By: Jim Myers & Tina Dutcher
Earning NADCAP certification means that a company has improved its processes to be a better supplier to Aerospace and Defense companies. Tina Dutcher and Jim Myers of MetalTek’s Wisconsin Investcast Division explain the importance of NADCAP – whether you are a foundry producing investment castings or centrifugal castings, or any other supplier to these highly demanding industries.
What is NADCAP Certification?
NADCAP (National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program) is a rigorous yet rewarding accreditation program for aerospace engineering, defense, and related industries. This certification process is intended to be a managed approach to conformity and auditing that follows strict requirements for suppliers that are standardized by government and industry leaders.
What Does NADCAP Audit?
NADCAP implements procedural audits of a company’s adherence to process – rather than individual workmanship. NADCAP systematically scrutinizes materials, material allocation, outsourcing, purchasing, documentation, operator consistency, and equipment. At smaller facilities, every employee is audited at each touchpoint. If a company performs non-destructive testing (NDT) the NDT audits are specific to each application. In other words, there is an audit for liquid penetrant and another for X-ray radiography. Audits for welding are performed by welding process, such as manual or metal arc. Audits cover the entire process from the time the welder gets their instructions to delivery to the client.
What Are the Benefits of NADCAP Certification?
Ultimately, undergoing NADCAP certification presents an opportunity for companies to better understand and refine how they do their jobs. NADCAP auditing processes are put in place to help a company identify their areas of improvement and give market recognition for the things they are already doing well. Recording how work is done and how materials are handled can highlight if a process is outdated, if a workflow is difficult to maintain, or if specific key process indicators should be prioritized. This is especially important when also considered against the advice of a global network of technical experts, contractors, suppliers, and government representatives
Those companies and suppliers who have given the green light for auditing gain new perspectives on their functionality and are given a running list of ways to improve. Everything from escapes within the system to failures out in the field are prevented under careful investigation and methodical change. Part cost is reduced as process variability is reduced.
As a NADCAP-certified supplier continues to improve and reduce audit findings, then the time between audits can increase based on merit. Being a NADCAP-recognized supplier means the customer can reduce or replace costly individual audits that would otherwise be required by their Quality Department. Large aerospace and defense contractors historically have sent individual personnel out to audit suppliers, but NADCAP certification is an unspoken way for them to say, “We trust you as a company”. If one company is versed in what NADCAP requires, it naturally becomes easier to trust suppliers, and they in turn know what is expected from them.
What Are Barriers to NADCAP Certification?
Many suppliers choose to not be certified, either declining audits after an initial certification or never getting accredited in the first place. Audits can be expensive, and it can be cumbersome to commit to continuously evaluating procedures and managing audit task throughout the year. It can be a hefty investment to update processes and procedures and a substantial time commitment for employee training and quality assurance. Larger companies tend to be certified more often as they can more easily cover the expense through economies of scale. Achieving NADCAP certification is a current challenge for small companies, though NADCAP certification is tied to a location or division, so parts of a company can become certified.
What Are Examples of NADCAP Audit Infractions?
Infractions are to be expected throughout the auditing process. In welding, for example, a minor infraction would be a mix-up in the weld cabinet – someone accidentally filing an 1/8 inch rod in the 3/32 spot (same material, different size) whereas a major infraction would consist of an entire lot welded with the incorrect rod with the potential to of being delivered to the customer. Control checks are built into NADCAP processes to make sure processes flow as they should.
What Is the Cadence of NADCAP Audits?
When a company receives their NADCAP certification, they move to a yearly renewal basis. If the company performs well with only a few minor marks after their second audit, the cadence between audits is extended to 18 months, and then they are awarded a 24-month merit. MetalTek’s Wisconsin Investcast Division is currently at a 24-month merit for the past 4 years running.
What Is Some Advice for Companies Seeking NADCAP Certification?
The first piece of advice for companies preparing for an audit is to start on the NADCAP website. This official resource offers detailed checklists with steps on how each requirement can be met so companies can go through and self-audit before taking the leap. NOTE: Some resources require registration with their eAuditNet platform to gain access.
Employees should also reach out to other professionals within their industry, talking to the specialists and end-users who are familiar with NADCAP, and rely on the customers who are knowledgeable enough to assist during the transition.
When a company makes the commitment to getting NADCAP certified, they automatically improve, as colleagues, suppliers, and customers recognize the effort to continually improve, grow, and provide quality.
About the Authors
Jim Myers is a Technical Director at MetalTek’s Wisconsin Investcast Division. He has been with MetalTek for over 10 years and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Materials Engineering and a Master of Science Degree in Metallurgical Engineering-both from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Tina Dutcher is the Quality Manager of MetalTek’s Wisconsin Investcast Division and has over 23 years of experience. Like Jim Myers, she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering with a Mechanical Focus.