IATF 16949 Certification: Standard Definition, Audit Requirements
International Automotive Task Force (IATF) 16949 standards provide the automotive industry a framework through which to apply the ISO 9001 quality management system to automotive operations. ISO 9001 is a generic quality management framework that is used across all industries to guide quality management. IATF 16949 superseded the similar TS 16949 in 2016. The earlier document was produced to provide a framework while IATF 16949 was still being drafted. This article will cover the seven main topics of the audit required to achieve IATF 16949 certification.
IATF 16949 is a quality management system set out by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). The framework is designed to help organizations in the automotive industry set up and operate their quality management systems.
IATF 16949 is based on the ISO 9001 standard. ISO 9001 is a generic quality management system applied across multiple industries, whereas IATF 16949 is specifically for the automotive industry. Both are constructed around a plan, do, check, and act framework. IATF 16949 provides a framework for the control of documentation, risk management, product safety, and supplier management. IATF 16949 superseded TS 16949 in 2016.
A quality management system (QMS) is a system that records the responsibilities, processes, and procedures required for meeting quality objectives. Quality management systems help organizations meet customer and regulatory requirements for their industry.
IATF 16949 is just one form of quality management system based on ISO 9001. Both 16949 and 9001 systems are standardized quality management systems. However, others like total quality management (TQM), continuous quality improvement (CQI), and Six Sigma serve similar purposes. ISO 9001, along with all its subsidiaries such as IATF 16949, are standardized frameworks for regulations. Whereas TQM focuses on measuring and controlling the process of continuous improvement, CQI focuses on the end result of quality improvement rather than the process. Six Sigma, meanwhile, is a data-based system that uses statistics to measure, analyze, and improve quality.
Specifications are set out by the IATF to provide guidance on how to control processes and procedures within the automotive industry. IATF 16949 is written specifically for the automotive industry and should be used by any company that is involved in the design and manufacture of products within the automotive supply chain. While the IATF does not enforce the use of this standard, many contact holders will require suppliers and contractors to conform to it since so much of the industry views it as critical.
Certification for IATF 16949 is a binary system. A company can either be certified or not; there are no variations. When IATF 16949 certification is awarded, it signifies that the organization has met the requirements set out by the standard. Adherence to the requirements proves a company’s ability and commitment to limit defects in the products and thus also reduces waste and wasted effort.
Every company’s QMS and audit criteria are unique. However, the criteria are derived from seven main sections of IATF 16949. There are 10 sections in total — the first 3 sections are introductory and the remaining 7 provide guidance for formulating the approval criteria.
- Organizational Context: The criteria for this section focus on the needs and requirements of stakeholders
- Leadership: IATF standards Require senior leaders to show commitment to their quality management systems. It also requires defined corporate responsibility and quality policy documentation.
- Identification of Risk and Opportunity: This section stipulates preventative action, contingency planning, and quality objective plans.
- Support: This section defines the requirements in terms of infrastructure, staffing, environment, organizational knowledge, communication, and documented information.
- Operational Requirements: Operational criteria in terms of planning, design, purchasing, and manufacturing of products and services are found in Section 8. Most nonconformities stem from this part of the standard.
- Performance and Evaluation: All certificate holders must assess customer satisfaction feedback, accept audit results, and monitor manufacturing processes.
- Continuous Improvement: It’s not enough to pass one audit. Companies must create a culture for continuous improvement, corrective action, problem-solving, and the removal of errors from processes.
The accreditation process requires successful internal and external audits. After a successful internal audit, the organization will need to wait a minimum of three months to build up enough documentation for the external auditors to review. There are three steps to the external auditing process: the opening meeting, the audit, and the closing meeting.
In the opening meeting, the auditor will review the organization’s quality objectives. The auditor will also discuss the audit schedule. Auditing can take up to two weeks depending on the organization’s size.
During the audit, the auditors will compare the organization's quality management system against the established criteria. During this process, the auditor will check that the organization’s QMS is being followed in all departments. Depending on what they find, they may require further evaluation. This audit process gives the company insight into what is going well and what could be improved.
During the closing meeting, the auditor will discuss any areas of concern so the organization can take the actions necessary to get accredited. Any findings will be put into a results report and given to the senior management team for review. If, however, there are no major findings that require correction, then the organization can become accredited.
IATF Audit and Accreditation Process.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/dizain
The implementation of IATF 16949 typically improves efficiency, reduces waste, and saves money in the long run. However, some benefits specific to IATF 16949 over some other standards include:
- Credibility: Other organizations in the industry will recognize IATF 16949 certification and are more likely to work with accredited companies.
- International Recognition: IATF is also recognized globally, so it opens up more opportunities for the company.
- Increased Customer Satisfaction: Customers are more likely to feel satisfied by the quality that IATF 16949 mandates, so adherence may generate repeat orders.
- Streamlined Processes: Streamlined processes will increase the efficiency of processes and reduce costs.
- Evidence-Based Decision-Making: Data-driven decisions inevitably lead to better outcomes.
- Continual Improvement: When employees buy into the idea of continually improving the company’s work, its future prospects improve.
IATF 16949 certification is mostly required when doing international business in the automotive industry. Any company in the automotive product industry may find themselves in need of IATF 16949 certification. This includes all points of the supply chain, not solely the main contract holder.
The IATF sets out the accrediting criteria for this standard, but the IATF itself does not perform certification. The certification process will be undertaken by a third-party certification body. They use the criteria set out in the specification and abide by the general standards for certification created by the Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO). The IATF states that when searching for an auditor, you should compare multiple certification bodies and choose the most applicable one. Organizations should also check if the certifying body follows the relevant CASCO standard and if it is accredited by CASCO. Accreditation by CASCO is not required, but it is a good indication of competence.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) is one of the largest and most reputable examples of a company that offers accreditation of IATF standards. However, other companies can do the job as long as they meet the criteria set out in the specification. Third-party auditors are required to:
- Have an education recognized by the IATF.
- Have three years of practical experience in the automotive industry with two years dedicated to quality assurance.
- Have performed eight first- or second-party audits in the automotive industry in the last three years.
- Be ISO 10011 qualified to audit others’ quality systems.
- Have completed an IATF auditor qualification course.
IATF 16949 is the standard used to apply the ISO 9001 quality management system specifically to the automotive parts industry. Therefore, ISO 9001 has a very large amount of overlap with IATF 16949. IATF 16949 is also extremely similar to TS 16949 because it was derived from the older TS standard in 2016. TS 16949 was a temporary standard written to provide guidance on how to apply ISO 9001 to the automotive industry while IATF 16949 was being written. The ISO applied feedback regarding TS 16949 to drive the changes when creating its replacement.
This article presented the IATF 16949 certification, explained it, and discussed its various audit requirements. To learn more about certifications, contact a Xometry representative.
Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.
The content appearing on this webpage is for informational purposes only. Xometry makes no representation or warranty of any kind, be it expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, or validity of the information. Any performance parameters, geometric tolerances, specific design features, quality and types of materials, or processes should not be inferred to represent what will be delivered by third-party suppliers or manufacturers through Xometry’s network. Buyers seeking quotes for parts are responsible for defining the specific requirements for those parts. Please refer to our terms and conditions for more information.