Passing a Nadcap audit is considered by most heat treaters to be both a significant company-wide accomplishment and a benchmark as to their commitment to quality. Nadcap accreditation not only allows the company to perform heat treating for the Aerospace/Defense industries but perhaps equally important announces to all of its customers and potential customers that it has met or exceed the highest quality standards in the industry.
What is Nadcap? 1, 2
In simple terms, Nadcap accreditation is an assessment process whose approach is focused on establishing conformity throughout the industry. This is brought about by bringing together technical experts from all over the world for the purpose of establishing requirements for accreditation, supplier approval and to define operational program requirements.
Nadcap accreditation is considered the “gold standard”, not only in Aerospace heat treatment but throughout the industry. Having Nadcap accreditation means the company has taken a proactive approach to guarantee heat treat proficiency and taking steps toward risk management of the products they heat treat or produce. In other words, heat-treatment operations are better managed, better controlled and deliver fewer defective parts.
How Does it Work? 3, 4
The Performance Review Institute (PRI, www.p-r-i.org) administers the entire Nadcap program and has many tools, including classes, to help ensure that applicants will be well prepared for their audit. PRI will schedule an audit and assign a registered auditor to conduct the actual on-site audit This will be done using standards and checklists that have world-wide acceptance.
At the end of the audit, any nonconformity issues (major or minor) will be documented and nonconformance reports issued. PRI will then remotely administer closeout of these reports and this process is neither simple nor quick given the amount of documentation and proof of compliance involved. Therefore, it is critical to go through a rigorous pre-audit process and correct all nonconformities prior to the formal audit. DO NOT take this process lightly.
Upon completion, PRI will present the completed audit package to a special-process task group made up of members from the industry that will review it and vote on its acceptability for approval. Accreditation is granted when all nonconformance issues are closed.
Comprehensive online resources through the PRI website (www.eAu- ditNet.com) assist with the accreditation process, particularly the Heat Treat Pyrometry Guide (which helps provide clarification/interpretation of a variety of AMS 2750 details), a list of the most common audit findings (which should be very carefully studied), audit checklists, meeting notes, training guides, auditor handbook, audit advisories and operating procedures (NOPs – includes audit-preparation requirements, criteria for audit failure, etc.). Being unprepared or failing to adequately document company processes or procedures are the most common reasons Nadcap audits fail.
Suppliers new to the process may want to consider attending training courses offered by PRI, most notably Nadcap audit preparation courses specific to a discipline (e.g., heat treatment) and root-cause and corrective action (RCCA) training. These are offered in cooperation with PRI and are highly recommended. It is not uncommon for initial RCCA responses to be rejected, requiring additional investigation into the root cause and/or providing significant objective evidence.
In addition to the core checklists for various disciplines, there is also a supplemental checklist with requirements specific to a prime customer. If you have identified that you do business with any of these customers as part of the defined scope of your audit (done in advance of audit), then you must also complete all questions on this checklist applicable to those customers.
Why Should we be Accredited? 1, 5
Nadcap accreditation benefits not only the company being audited but helps ensure their customers receive products and services that meet or exceed both their expectations and requirements. The audit and accreditation processes result in continuous improvement in multiple areas, with deficiencies (i.e., nonconformances) identified and corrected based on specific rules (i.e., guidelines) to ensure each process meets or exceeds industry standards.
Benefits to customers of working with a Nadcap accredited supplier include:
- Assurance that heat-treating processes or testing adhere to strict guidelines, the purpose of which is to guarantee absolute product quality and enhance overall product safety.
- Assurance that the supplier will conduct regular reviews of their operations, the purpose of which is to continuously improve processes and product quality. Caution:
- This should not be used as a substitute for supplier audits.
- Assurance that the supplier adheres to the latest industry standards for quality and process. Nadcap accreditation tells a supplier that a systematic approach of checking to confirm control and repeatability of a given process is being done.
- Providing proof of both quality control and quality assurance, which ultimately saves customers time and money
- Providing proof of adherence to a nationally recognized certification program managed by Aerospace industry professionals
- Assurance that those suppliers utilizing special processes (including heat treating) comply with consistent, high-quality standards acceptable to critical performance industries such as Aerospace, Defense, Power Generation and the like.
