Understanding the intricacies of quality management in the defense space

By Sanjeev Kumar, Founder, Logic Fruit Technologies

India is renowned for being the world’s third-largest military power. Recently, it has set another benchmark for itself in the intricate landscape, witnessing an eight-fold increase in defense exports since 2016-17. Along with this, the central government is also targeting total defense exports of Rs 35,000 crore by 2024-25. Marked by a journey towards self-reliance through a series of proactive policy initiatives aimed at promoting indigenous equipment design, development, and production, India has paved the way for a robust defense manufacturing ecosystem.

Although the sector is undergoing an exponential growth trajectory, an astounding lack of robust quality management has posed to be a considerable hurdle in the journey towards ‘Self-Reliance’. In the deep-rooted peripherals of the defense manufacturing realm, quality is considered to be paramount, as it lays the groundwork for enhanced security since top-notch quality helps overcome quality falters which can have severe national security consequences. In that scenario, effective quality management can go a long mile in strengthening the process of security and safety compliance.

Navigating the intricacies of quality management
Undoubtedly, India’s defense sector has solidified the country’s position as a global leader. Despite the remarkable progress made by the sector given the avid role played by both public and private players, the defense manufacturing industry continues to be permeated by poor quality management.

This has become the most daunting obstacle in achieving higher export targets. In tandem with this, increased reliance on imports not only opens doors to security espionage but also facilitates economic stagnation. Furthermore, the goods produced by some indigenous manufacturers fail to comply with international standards as quite often quality is compromised for cost reduction. This not only jeopardizes export potential but also tampers with India’s reputation at a global level. Additionally, the time requirement
and the number of clearances required to establish a defense manufacturing unit in India is still below global quality standards, necessitating the need for immediate reforms curbing the obstacles imposed by improper quality management.

The Age of ‘Make In India’
In continuation of the success of ‘Make in India’, India’s honorable Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, recently called upon all Indian Defence Manufacturers to foster a culture of quality in defense production, labeling it as a prerequisite to compete with the international market. Elevating the theme of ‘Quality Odyssey for Self Reliance in Defence Products’, the plenary session of the DRDO Quality conclave has mandated that cost-control should be given importance but not at the expense of quality, as top-notch quality will not only bolster exports but enhance India’s reputation as the manufacturer of high-quality military systems that are reliable, effective and safe.

Committed to bolstering the ‘Make in India’ spirit whilst allowing India’s military power to flourish high, System for Advanced Manufacturing Assessment and Ranking (SAMAR) certificates will be provided to representatives of qualified industries. Furthermore, necessitating rigorous testing and trials of Indian products as per international standards, India has worked towards setting up, an independent nodal umbrella body that caters to meet the wide-ranging requirements of trial, testing, and certification.

In tandem with this, the quality assurance of defense items under the DDP (Department of Defence Production) has been entrusted to DGQA which provides quality assurance cover for the entire range of Arms, Ammunition, Equipments, and Stores supplied to the Army and those stores for Navy and Air Force. Additionally, DGAQA delivers quality assurance for Military Aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Aero Engines, Airborne Systems, Avionics, Armaments, Consumables (FOL Stores), Allied Ground Systems, and Missiles during Design & Development, Production, Repair, Modification and Overhaul/ Repair at various Defence PSUs, Ordnance Factories and Private Firms.

International industry compliance standards
With proactive efforts being made to reform the quality assurance process, the concept of self-certification and utilization of third-party inspection services are being introduced in DPSUs. At the international certification levels, Indian defense manufacturing units need to adhere to DO-254 standards developed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) – a certification of complex electronic hardware used in avionics systems. With this, local manufacturers will be able to avail guidance for the design, verification, and validation of airborne electronic hardware to ensure its safety, reliability, and compliance with regulatory standards.

Apart from DO-254, endemic manufacturing units can excel in their quality game, transcending the boundaries of international standards via ISO 9001 and ISO 26262. ISO 9001 is a globally accepted quality management standard, which helps organizations of all sectors improve their performance whilst demonstrating readiness for quality improvement. On the other hand, ISO 26262 is a standard about the safety of electric systems within an automobile and has the potential to address possible hazards caused by the malfunctioning of safety-related systems.

Moving ahead
With quality management at its forefront, indigenous defense manufacturing is poised to witness unprecedented growth, which will contribute towards bolstering economic growth, making India the third-largest economy in the world. Realizing the dream of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, the government of India has taken significant strides to elevate India’s position in terms of quality military equipment, marked by reliability, longevity, and international safety compliance.

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