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AS9100D and the Organisational Knowledge Clause

AS9100 REV D Standard Clause 7.1.6 – Organisational Knowledge can be a bit of a challenge for some to get their heads around. Organisations can have differing views internally about what organisational knowledge is, add in the external auditor's 3rd viewpoint and you can have some very interesting discussions about it. Getting clear about clear what organisational knowledge is, for you and your organisation then, is important, you need to be 100% aligned and be able to explain it.

What is Organisational Knowledge

Think about Organisational knowledge as the Intellectual property within your organisation, the collective experience of your teams who have the knowledge of how you do things. It includes all the lessons learned, the tricks of the trade of how your organisation delivers its services or products. It's built up with years of experience, training and through the hiring of your staff. The worst part about organisational knowledge is that most of the time, it's actually not getting written down, and that's a problem.

The Requirements of AS9100 rev D 

The AS9100 REV D standard says that the organisation needs to review the organisational knowledge it believes is required to deliver its products or services and assess this requirement against what is available to them. The standard requires organisations to assess the gap between what they believe they need and what they believe that already have. i.e. go find the stuff that isn't written down! As part of this they should do a few things:

  • Understand how they will maintain this knowledge over time, both in terms of the state of the art but also as people come and go from an organisation how to you stop them leaving with that knowledge that only they have.
  • What training is required and how long will that training take? (i.e. how long is the knowledge Leadtime)
  • What documentation options do you have to lock in that knowledge?
  • Have the required training & development plans within the organisation been created for each role or process and at they written down.
  • Do you have documented records of the training that each person has had? Keep in mid that it may be adhoc training as well that they may have gained when they attended conferences or when vendors came in to take them through their latest devices or processes.
  • Think about where the organisation is going in the future and have a regular review of what knowledge will be required in the future and some plans on how to acquire this knowledge and in what timeframe.

The Knowledge Source

There are 2 important footnotes to clause 7.1.6 of the AS9100 rev D standard which is around where the knowledge source is. Like every professional and every student learns, you don't have to know everything, you just need to know how to find the information you need. It's the same here, the organisation itself doesn't have to have all the knowledge itself internally. For example, I spent many years working in the electronics industry, invariably manufacturing issues cropped up that needed us to dig into the macrostructure of the metals that we used. It would be uneconomical and unreasonable to expect our organisation to have an on-site metrology lab or meteorology expect so we bought that in as required. Similarly you may need to do environmental impact analysis work for your products, again you may not have that knowledge in house so buying it in make sense where do you get it from and how do you manage that?

You should, then, consider your organisational knowledge to be the same irrespective of it being internal or external to your organisation. You may just list it under two separate classifications for example

  • Internal- Experience over time, training, documents (and undocumented) knowledge results of improvements and so on
  • External – Standards, conferences, external experts, customers, academia

Summary

The Organisational Knowledge requirement of clause 7.1.6 in AS9100 REV D means that organisations need to understand what knowledge is required to produce and support their products and services now and in the future. They need to have a plan on how to maintain it over time and know where they will be able to get external knowledge as required. Organisational systems such as process documentation, training records and training plans will help, but before all of that, an agreement within the organisation about what the knowledge actually is really is essential.

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