The aerospace industry never stands still when it comes to finding ways it can improve on its systems and operations. The Nadcap accreditation program is no different.
In June 2011, the Nadcap Management Committee (NMC) balloted for the creation of a new Heat Treating audit checklist. AC7102/6 has been in the works for the past two years and was approved this year in June as a new checklist for Hot Isostatic Pressure (HIP). It is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2011.
The reason for developing this new checklist revolves around casting of metal parts for engines. Whenever a part is cast, the metal poured into the mold will cool, leaving small air pockets within it. In many cases this will not be problematic. Given the conditions of flight, such as the high velocity of these planes or the extreme temperatures they endure, however, a high level of scrutiny and standards of quality must be applied. These small air pockets can affect the structure of the part, which means that a part designed for 10,000 hours of usage may only endure around 8,000 hours.
The HIP process is designed to remove these air pockets by putting the still-molten casting in an autoclave, where it is subjected to very high pressure and temperature to evacuate the air pockets from the metal. These air pockets are squeezed out to create a more homogenous metal that will in turn give the casting a much stronger structure. Theoretically, this process can be performed on any metal castings. However, in the majority of cases it is done for nickel-based alloys built as engine parts, such as the blades in an engine.
Only a relatively small section of the global aerospace supplier base provides parts in this manner. In fact, this almost-niche heat-treating checklist will affect only approximately 1% of aerospace suppliers. So, why is PRI developing it?
PRI is the not-for-profit trade association that administers the Nadcap program. As Nadcap is industry-managed, PRI is a very customer-focused organization. This new checklist was requested by the Nadcap subscribers with a goal of reducing the number of redundant audits. Often a supplier may have the same activity audited several times a year. This makes the overall cost excessively high without adding value. It creates cost in manpower, as suppliers must commit staff to the audit process, which means pulling them away from their day-to-day work. It also adds cost for the aerospace prime contractors who must pay for their own auditors to perform the audit. As a result, the industry representatives on the Nadcap Heat Treating Task Group decided that they wanted this special-process activity to be covered by the Nadcap audit process, thus saving both the Nadcap-subscribing primes and the suppliers time and money as well as standardizing the level of quality required by the industry.
Joe Pinto, PRI vice president and COO, explained, “Nadcap exists to support the aerospace industry to achieve excellence in special process and product quality. I am pleased to see the Nadcap Heat Treating Task Group members furthering their commitment to quality and efficiency by adding to the scope of the Nadcap audit. Following careful study, we do not expect there to be a change in the levels of non-conformance when Nadcap takes over the audit process at the end of the year, but this will be continually monitored. It is not the goal of Nadcap, or the aerospace industry, to look for faults but to fairly assess capability and competency.”
In practical terms, audits to this new checklist will be comprised of two job audits. They will be carried out over one thermal cycle. As HIP job audits are already included on the existing checklist, they will replace two job audits from the 10 core heat-treating checklist when HIP needs auditing. If a supplier only requires HIP auditing, then the number of jobs audits will be extended to three rather than two. Due to the nature of HIP, however, it is likely to be a very rare occurrence that a supplier will require only this audit. Nonetheless, this rare occurrence has been considered by the NMC.
In an effort to continually improve the Nadcap program, the Heat Treating Task Group has created a survey for suppliers to fill out after every Nadcap Heat Treating audit. This is a good opportunity for the suppliers to help shape the future of the program. Our most recent June results have shown that the Nadcap auditor spends up to three-quarters of their time in the production areas, with the rest mostly spent reviewing records and other paperwork. In addition, there is an encouraging level of consistency between the Nadcap auditors. Of the respondents, 87% were going through re-accreditation audits, and 76.6% of them advised that they saw greater consistency between the auditors compared to previous years. From PRI’s perspective, ensuring auditor consistency in terms of checklist interpretation is very important because it maintains the integrity of the audit. There will naturally be some variability, but the fact that the Nadcap Heat Treating Task Group has demonstrated improvement in this area is important.
Earlier this year, the Nadcap Heat Treating Task Group also ran a “Voice of the Customer” survey. The survey results showed that when asked how well Nadcap Heat Treating Audits currently mitigate risk to end-user product non-conformance or customer requirements non-compliance, over three-quarters of the respondents said they meet or exceed the expectation of risk mitigation. Fully 57.1% of respondents said the audit has become more effective at reducing the risk of non-compliance. Overall, 80% of respondents are satisfied or “more than satisfied” with the Heat Treating Task Group actions to improve the Nadcap audit process.
In response to this, Pinto added, “While I am pleased to see that we are performing well, much of the credit needs to go to the industry representatives – both subscribers and suppliers – who give freely of their time on the Task Group to ensure continual improvement for the benefit of the industry as a whole. It is not an easy thing to work together for mutual benefit setting aside competitive issues, but this is the cornerstone of Nadcap. I would like to thank them all for their dedication and active participation.” IH
For more information about Nadcap, please contact Joanna Leigh at the Performance Review Institute (PRI) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRI Launches 2011 Nadcap Supplier Survey
The 2011 Nadcap Supplier Survey opened for responses on June 20, 2011. All accredited suppliers are encouraged to complete the survey online to give their feedback on their experiences of Nadcap. The official launch coincided with the Nadcap Meeting, a forum for primes and suppliers that takes place three times a year in locations worldwide. Take the survey online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2011SupplierSurvey
This biennial survey is an initiative of the Nadcap Supplier Support Committee (SSC), which exists to represent and be the voice of the supplier community. The committee is made up of active Nadcap-accredited suppliers who are there to help new suppliers through the process as well as assisting experienced suppliers in establishing, maintaining and improving their accredited processes.
This is the fifth issuance of a global aerospace supplier survey by the SSC. Previous surveys have been conducted in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. Valid trending data has already been identified, and this year’s survey will contribute to the overall picture. For example, in 2003, 25% of respondents indicated that in the areas related to Nadcap accreditation, they had seen an increase in quality. By 2009, that had risen to 83% of respondents.
SSC Chairman Eric Jacklin is enthusiastic about the supplier survey. He said, “The supplier survey allows us to gain a better understanding of those people we are here to represent – aerospace suppliers worldwide. With this knowledge, we are able to concentrate our resources on areas of particular interest to the global supply chain. This is an excellent opportunity for suppliers to have their voice heard and contribute to the future development of the Nadcap program.”