AS9102 Certification: What It Is, Who Needs It and Why It’s Important

The defense and aerospace industries have numerous standards in place to protect spacecraft, aircraft and travelers. Many of these standards begin as early as the manufacturing process, helping create a safe, reliable environment from the beginning.

One such requirement is First Article Inspection (FAI), which culminates in a First Article Inspection Report (FAIR). This process is made more effective and efficient by AS9102 certification.

What is the relationship between FAIRs and AS9102? What does that mean for parts, production, quality management and the aerospace industry overall? Read on to find out.

FAI Process: What is AS9102 Certification?

FAI is a requirement in the aerospace and defense industries. Its purpose is to verify that a production run and the parts it creates are aligned with specifications, industry standards and the customer’s expectations. 

Here’s what to know about the AS9102 certification that makes FAIRs even more valuable:

FAI vs. AS9102

The First Article Inspection quality management system is mandatory. However, because it applies to so many parts, production methods and workflows, it can be difficult to manage. 

AS9102 was designed as a way to standardize FAIR documentation and make the process smoother, more accurate and more valuable. Manufacturers aren’t required to use the standard, but leveraging it for inspections and related data capture or analysis can strengthen FAI efforts.

Applicable Industries

FAI is unique to the aerospace and defense industries. However, it has similar counterparts across manufacturing sectors, including:

  • AS9145: Also applicable to aerospace and defense, this standard outlines requirements for the Product Development Process (PDP).
  • ISO 9001: This standard can apply to a quality management system in any industry. 
  • ISO 13485: This standard is specifically designed for the medical devices industry and sets requirements for production, inspection processes and more.
  • Production Part Approval Process (PPAP): This is the quality management and accountability system used in automotive manufacturing.

AS9102 Certification

A manufacturer doesn’t necessarily need particular certification to follow the AS9102 standard. In some cases, teams may unofficially call certain parts or production processes “AS9102 certified” if they adhere to every requirement outlined by this particular standard. 

FAIR and AS9102 Value

The most obvious benefit of creating a First Article Inspection Report according to AS9102 requirements is remaining compliant with a customer agreement or any applicable aerospace standard. However, there’s additional value in the process, including:

  • Identifying inefficiencies or causes of non-conformance.
  • Reducing total costs throughout a production run.
  • Ensuring flight safety and reliability.
  • Improving part quality.

AS9102 vs. AS9100 Process: What’s The Difference?

Although the numbers are similar, there’s a significant difference between AS9102 and AS9100.

AS9100 is a quality management system. It outlines frameworks and expectations for the FAI and FAIR processes, helping manufacturers meet various requirements for quality, accountability and data transparency. It’s a modified, industry-specific version of ISO 9001 and covers everything from ethics training to supplier monitoring.

AS9102 is a standard that helps organize and improve this system. Though it comes with its own requirements, it’s an effective way to streamline FAIR creation.

Unlike AS9201, AS9100 comes with official certification. To be eligible, a manufacturer must pass an AS9100 audit, which verifies that all the necessary procedures and efficiency solutions are in place — including compliance with standard ISO 9001 requirements. You’ll need an audit to earn and maintain your certification. Although AS9201 doesn’t cover everything involved in AS9100 certification, this standard can be a good place to start when improving overall processes.

What Does The AS9102 Certification Process Entail?

Depending on your position in the supply chain, the AS9102 FAIR process can take slightly different forms. Here are the basic steps:

Inspection Planning

You need an authorized individual or team to select a production process or run. This will be the focus of the inspection, including all related procedures, design documentation, parts and tasks. You should determine which departments are responsible for which elements of production; this simplifies data capture and reporting workflows while enabling full visibility. Begin by gathering all relevant information, including:

  • Purchase order data.
  • Design drawings.
  • Customer requirements.
  • Parts specifications.

A First Article Inspection Report can be necessary at various stages of the manufacturing process. It’s perhaps most common for a first production run, but it should also be utilized when there’s any change in materials, design or other key factors. 

Form Creation or Selection

AS9102 requires three separate forms:

  • Form 1: Part Number Accountability: Identifies the parts you’re inspecting.
  • Form 2: Product Accountability: Lists material specifications, testing procedures, design requirements and any special process related to the production run.
  • Form 3: Characteristic Accountability: Records dimensions, tolerances and other data in a drawing or model.

You can download free AS9102 forms or create your own — but all three forms must always include certain information.

Data Capture and Entry

Data capture can be complicated depending on the nature of the production run. For example, you’ll need to extract Digital Product Design (DPD) characteristics that may not be available on 2D models and then bridge any gaps between 2D and 3D data points.

Once the final inspection results and other information have been captured from all necessary sources, these details must be entered into the correct AS9102 forms. Some data types require ballooning, which indicates important information that corresponds to a related form.

Final Sign-Off

Internal and external parties can both review the completed First Article Inspection Report to check for compliance, conformity, alignment with expectations and more.

Simplify Your First Article Inspection Reporting

A quality system is only as good as the software that enables it. DISCUS solutions help capture product, process and production data, compiling key information in one place. The software flags inconsistencies to help direct your team’s attention toward potential issues and non-conformity. With the right combination of DISCUS solutions, you can reduce AS9102 turnaround time by up to 80%.

Ready to simplify your FAIR process and align with AS9102 standards? Contact us today to take control of quality management.