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How to Get Into Aerospace Engineering: A Guide For Subcontract Suppliers

Sarah Venning

Few industries are as renowned as aerospace and many suppliers seek the credibility that servicing this sector affords them. Here in the UK, we have the second largest national aerospace industry in the world, which is great news for companies that are wondering how to get into aerospace engineering.

The aerospace industry is heavily regulated and subsequently, sub contract engineering companies that operate primarily within this field are widely regarded as being the best of the best. After all, there is no margin for error when the end application is a plane carrying hundreds of people at 39,000 feet!

It can be difficult for newcomers to know where to begin when wondering how to get into the aerospace industry. In fact, the process can initially appear to be a daunting one, what with the required implementation of aerospace standard AS9100 and the extensive auditing that comes with it. Nonetheless, aerospace engineering jobs come with a rare prestige and can often boost a supplier’s reputation in a way that translates across all sectors, opening doors to additional opportunities in the process.

 

Is Aerospace Engineering Hard? What Are the Requirements for Aerospace Engineering?

The rise in air travel, amongst other factors, has cemented aerospace as a buoyant industry with an abundance of work available for those with the right set-up. Therefore, suppliers that focus on aerospace CNC machining, as well as aerospace fabrication, can expect to receive a steady stream of orders, without the worry of seasonal drop-offs in workload.

Aerospace engineering requirements centre around precision and quality, which are absolutely crucial to the production of aerospace parts, with extremely tight tolerances being something of an industry norm. Aerospace manufacturing suppliers who have invested in multi axis machines may find the work to be an especially good fit, owing to the complexity of some of the components being outsourced.

Price plays a part within any sales process; however, it is a less prominent factor when you get into aerospace engineering. Clients expect to pay more in exchange for superior quality and the services of a supplier with the necessary accreditations in place. A majority of the work is high value and there are no cut corners in the name of cost saving.

Suppliers should also expect to adhere to stringent material specifications, which satisfy aerospace standards and ensure that components are robust enough to fulfil their end purpose.

 

Aerospace Standard AS9100: EN9100 vs AS9100

Needless to say, aerospace is a heavily regulated industry and the manufacture of all parts and assemblies – even down to the likes of safety manuals and catering trolleys – can require the supplier to hold certifications and product approvals.

‘Here in the UK, the recognised standard for aerospace manufacturing is EN 9100,’ explains Thomas Harrison, Commercial Engagement Manager at the BSI Group. ‘This is more commonly known by the name of the US standard AS 9100, although they are equivalent and recognised as such.’

‘The third equivalent is JISQ 9100, which is the respective standard within Japan.’

Like other quality systems, aerospace standard EN 9100 is based upon ISO 9001; subsequently, this has also undergone revision in line with the ISO 9001:2015 release. The updated standard is known as EN 9100 Rev D, which will replace its Rev C predecessor entirely as of the 15th September 2018.

‘Most aerospace suppliers are currently certified to Rev C, meaning that they will need to transition to the new standard for their certification to be recognised after the deadline,’ says Thomas. ‘However, organisations looking to become certified for the first time can start straight at the newest version.’

‘The good news is that companies who have implemented ISO 9001:2015 have already made good progress, although they will see some additional requirements which are specific to EN 9100 itself.’

For suppliers that are wondering how to get into the aerospace industry, there are plenty of different routes to becoming EN 9100 certified, from training courses to hiring an external consultant; however, these all lead back to a mandatory two-stage assessment from a recognised certification body, which will need to be passed before certification is achieved.

Once an organisation becomes certified to EN 9100, they will be visible on the Online Aerospace Supplier Information System (OASIS), giving transparency of their competence and certification history to OEMs – or prime manufacturers as they are better known within the aerospace industry – globally.

 

But does EN 9100 cover all aspects of aerospace CNC machining and aerospace fabrication?

‘Although EN 9100 is the accepted standard for prime manufacturers within the aerospace industry, additional requirements may vary from company to company,’ Thomas clarifies. ‘It’s also important to note that whilst EN 9100 covers the manufacturing aspect of the supply chain, separate approvals can be required for the distribution and stocking of parts.’

‘Aerospace manufacturing suppliers and companies that are involved in the aerospace sector may benefit from having EN 9110 certification in place, which is specific to the distribution and stocking processes.’

Owing to the sensitive nature of information regarding aerospace components and the high cash value of the parts ordered, some prime manufacturers may ask aerospace suppliers to provide evidence that they maintain a high standard of cyber security.

Although not essential, Thomas recommends that vendors consider implementing a certification which demonstrates their proficiency in this field.

‘Manufacturers need to ensure that any information they exchange with their suppliers remains secure and therefore, certification which addresses cyber security will greatly improve a subcontract supplier’s chances of winning certain contracts.’

‘ISO 27001 directly addresses best practice in information security, as does Cyber Essentials – a government-backed certification which is suitable for companies operating in any sector.’

 

Aerospace Engineering Requirements - What Else Should I Know?

As an industry that demands the very best, from the very best of suppliers, prime manufacturers from the aerospace industry will also expect to receive a high standard of customer service. Of course, strong account management skills are crucial to succeeding within any sector; however, with the added prestige that presents itself from working within aerospace comes an additional facet of responsibility to ensure that the relationship runs smoothly.

It doesn’t matter how good your end product is, if you fail to communicate effectively then you run the risk of losing your customer to another aerospace machining and fabrication supplier. Fortunately, good customer service is easy to maintain, provided that you take the necessary steps to ensure that the relationship remains beneficial to both parties. For example:

·         Endeavour to deliver on time.

·         Ensure that your product is manufactured to a high standard of quality.

·         Communicate openly with the customer on a regular basis.

·         Make sure that the customer is kept informed of any changes. No supplier is perfect, but the best suppliers are always transparent – and apologetic – when it comes to factors such as missed deadlines.

·         Work together with your client to come up with solutions that benefit both parties.

·         Manage client expectations in order to avoid disappointment.

·         Call and introduce yourself to potential new clients, instead of simply emailing over a price.

·         Identify what the client values highly in a supplier and tailor your quotation accordingly.

It’s also important to be aware that many large aerospace companies have a preferred supplier list in place; as a result, you cannot expect to see results overnight. It may take months – or even years – to establish a relationship with a large aerospace manufacturer, as well as extensive auditing of your premises to ensure that you are compliant with their standards. Becoming a Tier 1 aerospace machining and fabrication supplier will take exceptional levels of patience and perseverance – nonetheless, the rewards are there for the taking by businesses that adopt the right approach.

 

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About Sarah Venning

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with six years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

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