NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, Patuxent River, Md. – Producing better quality aircraft parts and components leads to increased aircraft readiness, availability and reliability. To do this, Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) has embarked on an initiative called Quality Management System (QMS) that will standardize aviation quality assurance and control systems across the COMFRC Enterprise.

COMFRC has a significant impact on aviation readiness where eight Fleet Readiness Centers (FRC) provide maintenance, repair and overhaul services on almost 500 aircraft, 4,000 engines and components and more than 180,000 other parts and products annually.

“We’re improving the quality of products provided to the fleet by providing a holistic quality system,” said Ken Baile, COMFRC quality manager. “This is about improvement across all product lines. We’re looking at products and processes to see what and where we can do better.”

To do this, COMFRC taps into the talents of production, industrial operations, quality and engineering subject matter experts (SME) to improve the fundamentals of quality at all levels of maintenance through Integrated Quality Teams (IQT).

IQTs brings engineers, industrial engineering technician, estimators and evaluators, quality assurance specialists and artisans together to support aircraft, engine, and component Integrated Product Teams (IPT). Responsible for reviewing and correcting technical data deficiencies and managing sampling and statistical analysis programs, the team will also monitor Naval Aviation Maintenance Discrepancy Reporting Programs, ensure compliance with the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program, contribute to quality investigations and approve support equipment and tooling changes that may affect airworthiness of aircraft.

Ken Baile, Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) Quality Manager, heads up the COMFRC Quality Management System designed to improve quality in both products and processes to benefit Naval aviation. (U.S. Navy photo/released)

While setting up the concept for QMS, COMFRC leaders met with counterparts in industry to learn how they conduct business and what might work within the FRC Enterprise.

“I remember going to one company that has a very similar mission to the FRCs,” Baile said. “The technicians were working in a collaborative manner with engineering, operations and quality to ensure the product was delivered on time, within cost and at the highest quality possible. FRC artisans work collaboratively as well but this company had a different maturity of process than we have, and there are lessons to be shared.”

Chris Holder, Research and Engineering (AIR-4.0) lead for COMFRC, said the new team is a needed resource at one of the most crucial points in the production process.

“The IQTs brings all product quality stakeholders together for critical reviews and decision making for the product line,” Holder said. “Quality is a team sport and requires the engagement of all stakeholders. Standardization will allow us to speak with one consistent and accurate voice for the NAE and improve quality, communication and understanding as we move forward. The IQT construct and processes will make this happen.

“Standardization of policies and procedures in the areas of certification/verification, root cause analysis, audits and investigations, corrective actions and accountability review will make the FRCs better maintenance providers,” he said.

Martin Ahmad, Deputy Commander for Fleet Readiness Centers and Director of NAVAIR Logistics and Industrial Operations, said IQTs transform processes from being reactive to being predictive.

“The prompt, effective identification and removal of defect root causes are essential to achieving high product quality, reducing material costs and maintaining safe environments,” Ahmad said. “The imperative to become predictive and preventative in Naval Aviation readiness production demands improved collaboration among engineering, quality, production and industrial stakeholders. IQTs are an important step in toward achieving that goal.”

QMS was first rolled out to the Fleet Readiness Centers in November 2017 and will be fully operational by April 2018.