Taking exception to customer requirements or specifications & AS9100D

#1
I am the Contract Review Specialist at a seals and bearings manufacturing facility. We are AS9100D certified. Many of our seals and bearings are for the aerospace, defense and aviation industries. I'm fairly new to this position, and having a hard time deciding on the best way to handle exceptions to customer's specifications and requirements. This would be specific to our Customer Service Department. Currently, after the contract review & after entering the customer order, the Customer Service Representatives would note any exceptions to customer requirements and/or specifications within the body of the email when they are acknowledging the order. This would be in cases where the exception would not have an impact on the form, fit or function of the part we're making. For example, we do not perform any special processes at our facility, so we take exception to NADCAP. Section 8.2.3.1 of AS9100D states: "If upon review the organization determines that some customer requirements cannot be met or can only partially be met, the organization shall negotiate a mutually acceptable requirement with the customer. The organization shall ensure that contract or order requirements differing from those previously defined are resolved." What we DON'T want to do is set every order aside and wait days or weeks to hear back from the customer while we negotiate a mutually acceptable requirement. This wouldn't be so bad if we were a small facility or machine shop, but we currently make over 17,000 active parts, so you can imagine the volume we're dealing with. Each Customer Service Rep. is inundated with orders, complaints, quote requests, follow-ups, etc. every day, and this extra layer is only adding to their chaos. We only have 7 Customer Service Reps to handle all of this--and there is no cooperation from corporate to add any more bodies to this department. I'm working with the Customer Service Manager to try to come up with a feasible way to handle exceptions, but still get the orders processed in a timely manner. Our manufacturing process for the carbon (that we make and then machine the seals and bearings from) is a lengthy process and our customers do not want their orders delayed. How is everyone else handling this? Does anyone have any suggestions?
 
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Sidney Vianna

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#2
There is no easy answer for this, but some points to consider:

  • communicate with customers from the get go to let them know that delays (on their end) to formalize acceptance to exceptions might lead to order delays.
  • exceptions can range from mundane to critical. After doing this for so long, the organization should have developed some knowledge of what is trivial and what will really be show stoppers. Your organization should use risk based decisions to proceed with the order for the low risk ones, realizing that the customer acceptance to exceptions are surely forthcoming.
  • use hard, factual, impacting data to show and demonstrate how important this issue is to your organization and the customers. If you can make verifiable correlation between this and lost orders/revenue, customer dissatisfaction, product returns, etc... you might be able to convince top management that more resources are needed.

Good luck.
 
#4
@Golfman25 - We do have that for some customers with whom the same exceptions would apply over and over. However, sometimes the exceptions are part-based, so they can vary from part to part. Also, one customer could order the same part multiple times a year, but have different requirements on some of the orders depending on their end-use customer, so we can't even set-up a "blanket agreement" per part number. I feel like it's a no-win situation.....we just can't put all of these orders on hold, but to comply with the standard, we can't not form some sort of agreement with the customer on the exceptions.
 
#5
There is no easy answer for this, but some points to consider:

  • communicate with customers from the get go to let them know that delays (on their end) to formalize acceptance to exceptions might lead to order delays.
  • exceptions can range from mundane to critical. After doing this for so long, the organization should have developed some knowledge of what is trivial and what will really be show stoppers. Your organization should use risk based decisions to proceed with the order for the low risk ones, realizing that the customer acceptance to exceptions are surely forthcoming.
  • use hard, factual, impacting data to show and demonstrate how important this issue is to your organization and the customers. If you can make verifiable correlation between this and lost orders/revenue, customer dissatisfaction, product returns, etc... you might be able to convince top management that more resources are needed.

Good luck.
@Sidney Vianna - I get what you're saying, but it's just not feasible for us to put all of the orders on hold until we have an agreement with the customer. That will hurt our monthly targets and only end up causing extra work when the customer then expedites the orders on a daily basis (creates a lot of extra work, phone calls, emails, etc.). As far as using a risk-based approach for the low risk ones, I don't see how we can do that and still comply with the standard. Regarding compiling evidence to demonstrate the importance of the issue to our organization - we are so short-handed already that the extra tasks involved would not be well-received by the Customer Service Manager or his department. Because of the unique nature of our business (we are making the carbon material from scratch + then machining the parts to the customer's print), a lot of the work we do isn't typically lost. Many times, we are the sole source on the drawing, so we aren't losing the revenue, per say, just delaying the orders. Believe me when I say that convincing top management that more resources are needed is not an option. The Customer Service Manager and our Quality Manager have both been trying FOR YEARS to get additional help.
 

Sidney Vianna

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#6
Without divulging sensitive information, please provide examples of part-specific exemption requests. Ditto for non part-specifics
 

John Predmore

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#7
What we DON'T want to do is set every order aside and wait days or weeks to hear back from the customer while we negotiate
Perhaps the way out is provided in the note below AS9100 8.2.3.1...
"NOTE: In some situations, such as internet sales, a formal review is impractical for each order. Instead, the review can cover relevant product information, such as catalogues."

You should keep documented information that your organization decided a formal review of every order is impractical, that you did a "catalogue" review of a list of similar parts, and "the exception would not have an impact on the form, fit or function of the parts" on the list . The evidence of effectiveness of this approach would be whether you reduce order turnaround time and improve customer satisfaction.
 
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