In the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and aerospace manufacturing industry, we have many quality and inspection department managers who engage in practice and process to ensure that the best products of quality leave the factory. Whether it’s winglets, airplane seats, toilet parts, or tiny screws used in thousands of applications, quality must be precise. But, according to media and political leaders in many countries, dissent abounds. People have grievances and frustrations, and there have been many changes in the market over the past two years. When a company like yours, or one like Erickson, faces this environment, how can we ensure quality? It must be part of our daily experience and our expectations of ourselves and our employees. In a conversation with Erickson’s Quality Assurance and Inspection departments, it’s easy to hear the pride in the voices of the five department heads. But this is not boastful pride. It’s the type of pride that comes with the confidence in understanding and knowing that you’re doing your best in everything you do.
Lives are at stake
When you think of an OEM like Erickson, it’s easy to see why having carefully vetted and secure products and services is essential. The very lives of pilots and crew members are at stake in anything offered by these departments. As an OEM, Erickson is responsible for saving lives and property around the world. They are responsible for ensuring that when parts are sent to a customer or added to an S-64 Air Crane® helicopter for aerial firefighting and other missions, that everything goes according to plan. There is no room for error in aerospace, and this team practices a rigorous application of rules and procedures to ensure the best support for missions without failure. An amazing team and strong adherence to rules can be one of the reasons the organization can maintain multiple industry certifications, including:
• FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Repair Station Certificate, Part 145
• Holder of FAA Production Approval (PAH) Part 21 (multiple production certificates)
• FAA Air Carrier and Operator Part 135 • FAA Rotorcraft External Load Operators Part 133
• European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), part 145
• Transport Canada repair station, part 145
• Quality Management Systems – Aerospace Standard – AS9100D
• Quality Management Systems – Aerospace Standard – AS9110C
• Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) 8210 • Aerospace Welder Certifications – AWS (American Welding Society) D17.1
Certifications are key to maintaining quality standards
quality standards In this industry, the success of many programs is ensured by certifications. Companies like yours may already have the right certifications. It can take hundreds of hours to apply for and obtain certifications, whether for EASA or FAA, or other standards. It is a commitment of time and money both to understand the rules and to document the regulations. Pride in achievement can be a driver towards higher standards. Erickson’s Director of Quality, Wes Hurless, said, “In a nutshell, we maintain certifications in the art of doing business in these areas. Without many of these certifications, we would not be able to service, manufacture or distribute parts. You must maintain a regulatory compliance platform certified and audited by the FAA and other regulators to be open/operational. In addition to certifications, audits play a huge role in accountability. Certified auditors perform routine monitoring of all external service providers as part of a Part 135 operation.
Setting standards to measure success can keep a team on track with quality
At Erickson, there are 50 inspectors, internal auditors, calibration technicians, supplier quality auditors, CASS (Continuing Audit and Surveillance System) auditors, airworthiness compliance analysts, and more along with department heads. Some are direct members of the quality assurance team, and some have other roles and collateral responsibilities with respect to quality and audit. The team must inspect machined parts, components and products from suppliers and ensure that the aircraft is ready for use once maintenance is completed. They all measure success differently. Wes Hurless provides quality support to business unit leaders across the Erickson organization, providing the quality department with clear direction and leadership through progressive opportunities, training and challenges. He seeks success by examining the team for continuous improvement. It seeks active learning and discovery about audit and inspection processes. He operates with a well-rounded methodology to keep improving his department’s processes, products and culture.