The IAQG has rolled out new mandatory “cause codes” that you will be forced to assign to any AS9100 nonconformity reported by your registrar. In all, there are 16 codes, because apparently the aerospace wizards at IAQG think that the entirety of the human condition can be reduced to a set of core problems numbering the same as the candles on a birthday cake in a Molly Ringwald movie.

The purpose of the IAQG codes is to provide some industry data on the root causes of problems. Sounds great in theory, but not so much in real life. First of all, by pre-coding the 16 cause codes, IAQG has pandered to the usual suspects and stacked the deck before it’s dealt, ensuring that only those 16 codes will be analyzed. Absent from the list of causes is, of course, anything associated with the aerospace primes themselves, when acting as the “bully customer.” For example, the primary source of “on time delivery” problems is — and everyone knows this — the fact that the primes arbitrarily violate terms of approved POs and “pull in” delivery dates on a whim; for example, you can tell them you have a 6-week lead time, and they’ll issue a legally-binding PO agreeing to those terms,  but a week later they will violate all of that and send you a notice that the order is now 10 weeks late, because they arbitrarily “pulled in” the delivery date. If you don’t like it, well, you can go sell ice cream or beach balls or something. That problem won’t ever be addressed by IAQG because they have ensured it can never be assigned a cause code.

Some of the codes are just fine, even if they tilt towards blaming the operator, but a few are more problematic. The four codes associated with human factors — which IAQG still really, really fails to understand — include “fatigue” and “stress.” Let’s think about that for a moment. How many AS9100 companies will ever — ever! — check the box that asserts, in a formal record published on a grossly insecure website, that they overworked their employees or bombarded them with stress? I can give you a hint, the number is really round and has a zero in it, because it’s actually just the number zero. By putting these cause codes in there, the IAQG has actually ensured that no one will ever use them, because companies aren’t stupid. IAQG, though, is… because they refuse to have any actual users in their midst, and refuse to view their work from the standpoint of anyone but themselves. It’s as if the Department of Motor Vehicles has taken over the aerospace industry. Shudder.

Now imagine some foolish company does check the box saying they overworked their employees to the point of “physical fatigue.” That goes into the IAQG OASIS database, which has about as much security as an open bag of popcorn that has been sitting in a bucket of water overnight. Not only will the users of OASIS see your self-declaration of employee abuse, it’s just a matter of time before the entire thing gets hacked and posted on Pastebin. Then the class action lawyers will get juiced up and launch into action and sue everyone involved. Including you.

Worse, if you ever get sued by an employee for that exact claim — overwork to the point of fatigue — they can subpoena the OASIS records and use them against  you in court as evidence. Now the IAQG folks may, in their self-deluded bubble, believe they have authority over all matters pertaining to aerospace, but they will get a lesson in their humanity when they are jailed for contempt of court for refusing a court-ordered subpoena. Meanwhile, a rogue employee could even mount a claim of “fatigue” if it were untrue, and then use the OASIS records to help bolster their case regardless. It’s a disaster.

Of course, no one at IAQG bothered to talk to anyone in the industry about this, nor did they consult an attorney. The way things work at IAQG is that one of the 10-15 self-appointed “aerospace experts” dream up something, and they quickly implement it, without any proper vetting or industry feedback. Then, when it is revealed to be utterly useless — like the original PEAR did — they just tweak it later, typically making it worse, not better.

AS9100 users need to send a message to the IAQG leadership that the cause codes are a ridiculous step backwards, a further “dumbing down” of aerospace quality science, and a guaranteed legal liability for all the stakeholders, including the very people who invented it.

(A typo-filled version of this article originally appeared in the recent Oxebridge Report # 42; it was circulated prior to proofreading, and we apologize for that error. This version has been updated with the corrections made.)

    About Christopher Paris

    Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 25 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015, which can be purchased here.