When it comes to safety, the returned material authorization (RMA) and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) process is essential to keeping aircraft, vehicles, engines, weaponry, systems and associated equipment in peak operating condition. The A&D industry dictates certain standards and regulations that must be followed such as FAA, EASA, AS9100D, ITAR and others. This process has many moving parts and requires meticulous record keeping. A company must continually work to ensure that its products, processes, records and those of its suppliers are in full compliance.
The first step is processing a returned material authorization form (RMA) to start the process for returning the product. Product can be returned for warranty repair sometimes referred to as an original equipment manufacturer return (OEM), or for a planned repair or overhaul activity. The process for returning the product is very similar in both cases. During the RMA process, general information about the problem or required repair is collected to match up with the equipment when it is received at the manufacturer or repair facility. Once the RMA has been created, the material is packaged and shipped from the customer back to the manufacturer or repair facility. In many cases, additional information on the issue or repair activity is packaged with the material being returned. Automating this process using an integrated quality management solution with robust work flow management provides efficiencies, turnaround tracking, CAPA integration and other capabilities increasing performance and customer satisfaction.
Once received, the product is matched up with the data collected during the initial communication and any additional data provided by the customer is added to the records. The returned product is now ready to be scheduled for evaluation. If this is an unplanned repair, a determination of whether this is a warranty or billable repair will occur and be added to the records.
At this point, a simple routing can be created within an electronic quality management or shop floor execution solution which communicates with a company’s ERP system and is subsequently run through 5 basic operations:
- Initial Inspection – At this operation general product condition is evaluated and if tamper-proof seals are utilized, the integrity of the seal is verified. Depending on the product repair, requirements may be identified at this stage.
- Testing to verify failure mode – Testing occurs if required to verify the issue and/or identify the problem or additional problems. For tested items, this will determine what needs to be done to return the product to specification or serviceable condition.
- Repairs – Perform repair activity identified in prior operations. This can be iterative depending on what is found and whether the item passes Final Test and Inspection.
- Final Test – Confirm the product functions as intended.
- Final Inspection – Verify all dimensional, cosmetic or other features comply with requirements. When the product passes Final Inspection, all documents required by the customer and regulatory agencies are completed and provided with the returned product.
These basic operations are used to collect labor and material costs, but there may be many iterations and detailed activities that occur as testing and inspection identifies problems that need to be addressed. Using an integrated quality management and shop floor execution system, these can quickly and easily be managed without complicating the routing or other ERP functions. The ability to quickly identify and document required repair actions and their completion electronically adds speed and flexibility to this process. Electronic validations for required skills, acceptable gages within calibration intervals and checks for open nonconformances provide additional benefits and assure compliance.
TIP Technologies has extensive experience helping customers effectively track the returned material authorization and maintenance, repair, and overhaul process. Contact TIP Technologies for a demo of the TIPQA solution to learn how these processes can be easily automated and accurate as-maintained records can be generated.