1. What is Nadcap?
During the Reagan Administration, the Department of Defense (DoD) determined that the integration of the defense supply chain and the commercial industry which supported and provided product to the aerospace industry should work together in a program that would be non-government-sponsored, industry-supported, and government-endorsed and utilized.
Over the course of several years and several conferences the DoD highlighted the following elements for a successful program: (1) a certification or accreditation system that included informational feedback, (2) a verification system that incorporated audit reviews, (3) sponsorship by nationally recognized private sector organizations with government participation, and (4) a time frame that provided for harmonious transition from the various programs and systems in use at the time.
By the late 80’s the first meeting of an industry committee met to develop and define the framework of a national qualification/accreditation program to meet these needs. This committee became known as the Management Committee of the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP).
Today, Nadcap (National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program) is an industry-managed approach to conformity assessment of ‘special processes’ that brings together technical experts from prime contractors, suppliers and representatives from government to work together and establish requirements for approval of suppliers using a standardized approach.
2. How does the Nadcap process work?
Prior to Nadcap, aerospace companies audited their own suppliers to their own process requirements to verify compliance. As the processes the suppliers were providing to their customers were often similar or identical, the customer requirements were comparable. Consequently, these duplicate audits were redundant and simply added to everyone’s workload, without adding value. For the aerospace/defense Prime contractors, conducting their own audits similarly meant duplication of effort, redundant audits, unnecessary administration and, ultimately, higher cost for no added value. Today, the Performance Review Institute (PRI) administers the Nadcap program. PRI schedules audits and assigns an approved auditor who will conduct the audit against an industry agreed standard using an industry agreed checklist.
3. What is a Nadcap Task Group?
Nadcap Task Groups are composed of personnel (Prime Contractors, Government Representatives, Suppliers) with expertise in the particular product, process or service for which suppliers are to be accredited (e.g. NDT, Heat Treating). The Task Group has responsibilities for the accreditation program including: deploying the accreditation process, recommendations for auditor hiring and training needs, standard and checklist development, metrics, and continuous improvement.
4. What will Nadcap do for me, what added value does it serve?
The Nadcap program offers the opportunity for suppliers to gain tighter controls within their special processes, provides the forum for a voice in the establishment of audit requirements, networking, and market recognition. One special process universal in the aerospace/defense industry is Chemical Processing. Studies have shown that Nadcap has led the way from tribal knowledge processing with its high variability to science based, systemic control of managing these complex special processes. The results are:
- Formal planning systems
- Training at all levels
- Robust procedures controlling processing
- Consistent baseline processing
- Process Improvement
5. How can my company get involved with Nadcap other than through audits?
Nadcap encourages suppliers to participate at all levels of the program. By attending the quarterly meetings, the supplier’s have a voice in program operation, checklist/standard revisions, industry solutions, networking with peers and customers etc.
6. What happens during the audit?
During a Nadcap Audit, your auditor, who is a technical expert in your discipline and has lengthy experience in the aerospace and/or defense industries, will be examining your systems, procedures, planning, contract review and control systems. Auditors spend 70% of their time on the process floor evaluating the effectiveness of all of these systems. Auditors examine purchase orders, work orders (or Travelers), work instructions, checklists, drawings, and process specifications to verify compliance with requirements. The paperwork review evaluates the effectiveness of the planning system in identifying customer requirements and flowing them to the shop papers. The next step is to witness the operator processing the hardware. This determines operator compliance with shop papers, effectiveness of planning, operator training and process control. In addition to the process, the final tests and inspections are also witnessed – again to verify effective planning, training, controls and compliance.
7. What are the qualifications to be an auditor?
Nadcap has prescribed requirements for auditors for general education, experience, professional accomplishments and technical specific requirements. Each Task Group defines their specific criteria for approval (e.g. Level III in four different NDT Methods). The Nadcap Auditor base averages over 30 years experience in the aerospace industry.
8. Who are/will be the Nadcap approved auditors for process control?
Nadcap maintains a listing of qualified auditors and assigns these independent contractors as applicable to the required audit.
9. What if we don’t like our assigned auditor, or have problems with him/her?
Nadcap welcomes any and all comments relating to auditor performance. Nadcap reviews each auditor for each audit conducted and utilizes data provided from audits and suppliers to develop curriculum for the annual auditor training that they conduct.
