An AS9100D audit in the aerospace manufacturing industry is always an intensive, yet necessary yearly process to ensure the safety and quality of our standards. However, certifying in the midst of a pandemic provides both unique challenges and opportunities.
As national stay-at-home orders went into effect earlier this year, and non-essential businesses were shut down, many companies that serve the U.S. Government had to quickly figure out a way to navigate COVID-19 while keeping their doors open. As an essential business, Son-Aero has continued to prioritize employee and customer safety, but the pandemic brought forth a more focused approach.
Practices I never thought would be part of the aerospace industry have now become an everyday part of our vocabulary. Social distancing, hand sanitizer, copious handwashing, and company-wide masks are just some of the things that have become a part of our new normal. Our leadership team works to instill the importance of these measures while exuding confidence and a positive outlook to support our families, customers, and those who use our products every day.
A lot has changed in a short period of time; children are now participating in school from home with parents acting as teachers; and many people across the nation are working remotely when they have the luxury to do so. Suddenly a different perspective and priority took the place of our everyday routines.
Companies had to make quick decisions on how to handle everyday processes and how best to keep their employees out of harm’s way. As COVID-19 began to spread across the nation, many companies suspended their operations and disallowed source inspectors to visit supplier locations. Still others sent notifications outlining how they would navigate through this pandemic.
Son-Aero never wavered in our support for our customers and our mission. We provided our teams with training, support, and options for employees in high-risk groups who felt the need to stay home.
I believe in the motto, “the effort you put into the process will determine what you get out of it.”
Once the initial adjustments were in place, industry demands took focus, specifically with regard to how our annual AS9100D certification would be carried out. As Director of Quality, I wondered how registrars would handle the issue of AS9100D certifications and audits.
For Quality Department leaders, this quickly became a topic of discussion and concern. Would we still get audited on schedule? What if we missed our audit due to COVID-19? Would our certification be extended by our registrar? All became important questions that needed answering.
I reached out to our registrar SAI Global for guidance. The decision was quickly made to complete all audits remotely. This brought forth an entirely new line of questioning: How would this be handled? How different would the weekly compliance agenda be? This remote process put a lot more ownership of the auditing process on the individual companies being certified.
Son-Aero seized this opportunity to improve our own processes. Although no auditor was onsite doing their usual questioning of employees, picking up hand tools, and looking at calibration stickers, or scouring over paperwork, I took this opportunity to develop training based on what I observed during my remote audit preparations. Even though Son-Aero was given a clean report at the end of our 2020 AS9100D audit, we are always striving to improve beyond the certification standard.
Remote auditing, from my perspective, did exactly what it was intended to do. It brought focus to areas at Son-Aero where we can improve and make processes more robust. I believe in the motto, “the effort you put into the process will determine what you get out of it.”
I would like to thank SAI Global for their continued support as our registrar and all of the Son-Aero family for all their dedication through this trying time of the COVID-19 pandemic. And to our leadership team. We could not have done this without their guidance, leadership, and support. I look forward to finishing the remainder of 2020 strong and continuing Son-Aero’s assent to the upper tier of our industry.