The Future of Quality

Management Standards by Dale K. Gordon

My first column for “Standards Outlook” back in 2000 was about the introduction of the aerospace quality management system (QMS) standard AS9100.1

In the column, I discussed the concerns manufacturers and suppliers in the aerospace community had about the proliferation of standards to define QMS requirements across all industries.

As with other industries, the aerospace industry has to serve different customers with differing requirements. From the military to NASA to commercial, business and private aviation, the aerospace industry wanted to eliminate dual or redundant quality systems and adopt a single definition for QMS requirements.

In a concession to this customer differentiation, the International Aerospace Quality Group (www.iaqg.org), the organization that owns AS9100, is considering changing the name of the standard from Quality Management Systems—Aerospace—Requirements, to Quality Management Systems—Aviation, Space and Defense Requirements.

This reflects the origins of the standard. In the early 1990s, ISO 9001:1987 was emerging globally as the commercial equivalent QMS requirement for most industries. Another aspect that made the ISO 9000 series of standards appealing at the time was the growing supplier base for both commercial and military applications.

With amplification or supplementation, ISO 9000:2000 has become the root requirement for several industries, including aerospace (AS9100), automotive (ISO TS 16949), medical devices (ISO 13485), telecommunications (TL 9000) and many other industries that specify ISO 9000 for their supply chains and then provide the entire supply chain for that industry with supplemental requirements specific to that industry or commodity.

Back in that first column, I mentioned Dan Reid of General Motors and his comments that many sectors were looking at QMS requirements and wanted to standardize within the industry.2 In a way, it’s a real credit to the ISO technical committee (TC) 176 responsible for ISO 9001 that the standard is still seen as the baseline

An Imperfect World

While the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as those in aircraft, automobiles and telecommunications, are satisfied their unique and specific quality requirements are being communicated commonly through the supply chains that support their industries, it still leaves an imperfect world for those in the supply chain that support more than one market sector.

Take the case of electronic com-ponent suppliers. In the aerospace industry, the use of electronics and electronic driven components is in-creasing exponentially. The same is true in the automotive and telecommunications industries.

The design or needs for these components are typically written narrowly around specifications and performance requirements left to the electronic component producers to define. Each industrial product sector has differing quality and reliability expectations of the electronic components being offered. Electronic part manufacturers, however, frequently march to the beat of a different drummer—consumer electronics.

Aerospace for example, requires components to operate under extreme temperature conditions (-55 Cû and +140û C) and vibration, have a useful life of about 30 or more years and have exact spare and replacement parts readily available over the component’s useful life.

The automotive industry may not have such temperature extremes or useful life span requirements but has similar environmental conditions. The industry may also tolerate substitution (better, cheaper or similar in performance) of a replacement component later in the product’s life as advancements in technology or manufacturing render current components obsolete.

The same is not true in many aerospace applications (think space shuttle with some 30-year-old technologies still being used).

Add to that telecommunications, an industry seeing extremely short useful life for some transmission and reception equipment (think cell phones) and does not have some of the same operating conditions as aerospace or automotive. But telecom has different concerns about product reliability and cost and is looking at rapid obsolescence.

The point here is the computer and consumer electronic components industry is being driven by advancements within its sector that are completely different from the industries it supplies.

These other industries are in need of the same functionality and cost reduction afforded to consumer electronics, yet the components still must be able to comply with the lifecycle and aftermarket needs of all industrial sectors. This is driving each industrial sector to try to drive requirements or specials with various QMS subsections for the electronics industry.

The investment castings sector serves industries from aerospace to automotive to healthcare (think hip replacement joints) to sporting goods (think titanium golf clubs).

But to satisfy the specific demands of each customer market segment, these manufacturers are forced to obtain multiple certifications (AS9100, TS 16949, ISO 13485) for a single QMS that manages their customer requirements and to integrate the QMS with basic technology unchanged for each customer segment even though inspection and quality needs are almost the same for each customer sector.

The Future—Commodity Specific Standards?

So, where does this leave us? Maybe back where we started. What are we trying to achieve but do not see adequately fulfilled with ISO 9000 QMS standards?

According to the ISO Survey of Certifications 2004,3 there were at least 670,339 ISO 9002:2000 registrations worldwide at the end of 2004. The country with the most was China with almost 133,000 organizations registered. Italy was second with more than 84,000, followed by the United Kingdom and Japan with about 50,000 each and Spain and the United States with nearly 40,000 each.

While there are dedicated suppliers to specific OEMs, there are also a lot of common suppliers to many industries. The “one size fits all” mentality still does not seem to convey how each individual customer OEM wants to define a QMS requirement. What appear to be emerging within the supply chain are commodity or process centric requirements for specific processes or commodities commonly used by many industries.

The ISO survey also says at least 31% of all registrations are for the service sector, and this trend is accelerating. That is a good thing for customers and consumers of services, but does one size really fit all?

This might mean that instead of industry specific QMSs, there may instead be specific QMSs for hardware manufacturers, designers, software and commodities suppliers. There could be QMSs for such areas as casting and forging processes, electronics manufacturing, injection molding, fastener productions and distributors.

We may not want sector specific standards but more process and commodity specific ones focused around common sets of requirements. Elements of each could be added to or deleted to meet customer needs.

The developers of these requirements should be the industries themselves using the root QMS requirements of ISO 9000:2000 that define the process based approach to the system and mandate what the system must accomplish.

Special needs of specific industrial (or even service) process intensive organizations can then be developed and used by large OEM or consumer groups to properly ensure the processes for that type of product are properly identified and communicated.

This would better fit the notion of a global economy because it would put the QMS requirements for producers on equal footing and not shackle producers with multiple layers of requirements. It would also allow registration activities to be based more on specific processes and commodities being audited than on only customer (OEM) centric activities.

The move from ISO 9001:1994 with its 20 QMS requirements to the ISO 9000:2000 process requirements based approach was absolutely correct. There are indications the next review of ISO 9001 will feature the holistic QMS requirements found in the European Foundation for Quality Management assessments.

I think this would be a wrong turn for the standard. We would lose our focus on good products or services consistently produced to meet customer needs and requirements.

When ISO TC 176 asks for inputs for the next revision of ISO 9001 in 2008, maybe it would be best to leave the requirements pretty stable but make the standard more adaptable for process and commodity sectors wanting to add their own requirements. This would allow for registrations that can be recognized and used by all customers, thus reducing the proliferation of the approvals beginning to appear on certificates.


  1. Dale K. Gordon, “The Past, Present and Future Direction of Aerospace Quality Stan-dards,” Quality Progress, June 2000, p. 125.
  2. R. Dan Reid, “Why QS-9000 Was Developed and What’s in Its Future,” Quality Progress, April 2000, p. 115.
  3. The ISO Survey of Certifications—2004, International Organization for Standardization, 2005.

DALE K. GORDON is vice president of quality for MPC Products, Skokie, IL. He is an ASQ Fellow, past chair of the American Aerospace Quality Group and one of the writers of the AS9100 aerospace standard. Gordon earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint, MI, and an MBA from Butler University in Indianapolis.

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