10. Are the auditors allowed to help with the corrective actions?
Nadcap auditors provide explanation as to what general good practice is for root cause and corrective action but do not provide assistance with responding or closure of non-conformances.
11. Will there be Nadcap auditors that could conduct the audit in languages other than English? (In cases where the audit will be occurring in a non-English speaking country)
Currently, Nadcap Audits are all conducted in English. However, Nadcap has begun an extensive search for auditors that are multi-lingual for such a purpose.
12. Where can I obtain the industry agreed checklist used for Nadcap audits?
The Nadcap Audit Checklists (AC)’s can be obtained by contacting PRI at (724) 772-1616. Sometimes it is necessary, however, for the supplier to complete a preliminary questionnaire (found on the PRI/Nadcap website: www.eauditnet.com) to determine which checklists are applicable.
13. What standards does Nadcap audit against?
Industry agreed Society of Automotive (SAE) Aerospace Standards (AS) accepted by all participating prime contractors.
14. Who decides what the Nadcap audit criteria are?
Each “Special Process” Task Group consisting of Prime Contractors, Government Representatives, and Suppliers create and/or revise the audit criteria by consensus to correspond to the approved SAE Aerospace.
15. Should I obtain Nadcap questionnaires prior to the audit?
Upon scheduling any Nadcap audit, PRI forwards the applicable audit checklists to the supplier for preparation. PRI, however, recommends a thorough self-audit using the audit checklists to be performed to allow for adequate preparation time prior to scheduling of the audit. The reality is that all new suppliers should begin their preparation at least one year prior to their initial audit. The use of knowledgeable and experienced advisors can accelerate the process and lead to earlier success with much less pain.
16. What type of preparation is required for a Nadcap audit?
See the answer to question 15. Preparing for a Nadcap audit is immensely challenging and time consuming. Much of the work is very challenging and not always intuitive. Help should be sought.
17. How are the audits conducted on site?
Nadcap audits follow general auditing protocol as established in the appropriate checklist. There will be an in-briefing meeting and an exit or out-briefing meeting to introduce the audit plan and to discuss any findings made by the auditor. Auditors should identify any/all non-conformances on a daily basis. The auditor will contact the supplier prior to the audit to determine the audit plan so as to not disrupt the supplier operations.
18. How long does the audit take?
Nadcap audits generally take two (2) – five (5) days to conduct. The audit length is based upon the scope of the audit (number of checklist, processes, etc.) and the number of “technologies” being included in the audit.
19. Will Nadcap require 5-part corrective actions?
Nadcap requires a response to include: immediate corrective actions, detailed root cause analysis, corrective action taken to prevent recurrence, product impact evaluation (if applicable), and submittal of objective evidence supporting the corrective action.
20. Does Nadcap approve, verify and follow up processor’s Corrective Action?
Nadcap approves the processor’s corrective action and requires objective evidence of implementation for all findings (major and minor) for initial audits. For subsequent re-accreditation audits, objective evidence is required for all Major findings. All corrective actions are verified as part of subsequent audits (and/or as part of a follow-up audit, if required).
21. Do suppliers require follow-up audits for verification of corrective actions?
Nadcap Task Groups generally require follow-up audits for two reasons (1) when several non-conformances are written indicating systemic problems that result in numerous corrective actions. A follow-up audit will be conducted to test the new systems put in to place and (2) when major findings are identified that indicate product impact issues. Nadcap has an advisory process in place to immediately identify potential product impact issues and to convey that information to the Prime Contractor/Government Representatives through the Supplier Advisory notification system.
22. It was explained that Nadcap audits focus on requirements specified in the established, industry-wide standards (AMS standards).
During the job audits (i.e. product audits) will customer-specific requirements (for example, BAC specification requirements) be reviewed if the shop order specifies that BAC specification requirements must be met? Nadcap verifies that the supplier is meeting customer requirements through the flow down of the process. If the customer requirement is for a “Process Implementing Procedure” then Nadcap will audit this process.
23. What is the frequency of Nadcap audits?
Frequency can vary for each special process. The Nadcap policy is that the first audit and two subsequent audit (first and second reaccreditation audits) are to be conducted within twelve months of the initial audit. Subsequent reaccreditation audits may be conducted per the Supplier Merit Program on 18 month or 24 month intervals based upon audit performance. Merit Programs have requirement criteria.