How do you choose your suppliers in the aerospace industry? The sector is a complex one, with custom parts and unique components being created all the time. Choosing the right supplier is not simply a matter of looking for experience creating a particular item, because it might be the first time that item has been made.
Industry standards act as a hallmark of quality for aerospace industry suppliers. SC21 and AS9100 are two of the most prestigious accreditations for suppliers to possess. But what do these actually mean, and how can they help you choose the right supplier? While the accreditations are similar, they also differ in a number of ways and are not mutually exclusive. Here is a simple guide to these important quality standards, and how they can inform your decisions when choosing a supplier.
Standing for 'Supply Chains for the 21st Century', this benchmark was introduced in 2006 by the industry, for the industry, to improve the standards of the UK aerospace and defence industry supply chain. It is focused on two main areas - quality and collaboration - which it aims to develop and grow over time.
SC21 is an accreditation that's achieved only by undergoing a significant change programme. Designed to help suppliers improve their manufacturing process, accelerate their delivery times, and even improve their sustainable credentials, SC21 is a hallmark of quality within the UK aerospace and defence industry.
To achieve the accreditation, industry suppliers must meet exacting standards. Depending on the degree to which these standards are met, they can achieve a bronze, silver or gold award. To successfully meet any level, a company must:
- Have achieved minimum standards in terms of delivery and quality for all key customers across a 12-month period
- Have a robust continuous sustainable improvement plan
- Have achieved minimum scoring criteria for the programme's two excellence models in business and manufacturing
If your supplier has SC21 accreditation, the benefits you can expect include:
- Short lead times
- Improved delivery performance
- Clear communication at all stages of the ordering, manufacturing and buying process
- Plus, the award is reassessed annually, meaning you know that if your supplier has a bronze, silver or gold accreditation, it accurately reflects current service levels
If your supplier has SC21 accreditation, it provides peerless proof that they can not only deliver in terms of quality and delivery, but also in a variety of other ways, such as providing short lead times and sustainability.
The second industry standard is AS9100. This is a risk and quality management system, again targeted at the aerospace industry. It has been in place since 1999, although it has been through a series of revisions since then. The latest, Revision C, was released in 2009. It is based on the ISO 9001 quality system, but includes additional requirements.
AS9100 accreditation is essentially based on organisational processes, and how these satisfy industry regulatory, safety and reliability requirements, both on an internal and governmental level. Fundamentally, AS9100 helps ensure consistency of quality throughout the supply chain. Like the SC21 accreditation, it is reassessed regularly, which means if your supplier possesses this certification, you know it reflects the current service. That said, AS9100 certificates are valid for three years, which means reassessment is less frequent than for SC21.
This standard is supported by many of the aerospace industry's main firms, which often will not do business with a company that is not AS9100-certified - as is also the case with SC21.
To achieve this standard, a business must demonstrate that its products consistently meet the requirements of both its customers and any applicable statutory or regulatory requirements. The firm is also responsible for developing and improving, similar to the SC21 programme.
From industry standards to product selection
Industry standards provide a crucial hallmark from which to select suppliers - but, of course, you will make your supplier decisions based on more than these certifications alone. However, which accreditation your prospective supplier has should give you some indication as to what to expect during initial talks with them. For instance, if your supplier has SC21 accreditation, you can expect clear communication, short lead times and an approach that champions efficiency. Exactly how this is carried out will vary from supplier to supplier.
At Fine Cut, for example, we take a highly collaborative approach that means you speak to the experts from the outset. This creates the ideal environment to reach the most effective solutions for your needs fast - and our combination of years of experience, outstanding expertise and state-of-the-art equipment means superior results, every time.