Many elements contribute to successful manufacturing. The ability to measure and evaluate is surely one of the most important, whether the process is heat treating or another manufacturing process. Without that, there can be no continual improvement and arguably no true grasp of end-product compliance.
While industry veterans may be able to judge compliance by look and feel, as the industry becomes increasingly globalized and the new generation joins the workforce, a clearly defined and consistent approach to measurement is needed. To achieve this, the aerospace industry, working together through Nadcap (the industry-managed special-process accreditation program), has established a new Task Group for Measurement & Inspection, led by Rolls-Royce plc and Sikorsky Aircraft.
Dimensional measurement of components is routinely used throughout industry to ensure the conformance of the manufactured product to the specification. To verify that measurements are reliable, it is important that the measurement capability is suitable for the feature being measured. The capability to measure parts is influenced by a range of factors that can be broadly split into categories (Table 1).
Failure to implement and maintain effective measurement processes can lead to quality problems. It is therefore important for all aerospace manufacturers to operate effective measurement processes. The aerospace industry does not currently have a unified approach to identifying measurement and inspection risk within the supply chain. However, experience suggests that there are many differing approaches to measurement and inspection in the supply chain.
Existing audit programs such as AS9100 do not cover the full scope of measurement and inspection in the appropriate level of detail. Topics such as calibration are effectively covered, while others such as inspection planning or the detailed operation of specific equipment types like CMMs or laser trackers are only covered at a high level.
Within the Nadcap program, the development of a Measurement & Inspection accreditation is intended to provide adequate systemic and detailed auditing capability dedicated to the means, people, methods and all other conditions required to be fulfilled in order to control the “geometric inspection process.” Like any other Nadcap audit, it has to be considered as a complement to a global 9100 quality-management system: focusing on a very specific process at high stake for any supplier and customer within the aerospace supply chain.
As a result, using the Nadcap program approach to apply “like special-process principles” to this Measurement & Inspection process has been determined as being the most adequate for continual enhancement. In common with other Nadcap accreditation areas, it is expected to help reduce scrap, rework and lead time; contribute to better end-product manufacture; reduce overall cost for the industry; and improve the manufacturing process.
At the October 2012 Nadcap meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa., the Nadcap Management Council approved Measurement & Inspection as a formal Nadcap Task Group. This means that Nadcap subscribers and suppliers can now formally meet to develop audit checklists. The scope of accreditation will initially cover dimensional measurement and inspection in the following areas:
• Calibration and units
• Product definition
• Inspection planning
• Equipment validation
• Maintenance and environment
The goal is to have checklists created and pilot audits conducted by the end of 2013, with feedback from the pilot audits reviewed and incorporated by the first quarter of 2014. The first Nadcap Measurement & Inspection audits are anticipated to take place in early 2014.
The importance of measurement does not just apply to parts. The ability to evaluate the capabilities of the workforce is just as vital to successful manufacturing. For that reason, the aerospace industry is working with the Performance Review Institute (PRI), the not-for-profit association that administers Nadcap, to establish a special-process personnel qualification system.
eQuaLified has been created to address two major workforce challenges facing the aerospace industry:
• Global skills crisis and succession planning
• Ability to assess the special-process skills of a global workforce to ensure consistent, high standards can be sustained
eQuaLified leverages the combined knowledge of aerospace industry experts to develop and maintain special-process bodies of knowledge (baseline knowledge and experience required to be considered competent for a target position) and examinations to assess and validate competency.
The program offers three levels of qualification, and heat treatment/pyrometry and chemical processing/etch inspection are the initial areas of focus. The examinations are taken online and are controlled and documented in accordance with a written practice in order to evaluate and verify the individual’s capability, skill or knowledge.
• Process operator – Understand and perform the basic hands-on operations of the special process.
• Process planner – Capable of selecting manufacturing processes and interpreting process procedures to conform to customer specifications and requirements. Capable of problem solving and resolving day-to-day issues.
• Process owner – Capable of writing, reviewing and approving processes, procedures and qualifications of lower levels (operator and planner). Capable of designing new processes and resolving issues on all other levels.
As an industry-managed program, additional bodies of knowledge (BoK) and examinations will be prioritized and developed by the participating companies. In terms of heat treatment, eQuaLified is creating a series of BoK and examinations in the following areas:
• Aluminum, including casting, forging and wrought
• Light alloys (non-aluminum), including beryllium-copper and magnesium alloys
• Stress relief
• Steel (alloy and carbon), including corrosion-resistant austenitic, corrosion-resistant martensitic and corrosion-resistant precipitation hardening
• Surface hardening, including carburizing gas, nitriding ion, nitriding gas and induction hardening
• Titanium nickel cobalt and special-purpose alloys, including titanium alloys, nickel-cobalt alloys and magnetic alloys
Aerospace Industry Involvement
Current participating supporters of the program include both primes and suppliers such as Airbus, Alcoa, BAE Systems, Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, FM Callahan, Fountain Plating, GE Aviation, Goodrich UTAS, Honeywell Aerospace, PPI Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce plc, SAFRAN, Spirit Aerospace, Triumph Aerospace, TWI Inc. and XRI Testing. For additional information on participation, please contact Hannah Godfrey at email@example.com.
