Eight tips for choosing an IATF 16949 consultant

During the implementation or improvement of a Quality Management System based on the IATF 16949 standard, you may have many doubts about how to take the correct path and achieve the expected results. At that time, it will be necessary to request help, and for this it is recommended to get a consultant. How can you know that a particular consultant is the most appropriate? Here are eight tips on how to choose an IATF 16949 consultant.

1) Know why you need a consultant.

Consultants can help the organization in different ways:

  • by writing the required documentation of the management system, like manuals, procedures, and instructions
  • by managing the implementation in part or in full
  • by providing extra hands-on resources to implement plans or undertake specific tasks, such as the internal audit
  • by determining gaps in order to know how your Quality Management System is operating, as compared to what is required in the regulations associated with the automotive sector
  • by doing training activities with respect to IATF 16949 and core tools

To learn more about the implementation, read this Checklist of IATF 16949:2016 implementation steps.

2) Determine their expertise in the automotive industry and your business.

One of the most important things when it comes to choosing the right consultant is their experience in the automotive industry (at least five years), including their knowledge in your specific sector, because it is not the same to have worked in the tire sector, glass sector, painting sector, or machining sector.

Due to the changes produced in the ISO 9001:2015 standard, which is the basis for IATF 16949:2016, the consultant must also know about:

  • strategic direction
  • tools associated with the identification of internal and external issues
  • methods to determine stakeholder requirements
  • risk-based thinking
  • core tools like Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FEMA), Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP), Production Part Approval Process (PPAP), Statistical Process Control (SPC), and Measurement System Analysis (MSA), plus customer-specific requirements, the different websites of the clients, and the rules of the International Automotive Task Force (IATF)

3) Know the consultant’s methodology.

The consultant can apply different methodologies and techniques to improve or implement the Quality Management System. To obtain good results in the consultancy, the support and cooperation of the organization’s personnel are required. For this reason, it is important to know which methodology will be applied in order to guarantee that both parties work effectively.

The consultant will require your time, energy, and resources to ensure an effective implementation; make sure you understand their expectations and that you can commit to them.

4) Consider the cost-benefit relationship.

Consultants are experts in their fields, and their fees are not low, so it is important to make a contract specifying the number of hours that will be dedicated to the project, and the final products you will obtain with that investment.

Never forget that you must have personnel in the organization directly involved with the implementation and supporting the consultant. Remember that in the end, the Quality Management System will be maintained by the organization, and not by the consultant. Within the costs, do not forget to add expenses for transfers, meals, and lodging, especially if the consultant is outside of your area.

If you decide to implement the standard without a consultant, consider attending this free webinar: How to use a Documentation Toolkit for the implementation of IATF 16949.

How to choose an IATF 16949 consultant: 8 expert tips

5) Check their references.

The automotive sector is very demanding. The consultants you are considering should have some experience working in an automotive or assembly company, and it is very important to have references about the consultants. What jobs have they done? What are the results of these consultancies? How is the verification of this reference made? Ask the consultants for three references from clients, and ask those clients if they were satisfied with the type of work done by the consultants.

6) Know their availability.

It is important to know the availability of the consultant in terms of the support that will be provided. Usually, good consultants have a busy schedule for several months. For this reason, you need to plan work schedules with specific results, the number of days that the consultant will dedicate to you monthly, and the most effective ways to communicate with the consultant when you need support (email, phone, chats).

7) Get feedback.

It is very likely that the consultant will spend a significant amount of time in your organization, learning the processes and the working methods. So, it is advisable to set frequent meetings with the consultant to indicate the progress of the projects, and the opportunities and risks that the consultant has observed. This feedback will help to improve the results of the consultancy.

8) Be aware of the risks of hiring a consultant.

By choosing the wrong consultant to implement a Quality Management System based on IATF 16949, you can pay dearly, not only in money, but also in lost time. The following are the most common risks that may arise:

  • failure to meet the specific requirements of customers in the automotive industries
  • not applying core tools adequately, because you did not get training in these tools
  • having duplicate and useless documentation, which is not followed by the employees
  • discovering non-conformities during the IATF 16949 external audit, and losing the certification and the customer to which you sell products and / or services

Think hard before you decide

Finally, consultants should help you make the implementation easier. But, before you decide to hire a consultant, make sure that you really need one. These days, there are several good options for the do-it-yourself approach. Why not to think about it? It is cheaper and increases the level of confidentiality for your company information.

To download a checklist with more details, see this List of questions to ask your IATF 16949 consultant.

Advisera Jesus Araque
Jesus Araque
Jesus Araque has 18 years of experience in business consulting, training, and auditing, including a number of management systems such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, IATF 16949, ISO 45001, OHSAS 18001, and ISO 22000. He is President of TecniGerencia S, A. He is co-founder of the International Network ISO Expertos. He has worked as a teacher for several courses with international companies in Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and the United States. Jesus holds a Master Executive degree in Integrated Management and an MSc in Maintenance Management and is certificated as an auditor for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, OHSAS 18001, IATF 16949, and ISO 22000.