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What Is NADCAP Certification? What You Need To Know

by | Jan 1, 2023

Due to the strict levels of quality control needed to ensure the highest level of safety, the aerospace industry is heavily regulated. Because the stakes are so high, it has a very low tolerance for failure. 

Nadcap is one of the accreditation organizations set up to enhance and standardize quality control in aerospace manufacturing. 

This article will define Nadcap accreditation and outline the application process.



The Performance Review Institute (PRI) of SAE International is in charge of overseeing the NADCAP program (Society of Automotive Engineers). An organization must first have a QMS (Quality Management System) in place before applying for NADCAP accreditation. To confirm that the organization’s procedures adhere to NADCAP standards, an auditor from the PRI will examine them. Any non-conformances would need to be resolved before accreditation is approved.

Aerospace OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) independently audited each supplier prior to the creation of the NADCAP program. This NADCAP program was established to lessen this effort duplication (and costs). The initiative was established in 1990. Members of the NADCAP Management Council who work for industry prime contractors and suppliers oversee the program with the PRI. 

There are Task Groups within the Management Council for each category of NADCAP-audited critical processes or systems. They look over the audit requirements, create training materials, accept corrections, and make the final accreditation decisions.


What Is NADCAP Certification?

NADCAP is an accreditation program run by the Performance Review Institute (PRI) that brings together government stakeholders and industry experts to ensure adherence to a set of standards for the supplier approval process. 

Because Nadcap is an industry-managed organization, the government and businesses collaborate to develop the standards and accredit various aerospace suppliers. Before Nadcap was established, the majority of aerospace companies would audit their suppliers to make sure they complied with a number of internal standards. 

Due to this, there were multiple audits, which significantly increased the suppliers’ workload.

However, the majority of subcontractor failures in the aerospace manufacturing sector could be linked to issues with process and quality control in a small number of unique processes. These unique procedures were formally identified by Nadcap Prime subscribers, and a number of regulations and audits were put in place to ensure industry standardization and get rid of redundant audits. 

The audit criteria (AC) are regularly evaluated and improved after being adopted by industry consensus. As a result, compliance is easier to maintain because they are accepted by all significant stakeholders.

These unique processes are the subject of extremely technical audits. They enforce high standards for quality within the aerospace manufacturing sector and are not just a paperwork exercise.

How Does It Work?

The special process audit requirements of Nadcap must be met by the new supplier before a prime subscriber engages them. Figure 1 depicts a high-level flow chart of the Nadcap accreditation procedure (detailed below): 

  • The process starts with the OEM asking the supplier to submit an application for Nadcap certification. 
  • After that, the supplier must get in touch with Nadcap and ask for an auditor for their procedure, who is supplied by the PRI. Before the actual audit, a supplier will usually want to make sure that their pertinent special processes meet Nadcap’s requirements. 
  • After that, Nadcap will schedule the audit and designate an auditor.
  • Following the audit, the auditor will present their findings and call attention to any non-conformances. 
  • Following that, the findings of the original auditor’s report will be reviewed by the supplier and PRI technical staff who serve as an additional support function. 


Before the PRI technical staff sends the audit report to the prime subscriber, any non-conformances must be resolved. The report’s findings will then be confirmed by a task force at the OEM. Any remaining non-conformances that the task group may have discovered should be resolved at the conclusion of this procedure, and the supplier will be given a certificate.

What Does NADCAP Audit?

Instead of focusing on individual craftsmanship, NADCAP implements procedural audits of a company’s adherence to the process. Materials, material allocation, outsourcing, purchasing, documentation, operator consistency, and equipment are all thoroughly examined by NADCAP. Every employee is audited at every touchpoint. 

Non-destructive testing (NDT) audits are specific to each application if a company uses NDT. In other words, there are audits for X-ray radiography and liquid penetrant. Welding process audits, such as manual or metal arc, are carried out. Audits cover every step of the procedure, from when the welder receives instructions to when the client receives the product.