Laurie Strom, director of materials and process engineering at Honeywell Aerospace, explained, “The intent of the eQuaLified program is to facilitate the verification of special-process personnel competency. Success at Honeywell Aerospace is dependent upon having the right people, with the right skills, at the right place at the right time – globally. This extends from the operator to the shop-floor process expert to the supporting engineering functions. eQuaLified fills a gap in the industry in terms of identifying the specific knowledge related to the materials, special processes and applicable standards used in the aerospace industry and provides a means to assess that knowledge.”
Richard Blyth, engineering manager at Rolls-Royce plc, agrees. “There are currently inconsistencies and gaps in the training and qualification of special-process personnel between (and within) companies and countries because there is no universally accepted system,” Blyth said. “Our approach is to ensure knowledge and skills transfer by establishing an industry-managed program with expert subteams to develop BoK and examinations specific to individual special-process areas.
With industry overseeing the whole process, the goal is to establish a consistent, structured, globalized, industry-managed system that leads to a continuous
improvement in available training and ultimately improved quality.” IH
|What is Nadcap?|
Historically, aerospace companies audited their supply chain to their own quality requirements to verify compliance. For suppliers with multiple aerospace customers, there was at least one audit per customer although – since the parts they were supplying were often used in identical or similar applications – the requirements were comparable.
These fundamentally duplicate audits were redundant and simply added to the supplier workload without adding value. For the primes, conducting their own audits similarly meant duplication of effort, redundant audits, unnecessary administration and, ultimately, higher cost for no added value.
Then, in November 1989, a U.S. Government/Industry Equal Partners Conference recommended a consensus solution to the duplication of supplier quality-assurance systems. In July 1990, the not-for-profit Performance Review Institute was incorporated to administer the Nadcap program. Nadcap is an industry-managed approach to conformity assessment that brings together technical experts from both industry and government to establish accreditation requirements, accredit suppliers and define operational program requirements. This results in a standardized approach to quality assurance and a reduction in redundant auditing throughout the aerospace industry.
Now, with over 50 major aerospace prime subscribers, the Nadcap program conducts nearly 5,000 audits per year across a range of special processes/products, including chemical processing, welding, heat treatment and nondestructive testing. New accreditations are added as requested by industry.
|Thoughts of industry expert and PRI consultant Bill Hewitt|
“At the moment, personnel qualification in the aerospace industry is inconsistently managed and implemented. Each company has their own approach. While that may work for them, when it comes to demonstrating their capabilities to potential customers, for example, it can be difficult for the customers to accurately interpret and understand the competencies that exist at that supplier.
“It’s true that the NDT field uses a globally recognized system of Levels I, II and III, but other special processes have no such universal system. A program like eQuaLified is exactly what the aerospace industry needs to ensure effective knowledge transfer and maintain the current level of workforce confidence, even when experienced personnel retire.
“As group quality manager at Bodycote UK, personnel qualification was always an important inclusion on my to-do list but, I’m afraid to say, never had the priority it deserved. Something always came along that took precedence, keeping training at number four or five on the list of things to do. Customer-related issues, operations and audits were usually the root cause. Plus, we couldn’t be sure that the system we might implement would be universally acceptable, which was also quite off-putting because for a number of years. I anticipated that eventually there might be a requirement for standardized training.
“The global skills crisis has been mentioned earlier, and it is real and already with us. Try to find a qualified metallurgist with the right kind of practical experience to work within the demands of the heat-treatment industry. The first issue is that when I qualified as a metallurgist more than 40 years ago, I had studied the subject for five years. Metallurgy now is more likely to appear as one module in a materials-science degree course.
“Now that the industry is coming together to create a program that will work for them all, there’s a great opportunity to be in at ground level – not only by demonstrating your commitment to excellence by qualifying your personnel but also by getting involved in the bodies of knowledge and examination development. I would encourage any company that may be interested to learn more.”
Bill Hewitt spent over 40 years in the U.K. heat-treating industry. Starting as a trainee laboratory assistant, he worked his way up through various companies to become group quality manager at Bodycote UK. He retired in 2012 and now consults for PRI.