Requirements for competence of IATF 16949 internal auditors

IATF 16949 is more complex than most management system standards, such as ISO 9001 or ISO 14001, and so are the requirements for competence of internal auditors.

The internal audit is one of the key functions for maintaining excellence within a QMS (Quality Management System), so what attributes does the internal auditor need to have?

If you have a QMS that is IATF 16949 certified, then you will understand the importance of the internal audit function in both getting the QMS ready for audit, and maintaining the standards of performance after the audit itself. As one of the key functions within the QMS, the internal audit can identify gaps in performance or processes. It can also identify non-compliance with legislation and the standard itself. Given this, the effectiveness of the internal audit often depends on the expertise, knowledge, and eye for detail of the person appointed to conduct the audit. Since placing this importance on one person’s expertise is quite a serious decision, what attributes should the IATF 16949 internal auditor possess?

What kind of competency is required?

Unlike other standards, IATF 16949 has entire an sub-clause (7.2.3) that defines requirements for internal auditors. Besides a documented process for verifying the competency of internal auditors and referring to ISO 19011, internal auditors, as well as process and product auditors, should be able to demonstrate competence in:

  • Understanding of the automotive process approach for auditing, including risk-based thinking
  • Understanding of customer-specific requirements
  • Understanding of applicable ISO 9001 and IATF 16949 requirements related to the scope of the audit
  • Understanding of the applicable core tools related to the scope of the audit
  • Understanding how to plan, perform, report and close out the audit findings.

Requirements for competence of IATF 16949 internal auditors

In addition to these requirements, IATF 16949 expands requirements for product auditors to demonstrating an understanding of the manufacturing process being audited. This includes the process of risk analysis (such as FMEA) and control plans. Product auditors should demonstrate competency regarding product requirements and the use of appropriate monitoring and measuring equipment to verify product conformity.

Acquiring the competency once and getting the job done and over with is not really an option. Internal auditors are obliged to maintain and improve their knowledge and competency by:

  • Executing a minimum number of audits per year, as defined by the organization
  • Maintaining knowledge on relevant requirements based on internal changes (for example in processes or products technology) and external changes (for example, changes in the standard, core tools, customer requirements, etc.)

Finally, when the training is provided to achieve competency, documented information should be maintained to demonstrate the trainer’s competency.

Meeting all these above-mentioned requirements will make the internal auditor qualified and entered on the mandatory list of qualified internal auditors.

Internal audit success: The practicalities

Requirements for internal auditor competency may seem too strict at first glance, but considering the high stakes invested in compliance with the standard and customer requirements in the automotive industry, any organization should strive to have the most competent auditors conducting the audit. This will result in objective, realistic audit results instead of a pretty picture that comforts the top management, but prevents it from taking actions for improvement which can result in losing a contract with an important customer.

More than in most other standards, internal audits must be conducted properly and not just a fun trip to the production department. Not having an auditor that understands the processes, risks and core tools means inaccurate results which undermine efforts for improvement and compliance with the standard, process and product requirements and, most importantly, customer requirements.

Use this free IATF 16949:2016 Implementation Diagram to help you place internal audit in your QMS project.

Advisera Strahinja Stojanovic
Strahinja Stojanovic

Strahinja Stojanovic is certified as a lead auditor for the ISO 13485, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 standards by RABQSA. He participated in the implementation of these standards in more than 100 SMEs, through the creation of documentation and performing in-house training for maintaining management systems, internal audits, and management reviews.