The accreditation is not a one-off process and needs to be performed every 12 months. The renewal process is the same as the original audit, and if standards were maintained from the last audit, the renewal audit will be less arduous. However, it’s important to stay up to date with any changes that may have been made by Nadcap to ensure continued compliance.

Who Requires NADCAP Approval? 

Any business that provides parts or services to aerospace OEMs who are Nadcap subscribers may be subject to an audit. It depends on whether or not the supplier uses one of the unique procedures Nadcap has called attention to. 

Airbus, Boeing, Rolls Royce, and GE Aviation are just a few of the numerous significant original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the aerospace industry that are Nadcap members. The prime subscriber will include Nadcap accreditation as a non-negotiable condition of future business dealings if the organization performing these processes is not accredited. 

Additionally, a supplier has the option to proactively start the accreditation process without the direct request of a prime subscriber.

Nadcap accredited


Benefits Of NADCAP Certification 


Validation For The Aerospace Industry

Many significant aerospace companies are required to be Nadcap accredited. The tendering procedure with these businesses might be made simpler for suppliers who maintain their Nadcap accreditations. The OEM won’t have to waste time assisting a non-accredited supplier in achieving compliance. 

Because Nadcap accreditation indicates that thorough internal audits of special processes were conducted and the supplier’s actual processes adhere to the necessary standards, it can sometimes carry more weight than ISO 9001 accreditation in demonstrating that a company strictly follows industry-recognized best practices.

Any business that wants to collaborate with the biggest names in the international aerospace industry must be Nadcap certified. These industry titans in aerospace will be able to trust a supplier to meet the high standards of the sector thanks to this accreditation. In the aerospace industry, this can help a business stand out from those that aren’t accredited and gain some level of international recognition. 

Nadcap accreditation also lowers warranty costs by raising the general level of a company’s manufacturing procedures. Nadcap accreditation is well worth the effort because it guarantees quality, and the aerospace industry is well aware of this.

Other Benefits

Finally, obtaining NADCAP certification offers businesses the chance to analyze and improve the way they perform their duties. NADCAP auditing procedures are set up to assist a business in identifying its areas for improvement and to reward the market for the things it is already doing well. 

It is possible to determine whether a process is out-of-date, whether a workflow is challenging to maintain, or whether certain key process indicators need to take priority by documenting how work is done and how materials are handled. When taken into account in opposition to the recommendations of a global network of technical experts, contractors, suppliers, and government representatives, this becomes even more significant.

Companies and suppliers who have approved auditing receive fresh perspectives on their functionality as well as a running list of ways to enhance it. Under careful investigation and methodical change, everything from system escapes to failures in the field is avoided. As process variability is reduced, part of the cost decreases.

The interval between audits may lengthen as a NADCAP-certified supplier keeps improving and lowering audit findings, subject to justification. The customer can eliminate or replace pricey individual audits that would otherwise be required by their quality department because they are a NADCAP-recognized supplier. 

While major aerospace and defense contractors have historically sent out individual personnel to audit suppliers, NADCAP certification is a covert way for them to convey that they have confidence in you as an organization. Knowing what NADCAP demands makes it easier for one company to trust its suppliers, who in turn are aware of what is expected of them.

NADCAP certification benefits


Barriers To NADCAP Certification

Many vendors opt not to be accredited, either by refusing audits after a first certification or by never applying for accreditation in the first place. It can be difficult to commit to consistently assessing processes and managing audit tasks throughout the year, and audits can be expensive. The cost of updating processes and procedures can be high, and employee training and quality control take a lot of time. 

Because they can more easily recoup the cost through economies of scale, larger businesses tend to undergo certification more frequently. Although NADCAP certification is linked to a location or division, so different parts of a company can become certified, obtaining NADCAP certification is currently difficult for small businesses.

