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What is IATF 16949?

“What is IATF 16949?” Are you looking for a simple answer to this question?

Well, you’re not alone. This overview guide can help you learn why IATF 16949 creates benefits across your organization, discover what the IATF 16949 requirements are, and learn the practical steps you need to take to get certified.

Your simple introduction to the basics of IATF 16949

One of the automotive industry’s most widely used international standards for quality management, ISO/TS 16949, is evolving with the publication of a new global industry standard by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). This latest version was developed with an unprecedented level of industry feedback and engagement by AIAG members representing North America.

ISO/TS 16949 from 2009, a technical specification for automotive sector quality management systems, has become one of the most widely used international standards in the automotive industry, harmonizing the different assessment and certification systems in the global automotive supply chain.

On October 3, 2016, IATF 16949:2016 was published by the IATF and therefore supersedes and replaces the current ISO/TS 16949:2009, defining the requirements of a Quality Management System for organizations in the automotive industry.

A survey of ISO/TS 16949 certification at the end of 2015 shows that in spite of the global recession, the number of companies that have implemented an ISO/TS 16949 Quality Management System still shows a general positive trend worldwide.

Number of IATF16949 Certificates

Data taken from the 2015 ISO Survey

What is a Quality Management System?

The Quality Management System, which is often referred to as a QMS, is a collection of policies, processes, documented procedures, and records. This collection of documentation defines the set of internal rules that will govern how your company creates and delivers your product or service to your customers. The QMS must be tailored to the needs of your company and the product or service you provide, but the IATF 16949 standard provides a set of guidelines to help make sure that you do not miss any crucial elements that a QMS needs to be successful.

Getting to the heart of why IATF 16949 is important

As stated above, IATF 16949:2016 is the global technical specification and quality management standard for the automotive industry based on ISO 9001:2015. It is designed to be used in conjunction with ISO 9001:2015, and contains supplemental requirements specific to the automotive industry rather than being a stand-alone QMS.

IATF 16949:2016 brings together standards from across Europe and the U.S., outlining everything you need to know about achieving best practice when designing, developing, manufacturing, installing, or servicing automotive products. It is intended to be used by organizations of any size or industry, and can be used by any company. As an international standard, it is recognized as the basis for any company to create a system to ensure customer satisfaction and improvement, and as such, many companies demand this as the minimum requirement for an organization to be a supplier.

Because you are auditing your processes, as well as having a certification body audit them, your customers themselves do not need to audit your company. It is because of this that IATF 16949 has become a necessity for many companies to compete in the market.

What does IATF 16949 actually look like?

The IATF 16949 structure is split into 11 sections. The first three are introductory, with the last seven containing the requirements for the Quality Management System. Here is what the seven main sections are about:

Section 4: Context of the organization – This section requires the organization to determine its context in terms of the Quality Management System, including interested parties and their needs and expectations. It also defines the requirements for determining the scope of the QMS, as well as general QMS requirements.

Section 5: Leadership – This clause of the standard requires top management to demonstrate leadership and commitment to the QMS, along with defining corporate responsibility and the quality policy. The top management must also assign process owners along with other roles and responsibilities.

Section 6: Planning
– The section on planning defines requirements for addressing risks and opportunities and the requirements for risk analysis. This clause also includes requirements for preventive actions, contingency plans, and quality objectives and plans to achieve them.

Section 7: Support – In this clause you can find requirements for the resources and supporting processes needed for an effective QMS. It defines requirements for people, infrastructure, work environment, monitoring and measuring resources, organizational knowledge, competence, awareness, communication, and documented information.

Section 8: Operation – The product requirements deal with all aspects of the planning and creation of the product or service. This section includes requirements on planning, product requirements review, design, purchasing, creating the product or service, and controlling the equipment used to monitor and measure the product or service. IATF 16949 allows for requirements in clause 8.3, regarding design and development of products, to be excluded if they are not applicable to the company.

Section 9: Performance evaluation – This section includes the requirements needed to make sure that you can monitor whether your QMS is functioning well. It includes assessing customer satisfaction, internal audits, monitoring products and processes, and management review.

Section 10: Improvement – The last section of the standard defines the requirements for continual improvement of the QMS, including requirements for nonconformities and corrective actions, problem solving, and error-proofing processes.

These sections are based on a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, which uses these elements to implement change within the processes of the organization in order to drive and maintain improvements within the processes.

Why is IATF 16949 a good idea for your organization?

The benefits of IATF 16949 cannot be overstated; companies large and small have used this standard to great effect, discovering and securing tremendous cost and efficiency savings. Here are just a few of these benefits:

Improve your image and credibility – When customers see that you are certified by a recognized certification body, they will understand that you have implemented a system that is focused on meeting customer requirements and improvement. This improves their trust that you will deliver what you have promised.

