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Quality challenges in aerospace need to acknowledge the human factor, supported by procedures and tools

The “Quality 2015” event of Management Circle at Düsseldorf (March 10 – 11, 2015) was a high-quality experience: Almost 100 participants did a good investment, being able to learn how quality experts from research / different industries opened their “treasure chests” and shared openly how they managed quality challenges mostly inside their organizations, sometimes even going beyond the own organization.

Among them were three speakers from the Aerospace industry:

1. Ralf Dietrich, Head of Quality Assurance from Premium Aerotec Varel, gave insights about process-oriented quality management inside Premium AEROTEC Group

Via the Premium AEROTEC SQKTP KPI system (Sicherheit – Qualität – Kosten – Termine – Personal) , daily reports are being generated and provide input for a continuous improvement process. Mr Dietrich explained that e.g. quality and OTD (on-time-delivery) belong together. Methods like a process map for process quality management and the right tools (e.g. for KPI reporting or 8D management) can help.

One example of used tools: Premium AEROTEC already today uses the supplier collaboration hub “AirSupply” both as Airbus supplier but also as customer towards the own suppliers, for efficient collaboration between buying and selling companies.

Background: Premium AEROTEC is one of the world’s leaders in the development and manufacturing of structures and production systems for commercial and military aircraft construction. At its facilities in Augsburg, Bremen, Nordenham, Varel and Braşov (Romania), Europe’s leading aircraft supplier manufactures state-of-the-art aircraft structures for the entire Airbus Family using aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre composites (CFC). Premium AEROTEC is also making a key contribution to the development and manufacturing of the A350 XWB. Furthermore, the company supplies key components for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Eurofighter and the A400M.

2. Michael Langer, a Lufthansa Pilot, giving insights how dangerous hierarchical (non-) communication can be and how important trained, omni-present checklists/standard procedures are

Airbus A380 pilot Mr Michael Langer presented situations when e.g. pilots and co-pilots have only few minutes or even seconds to take high-stake decisions. He gave reported and own experiences what can go wrong, when not only a technical system, but also human communications sometimes fails. This has e.g. already been the case, when the lower rank co-pilot did not want to offend the higher rank pilot, even though the latter one had done a mistake.

Mr Langer, as a solution to that problem, explained the very useful Lufthansa checklist/standard procedure for critical situations, named FORDEC (Facts – Options – Risks – Decision – Execution – Control), which can be applied in many different scenarios and allows to keep control even in extreme situations. Despite of very dramatic examples of what can go wrong, Mr Langer showed how these methods contribute to make flying the safest means of transportation.

3. Dr Axel-Gerd Weber, Head of Quality Engineering & Space, in his speech explored how risk management works inside Airbus Defence & Space

Mr Weber illustrated that risk probability is sometimes not assessed correctly, because there was never a perceived criticial situation in the past.

In these kind of situations, it is important to understand how a professional risk and opportunity management works: on each organizational level, there are personalized responsibilities, as every member of organization in the end is affected. So what matters, is a risk management mindset, methods and tools, acknowledging personalized responsibleness and an incorporated bottom-up risk assessment, based on damage impact and probability of occurrence.

Background: Airbus Defence and Space is Europe’s No. 1 defence and space company. Worldwide, it ranks second for space and is among the top 10 defence companies, with revenues of approximately €13 billion per year. Composed of four business lines – Military Aircraft, Space Systems, Communication and Intelligence & Security (CIS), and Electronics – Airbus Defence and Space brings together a wide portfolio to continue to meet the complex needs of its customers, contribute to nations’ defence and security, and secure Europe’s sovereign and independent access to space.

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