How to Write IATF 16949 Quality Objectives

Quality objectives are a key way for organizations to convert Quality Policy goals into ideas for improvements. These quality objectives, as a concept, are a cornerstone in a good Quality Management System (QMS), as they translate the general statements found in the Quality Policy into tangible, “doable” actions and targets. Strong quality objectives inherently lead to a successful QMS. The goals of the quality objectives are to ascertain how well the company’s processes conform to customer and regulatory requirements, and to enable successful implementation and continual improvement of the QMS.

Quality objectives: The what and why

The Quality Policy must be developed based on customer requirements; then, the quality objectives take the goals listed in the Quality Policy and convert them into measurable goals. These are related back to the customer requirements through the Quality Policy.

Here’s an example: a tire manufacturer in the auto industry identifies a customer need for immediate delivery with zero defects, and so the goal listed in the Quality Policy is, “to deliver tires to our customers right when they are needed, with zero defects, 100% of the time.” From this broad statement, two quality objectives might be created:

  1. Regarding improvement of delivery speed, the objective could be “to increase rate of on-time delivery by 5% within one year.”
  2. Regarding shipment of defective tires, the objective might be “to decrease the rate of field-reported defects by 1% within one year.”

Thus, the benefits the company enjoys through the quality objectives are directly related to their customers’ needs. To facilitate meeting the broader goal, the quality objectives must be shared with employees at every level of the company, along with related plans and objectives.

Objectives should be developed for every organizational level – one broad goal for the entire QMS, and smaller objectives for each process that helps support the broad goal, all the way down to the product itself. Known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), these individual objectives are identified by the organization to be critical elements indicating proper functioning of the processes. Utilizing these KPIs facilitates the measurement of improvements through the entire QMS.

How to make the quality objectives work for you

Now that the company has identified what elements are important to monitor, measure, and improve upon, it’s time to make sure the quality objectives actually address the necessary improvements. Objectives must be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound) and must be relevant to all employees at every level of the organization. Every employee needs to know and appreciate the importance of their jobs to meeting the overall quality objectives. Here’s how to do this:

Specific. Vague objectives are difficult to aim for, and impossible to measure. Quality objectives should be clear and precise: rather than “to improve nonconformities,” try “to reduce field-reported defects in passenger tires,” if data from passenger tires indicates this to be the source of most of the nonconformities.

Measurable. Now take the specific objective and make it measureable – otherwise, how will you know if you reached your goal? So, evolve the objective to reduce field-reported defects in passenger tires to “decrease field-reported defects in passenger tires by 5%.” You can measure your current number of reported defects, make plans to decrease them, and measure any improvement.

Achievable. Top management needs to approve any quality objective, which then must be shared with all levels of the organization. Personnel at all levels who will be part of the plans for achieving the objective must agree that it is achievable. If you don’t get this employee buy-in from the start, you can’t expect personnel to do their best to meet the goal – which ultimately results in failure.

Realistic. To be seen as achievable, your quality objective must be realistic. If you ask employees to meet a goal that is obviously out of reach, they won’t be too keen on working toward it. Set practical goals and leave room for employees to overachieve, rather than creating unrealistic goals that result in employee failure.

Time Bound. You now have an objective that is specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic – but how can you make sure that it is actually achieved? Your plan must have a timeframe for achievement of the objective; otherwise, everyone could work toward the objective … slowly … forever. An example could be: “to decrease field-reported defects in passenger tires by 5% within one year.” Now everyone knows how long they have to meet the objective, which helps in creating a game plan.

Implementing the quality objectives

Finally, in order to implement the quality objectives, employees need to not only be aware of the objective – they need to understand how they, as individuals, contribute to its success. For the objective of decreasing field-reported defects in passenger tires by 5% within one year, besides knowing the objective, employees must understand how the progress will be measured, what plans have been developed to reach the objective, and how their jobs directly affect these plans and the overall objective.

Secret plans for improvement might empower top management, but the only way to truly achieve company objectives is by empowering employees at all levels to improve the quality of their own work. Not only will this result in process improvement – employee morale will improve as well.

If you want to learn more about IATF 16949 implementation, check out this free  IATF 16949 Implementation diagram.

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.