What Areas Will be Audited 6
PRI has established a Heat Treating Task Force for the purpose of helping companies prepare for the audit process as well as conducting the actual audits themselves. Critical manufacturing processes such as heat treating (Table 1), coating and materials testing can be, individually or collectively audited and accredited (It is not uncommon for a heat treat shop to obtain process accreditation and forget that without an accredited metallurgical laboratory, testing must be performed outside the facility, a costly oversight).
Preparation for a Nadcap Audit 3
The Nadcap audit process looks at the processes being run, the equipment being used and, if the Aerospace industry is involved, the specifications of the individual primes being serviced.
Nadcap accreditation typically involves the following steps:
- Requesting and scheduling an audit
- Performing an internal (pre) audit
- Implementing corrective actions for any findings from the internal audit
- Performing the official PRI audit
- Reviewing and responding to nonconformances (major or minor)
- Applying and documenting corrective actions to resolve the nonconformances
- Planning and preparing for upcoming Nadcap accreditation
There are a number of steps that can and should be taken to prepare for a Nadcap audit. A few of them are discussed below.
One of the most overlooked areas in most company quality programs, and a mandatory component of any Nadcap audit, is personnel training. A formal training program must be in place and conducted in accordance with SAE-ARP-1962 (Training and Approval of Heat-Treating Personnel), latest revision.
The training program must include both classroom training and OJT (On-the-Job Training) and have a provision for continued training commitments over time including reinforcement training typically done on an annual basis. Another overlooked aspect of ARP-1962 is the ability of the company to define its own unique training program, the absence of which results in default to the requirements of the specification – in some instances requiring 160 hours of classroom training combined with 2 years of OJT to successfully complete the program.
Audit Preparation 2
The top ten things to remember that are required when preparing for and conducting Nadcap audits are:
- Provide quality system training including document control, calibration, record keeping, and results of internal auditing to all employees involved in the audit.
- Make all internal parties aware of the impending audit, calibration, receiving, inspection, purchasing, and document control.
- Make key personnel-management representative, quality manager, level IIIs and calibration technician-available for the audit.
- Conduct a comprehensive internal (self) audit using the Nadcap criteria, or checklists. Be thorough and demanding that everyone take the audit process seriously, it will make things far easier later on.
- Collect and review (for compliance) copies of the objective evidence, such as calibration certificates, quality procedures, records, logs, and sample job traveler that the auditor will need to review beforehand.
- Verify that there will be a sufficient number of parts, product, and components available for demonstration of proficiency. Make sure to review all previous jobs run in the past for conforming of deficiencies as well. This is often a trip point in the audit process.
- Review inspection (destructive and non-destructive) personnel’s competence in performing the required testing processes, inspections during the audits (pre-audit and the official audit).
- Assign knowledgeable escorts for the Nadcap auditor who are familiar with where and how to produce required documents and can help the auditor understand your company operation.
- Provide the required resources for the audit, from having an Internet connection, copier, scanner, and office personnel available to a good workspace.
- Advise your customers, internal and external, of the impending Nadcap audit. They also have a vested interest in your success as an accredited Nadcap supplier.
Next Time: We look at the details involved with performing a Nadcap audit.
1. TAV Vacuum Furnaces (https://www.tav-vacuumfurnaces.com/blog/30/en/nadcap-heat-treatment-processes)
2. Quality (https://www.qualitymag.com/articles/90405-the-role-of-nadcap)
3. Ipsen USA (https://www.ipsenusa.com/processes-and-resources/articles-and-white-papers/obtaining-nadcap-accreditation-helping-you-pass-your-audit)
4. Herring, Daniel H., Vacuum Heat Treatment, Volume 2 (Chapter 38.4), BNP Media, 2016.
5. Arrow Cryogenics (https://www.arrowcryogenics.com/nadcap-certified)
6. Aston, Jerry “The Heat Treatment Task Group Offers Its Top Tips in Order to Prepare for a Successful Nadcap Audit”, Thermal Processing, August 2019.