July 2015 marked the 25th anniversary of Nadcap’s launch. Nadcap provides in-depth process-capability assessments, conducted by subject-matter experts selected by industry, enabling aerospace OEM subscribers from around the world to effectively and efficiently manage their supply chain.


Since 1990 when the program started, Nadcap has steadily grown to become the premier cooperative industry program for improving aerospace manufacturing processes around the world.

But it is not just the growth of the program that has been remarkable. Its impact on the industry has been equally impressive. In a survey conducted in the first quarter of this year, 93% of Nadcap subscribers reported that Nadcap audits improved consistency across industry and across the supply chain, and 92% stated that Nadcap augmented their company resources in terms of managing special-process suppliers.

Feedback included, “The data from Nadcap oversight is used readily when determining how often to engage with accredited suppliers” and “Nadcap allows us to minimize the number of on-site visits.”

In addition to the OEM subscribers to Nadcap, suppliers that achieve accreditation also benefit: 86% of over 2,800 respondents to a biennial supplier survey – last conducted in 2013 – recognized that Nadcap has improved quality in the aerospace industry. Additional identified benefits were improved process efficiency, reduced escapes to customers, reduced defect rate, improved first-time yield, increased revenue and improved customer satisfaction.

There is an ongoing effort to do more to assist aerospace suppliers in successfully passing Nadcap audits efficiently. The Nadcap Heat Treatment Task Group, led by Thomas Norris of UTC Aerospace (Goodrich), has been active in this area, developing tools and holding technical workshops for companies considering having a Nadcap audit or wanting to improve their audit performance.

Publishing detailed Nadcap audit preparation guidance is just one of the ways the Heat Treatment Task Group offers assistance. Here is a selection of their top tips for Nadcap heat-treatment audit success.

Prior to the Nadcap Heat-Treat Audit

Perform a pre-audit and address all nonconformances found using your documented corrective-action system. Keep the audit record to show the Nadcap auditor to comply with AC7102 1.1.1, which states “… the Supplier shall record each procedure, paragraph and page number for each checklist question ...”

Prior to the audit, prepare and provide the following to the Nadcap auditor to facilitate his/her preparation for the site visit (also per AC7102 1.1.1):

  • List of equipment
  • List of purchased services
  • List of quality personnel and approved heat-treating personnel on each shift
  • List of Prime customers and specifications
  • List of heat-treat specifications that supplier is working to
  • Copy of internal general procedures for heat-treat processing, pyrometry and testing/inspection of heat-treated product
  • Organization chart

Personnel Training

Ensure that you have a documented personnel training program that refers to everyone with responsibilities related to heat-treating. An inadequate personnel training program creates uncertainty about the proficiency of the personnel processing the parts. Nonconformances may be written where a program does not include detailed reference to the following elements:

  • Documented training to an established outline
  • Knowledge and experience
  • Initial and periodic evaluation of the competency
  • Exam, observation, interview, audit


Cleaning prior to the heat treatment of parts is critical to process integrity. So, during the audit, make sure that all surfaces are clean and that the parts are racked to allow access to all surfaces (Fig. 1).

Post-cleaning activity is just as important. Train your operators to not touch the parts after cleaning and ensure that they know how to transport them. Finger marks can destroy properties, so they must use clean gloves and take all necessary steps to protect the parts from factory dust and grit.

Process Control

You must be able to demonstrate that you have reviewed the process-control requirements for each of your customers and that you have an internal procedure and “system” that documents compliance. Identify other testing and controls required by specifications, such as:

  • Pyrometric testing
  • Per lot or periodic tensile testing
  • Periodic metallurgical testing (e.g., IGO/IGA testing, eutectic melting, cladding diffusion, high-temperature oxidation, etc.)
  • Decarburization/surface-contamination testing
  • Leak-up rate testing
  • Hydrogen pickup testing
  • First-lot forging qualification testing

Refrigeration of Steels

Paragraph 8.1 in the AC7102 checklist asks, “Do procedures cover subambient/subzero cooling according to the customer requirements, or in absence of customer requirements, does the supplier have a default procedure?”

