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Benefits and pitfalls of implementing QMS in UAV services and manufacturing

Quality management system in the production of UAVs
As a company grows and matures, it must face the reality that the happy chaos" and "everyone does everything" approach is no longer working. Processes, roles, and responsibilities must be standardized and mapped to stay effective. Moreover, without this methodic approach, quality may begin to suffer, and for an area such as UAV manufacturing, this is simply not an option.

Here are some of the benefits and issues accompanying them, which Microavia has been through on our path to excellence in drone services and production. Most of them are based on ISO 9001 principles, but we have also borrowed from AS9100 for aerial specifics, ISO 27001 for security, and ISO 14001 for environmental responsibility and impact.

Improved Quality Control

Benefits: At the core of our quality management system (QMS) is ISO 9001. Essentially it ensures the consistent quality of our products. We can produce drones with fewer defects and ensure that all drone-related components meet quality standards.

Issues: Implementing stricter quality controls always faces resistance to change from employees. Also, the complexity of the QMS may delay the implementation of effective quality control processes.
Product quality control by a Q&A engineer at Microavia

Better Risk Management

Benefits: ISO 9001 comes with a great framework to identify and manage risks to the business. This includes risks related to the manufacturing process, such as supply chain disruptions, material shortages, and equipment failure. It helped us mitigate these risks and ensure that our drones and managed drones infrastructure service are delivered on time and to specification.

Issues: There are many risk categories in manufacturing, particularly in the UAV business. Actively identifying and keeping track of them takes a lot of work.

Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

Benefits: ISO 9001 requires companies to focus on customer satisfaction and continuously improve their products and services. We are building a loyal customer base by meeting customer expectations, delivering high-quality drones, and growing our market share.

Increased Efficiency

Benefits: UAV manufacturing is costly, so we spend a lot of time optimizing our processes and eliminating waste. From the QMS perspective, we always streamline the production process to reduce the time it takes to manufacture a drone. This leads to cost savings and increased profitability.

Issues: Optimization, sometimes, leads to more complexity for processes. Also, it requires more measurement all the way down to individual performance. Both of these can be met with resistance.

Greater Innovation

Benefits: A significant part of these quality frameworks is focused on improving products and processes. It supports our drive to develop new and innovative drone-related components, such as sensors, cameras, and software, that meet the evolving needs of our customers.

Issues: Drive for performance and perfection can be tiresome as people fight to solve harder and more sophisticated topics. Fortunately for us, our team is packed with people who like a good challenge.
General-purpose robotic landing station - Ortus Dock

Improved Traceability

Benefits: ISO 9001 requires companies to maintain records of their production process, including the materials used and the testing conducted. This helps us quickly track the components used in each drone and ensure that they meet the necessary quality standards. Also, this makes our warranty and maintenance procedures much more straightforward.

Issues: This requires introducing new manufacturing processes and IT solutions. Both, unfortunately, add costs and labor.

Better Supplier Management

Benefits: While we do most of our manufacturing and development in-house, we still rely on suppliers for various things. ISO 9001 helps us establish and maintain standardized relationships with them. This also means we have a framework to work closely with our partners to ensure they provide high-quality components and materials.

Issues: Being picky about suppliers automatically narrows the number of potential partners. Also, it may lead to higher purchasing costs, as the companies following the same quality principles as we do are not the cheapest.

Improved Regulatory Compliance

Benefits: ISO 9001 requires companies to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. For Microavia, we constantly ensure that our drones meet safety and performance standards. As an added measure, we also keep track of the drone regulations in our key markets, working with local aviation authorities and helping our partners comply with the rules of BVLOS flight, etc.

Issues: As an international company, the scope of regulations affecting us is pretty broad, as drone regulations vary wildly from country to country. Making regulatory compliance a priority takes resources from both our manufacturing and legal teams.

Increased Employee Engagement

Benefits: Employees are the key to our success. ISO 9001 requires companies to involve their employees in the quality management process. We try to empower our team to identify and report quality issues and contribute to the continuous improvement of their products. The open and constructive atmosphere allows us to create better products and services faster.

Issues: Depending on a person's personality, actively giving feedback does not always come naturally. So it initially creates some tension if an employee takes this heightened attention to detail defensively.

Competitive Advantage

Benefits: Our customers often want to know more about how we produce and deliver. Hence our sales team has to explain and occasionally show our manufacturing. It helps a lot when a customer sees that our team operates according to leading industry norms and is not afraid to show it.

Issues: Getting certified takes a lot of effort, money, and time, as there is a subtle difference between having a working QMS and having a certificate on the wall.
In summary
Implementing quality measurement and improvement has a lot of benefits for a company, especially in a high-tech industry such as UAV manufacturing. Finding the time and resources to introduce this change is not always easy, but it's certainly worth it. For Microavia, this continuous improvement cycle is ongoing and here to stay. We hope it does for you too!