Qualify to supply the automotive industry – This is one of the main drives for companies to get certified against IATF 16949. In order to get big customers from the automotive industry, you have to demonstrate that you are able to provide high-quality products with no defects, and an IATF 16949 certificate will prove it.

Improve customer satisfaction – One of the key principles of the IATF 16949 QMS is the focus on improving customer satisfaction by identifying and meeting customer requirements and needs. By improving satisfaction, you improve repeat customer business.

Fully integrated processes – By using the process approach of IATF 16949, you not only look at the individual processes in your organization, but also at the interactions of those processes. By doing this, you can more easily find areas for improvement and resource savings within your organization.

Use evidence-based decision making – Ensuring that you are making decisions based on good evidence is a key to the success of an IATF 16949 QMS. By ensuring that your decisions are based on good evidence, you can better target resources to the best effect to correct problems and improve your organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

Create a culture of continual improvement – With continual improvement as the main output of the QMS, you can attain ever-increasing gains in savings of time, money, and other resources. By making this the culture of your company, you can focus your workforce on improving the processes they are directly responsible for.

Engage your people – Who better than the people working within a process to help find the best solutions for improving that process? By focusing your workforce on not only managing, but also improving the processes, they will be more engaged in the outcome of the organization.

What are the practical steps to becoming IATF 16949 certified?

What is IATF 16949 certification? There are two types of certification: certification of a company’s Quality Management System against the IATF 16949 requirements, and certification of individuals to be able to audit against the IATF 16949 requirements. This section discusses the necessary steps for a company to implement an IATF 16949 Quality Management System and have it certified.

IATF 16949 certification for your company involves implementing a QMS based on the IATF 16949 requirements, and then hiring a recognized certification body to audit and approve your QMS as meeting the requirements of the IATF 16949 standard.

Starting with management support and identifying the customer requirements for the QMS, you will need to start with defining your quality policy, quality objectives, and quality manual, which together define the overall scope and implementation of the Quality Management System. Along with these, you will need to create the mandatory and additional processes and procedures necessary for your organization to properly create and deliver your product or service. For a good explanation on this, take a look at the article List of mandatory documents required by IATF 16949.

This creation of documents can be done internally by your company, or you can get help through hiring a consultant or purchasing standard documentation. To see samples of documentation, visit this free IATF 16949 downloads page.

Once all of the processes and procedures are in place, you will need to operate the QMS for a period of time. By doing this, you will be able to collect the records necessary to go to the next steps: to audit and review your system and get certified.

Mandatory steps to finish implementation and get your company certified

After finishing all your documentation and implementing it, your organization also needs to perform these steps to ensure a successful certification:

Internal audit – The internal audit is in place for you to check your QMS processes. The goal is to ensure that records are in place to confirm compliance of the processes and to find problems and weaknesses that would otherwise stay hidden.

Management review – A formal review by your management to evaluate the relevant facts about the management system processes in order to make appropriate decisions and assign resources.

Corrective actions – Following the internal audit and management review, you need to correct the root cause of any identified problems and document how they were resolved.

The company certification process is divided into two stages:

Stage One (documentation review) – The auditors from your chosen certification body will check to ensure your documentation meets the requirements of IATF 16949.

Stage Two (main audit) – Here, the certification body auditors will check whether your actual activities are compliant with both IATF 16949 and your own documentation by reviewing documents, records, and company practices.

What IATF 16949 training and certification is available if you’re an individual?

Training in the concepts of IATF 16949 is available, and there are a range of course options for individuals to choose from. Only the first of these can lead to certification for the individual to be able to audit for a certification body, but the others are very useful for those who will be using these skills within their own company:

IATF 16949 Lead Auditor Course
– This is a four- to five-day training course focused on understanding the IATF 16949 QMS standard and being able to use it for auditing management systems against these requirements. The course includes a test at the end to verify knowledge and competence, and it is only with an accredited course that an individual can become approved to audit for a certification body.

IATF 16949 Internal Auditor Course – This is commonly a two- or three-day course that is based on the lead auditor course above, but does not include the test for competence, so this is most useful for someone beginning to do internal audits within a company.

IATF 16949 Awareness and Implementation Course – Several courses are offered that provide knowledge of IATF 16949 and how to implement it. These can be one- or two-day courses, and can even include online e-learning sessions as a method of teaching the material. These courses are good for those who need an overview on the IATF 16949 standard, or those who will be involved in the implementation within a company, and many are more economical than investing in the lead auditor course for those involved at this level.

There are a number of accredited training organizations around the world where you can gain individual qualifications in IATF 16949.

strahinja-iso-expert

Strahinja Stojanovic
IATF 16949 Expert

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