How To Prepare For An Audit

The auditing process is very simple with Nadcap. They provide a variety of resources for details about the procedure, some of which are listed below:

  • Audit Check Sheets: The eAuditNet portal makes all pertinent audit check sheets and reference material accessible prior to the audit. Table 1 displays a partial list of these special processes. There may also be additional checklists that apply to sub-processes.
  • Pre-Assessment Audit: The supplier can ask for a pre-assessment audit to help them find any non-conformances they might have overlooked during their internal planning process.
  • Training: Nadcap provides instruction on a variety of subjects, such as root cause corrective action, how to get ready for an audit, and how to put an effective internal audit process in place.

Conducting An Internal Audit

Prior to your Nadcap audit, you’ll also need to allow time for an internal audit, which is a necessary step in the overall auditing process. Internal audits are essentially unbiased evaluations of your strengths and weaknesses in comparison to the relevant Nadcap Audit Checklists. 

You must finish your internal audit and send it to Nadcap at least 30 days before your formal audit is due. Of course, planning your internal audit several months in advance is a good idea because it gives you time to make adjustments to better meet the requirements.

It is advantageous to enlist the help of a third-party consultant who can assist your organization in preparing for and passing your Nadcap audit because the auditing and accreditation process is difficult and stringent. Companies that make their initial attempt independently frequently turn to Expert Resource for assistance in putting corrective measures into place, and they have a 100% success rate in helping clients win appeals. 

Even if you decide to work with a consultant, you should be aware of the procedures needed for Nadcap accreditation. The initial stage of the process is an internal audit. Conducting an internal audit involves a number of steps, including:

  • Conducting quality system inspections (such as AS9001 or AC7004)
  • Conducting real-time job audits
  • Examining previous surveys
  • Going over system accuracy tests
  • Looking over leak tests
  • Examining maintenance records and completed jobs

When conducting an internal audit, use the Nadcap checklists to as closely mimic the formal auditing process as you can and identify any potential issues. An internal audit can also be carried out with the help of an outside consultant, which may lead to a less biased procedure and more accurate findings.

conducting an internal audit steps


Nadcap Requirements

The requirements for Nadcap accreditation are established by each Task Group and pertain specifically to the Special Process in question and its sub-programs. Prior to being eligible for Nadcap accreditation, suppliers must possess a quality system certification to AS9100 (or an acceptable equivalent) from an approved, third-party accreditation body, in addition to the specific requirements for the Special Process. 

However, suppliers can add an extra audit day for the PRI AC 7004 quality system audit or AC7006 for laboratories if they don’t already have an acceptable equivalent quality system certification. In many instances, it is more affordable to combine your Nadcap special process audit with the AC 7004 / AC 7006 quality system audit.

Nadcap and PRI are dedicated to compliance with all government export control regulations, including the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which have an impact on the production, sale, and distribution of technology, in addition to all specific audit requirements related to special processes.

What Are Examples Of NADCAP Audit Infractions?

It is normal for violations to occur during the auditing process. A minor infraction in welding, for instance, would be a mix-up in the weld cabinet—someone accidentally filing a 1/8 inch rod in the 3/32 spot (same material, different size)—whereas a major infraction would be the possibility of delivering the entire lot to the customer after it has been welded with the wrong rod. NADCAP processes include control checks to guarantee that procedures operate as intended.

How NADCAP Applies To Valence Surface Technologies

Because Valence is AS9100D certified, we have the authorization required to make parts for businesses in the aerospace sector. NADCAP certification is frequently needed before a project can be completed. You can trust that we will carry out such projects expertly. We are the company for you if you need heat treating, plating, coatings, certain test and measurement requirements, or certain chemical processing requirements.

Please get in touch with Valence right away if your business is looking for a precision-turning company to produce your components that need NADCAP-certified finishing services. 

Our engineering team will examine your prints, offer a quote with lead times, and address any queries you may have regarding our qualifications and the business.

Our expertise and processes make doing business easy.