups that drafted ISO 9004:2000, worked on earlier ISO 9000 standards and previously worked in the aerospace and defense fields.

THE OUTLOOK asked Wilson a number of questions about ISO 9000, including whether its use in UK and US defense-related industries had given the forces invading Iraq an advantage in terms of equipment and weapons. Wilson’s comments on the impact of ISO 9000 on the precision and performance of weapons reflected some of the points raised above:

I believe that our "advantage" lies more in the weapon design and sophistication than it does the application of ISO 9000—the end product can never be better than its design. Military products are tested from piece part level right up to system level, and it is seldom that products go to the customer with significant variation from design. Additionally, with all the testing/verification, it is also seldom that we field a product with a bad design. Once the design and proof testing is firm, we then must build/verify/test it to meet the design—with as little variation as possible.

Remember that the quality system concept came mostly from the Military Standards, such as Mil-Q-9858, so the Mil Spec Contractors did not have far to go to meet ISO 9001. And although ISO 9001 has certainly aided the military and the contractors in developing and building the weapon systems, to me it would be hard to specifically show a direct relationship.

However, I believe that everyone would accept that there has been an indirect relationship. Although there have been many improvements in the munitions, every one of the aircraft being used by the United States in Iraq were designed well before ISO 9000 was released—even the Stealth fighter and bomber were designed prior to 1987 (obviously electronics, guidance, etc., have been upgraded over time).

I believe that the contractors are working in accordance with design and certainly the QMS in use can claim a share of the delivered accomplishment. The manufacturing-related efforts/actions that these contractors must undertake clearly play a role, but they normally relate better to what variations are directly dealt with In-House/On-Site. Delivered products benefit indirectly—and possibly there are examples out there where a direct benefit from ISO 9001 usage can be shown.