To ensure compliance to the requirement, companies must have procedures that specify timings, temperatures and tolerances and include requirements for subambient cooling (PH steels requiring <30°C or <20°C). There must also be records to show time from quench (if required) and time and temperature achieved.

Furnace Control and Maintenance

Per AC7102 paragraph, the internal procedure is expected to specify the method for determining heat-up rate, start of soaking time, end of soaking time and cooling rate. Relevant procedures and instructions must be available at the workplace and must include methods or definitions of heat-up and cooling rates, start and end of soak, as well as atmosphere, quench delay and quench residence times.

For more information, visit www.eAuditNet.com, where a summary of the most common nonconformances written by Nadcap heat-treatment auditors is also available.

Expanding to New Industries

Over the last few years, representatives from industries outside aerospace have expressed interest in setting up a program like Nadcap to assure comprehensive supply-chain oversight in their field. The medical-device manufacturing industry has done just that, establishing the MedAccred program (Fig. 2). Intended to be to the medical-device manufacturing industry what Nadcap is to aerospace, the program already has participation from a number of high-profile companies, including heat treaters such as Applied Thermal Technologies, Lake City Heat Treating, Paulo and Solar Atmospheres.

Following the Nadcap model, MedAccred is an industry-managed supply-chain-oversight program governed by industry representatives that reduces risk to patient safety and assures quality products and compliance with requirements as they apply to critical processes used in the production of medical devices. The program has already issued its first accreditation, which was awarded to Solar Atmospheres Inc. of Souderton, Pa., for heat treatment (Fig. 3). Audits are also being conducted for cable and wire harness, plastics, printed circuit-board assembly, sterilization and welding.

On receipt of the MedAccred heat-treatment accreditation, Mike Moyer, director of sales at Solar Atmospheres, said, “Many companies only enter these programs when their customers mandate compliance. At Solar Atmospheres, we embrace these programs as opportunities. It is a good thing when industry OEMs and final device makers recognize the benefits that accrue when suppliers become involved in the global management of activities surrounding their special process. After all, who knows a special process better than the companies that perform it every day? These programs inevitably bring the OEMs and suppliers together at the same table where pertinent discussions lead to achieving the following goals: first, improvements in the substance and flow-down of the requirements from the OEMs; second, improvements in the performance of the supplier base; and third, improved products to doctors and patients, resulting in better-quality medical care with fewer complications.”

Since MedAccred was established, the MedAccred Management Council, a group of industry representatives, has proactively sought to keep the FDA updated on the program’s development. Briefings have been held with the Center for Devices and Radiological Health’s Office of Compliance and the FDA’s Office of Global Operations within the Office of the Commissioner. The program purpose and scope was discussed, along with the results of proof-of-concept audits, which were conducted to demonstrate the program’s viability.

The FDA gave positive feedback and strong encouragement to pursue the development of the program. Further synergies were established between the FDA’s Case for Quality initiative (“critical-to-quality” methodology) and MedAccred, with MedAccred recognized as an important tool in assuring critical manufacturing process quality by ensuring flow-down of critical-to-quality specifications through the subtier supply chain.

Learn more about Nadcap and MedAccred at www.p-r-i.org

About PRI

The Performance Review Institute (PRI) is a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1990 by SAE International. The organization is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa. As Nadcap grew internationally, offices were established in London to serve Europe and in Beijing, China, and Aichi, Japan, to serve the Asia-Pacific region.

PRI was originally set up to administer Nadcap, the industry-managed special-process and product-accreditation program for the aerospace industry. Nadcap was developed by government and industry to continually improve quality while reducing costs. Over time, PRI has responded to customer feedback by offering quality and technical training as well as auditing services in other industries.