IATF 16949 certificate: working in accordance with the leading standard
IATF 16949 is an industrial quality standard that requires a company to describe and record its business and production processes. This enables us to make what we promise, deliver what the customer wants and, importantly, continuously work on improvements.
Simply describing what you do as a company, as is the case with the ISO 9001 standard, is not enough. That’s why the International Automotive Task Force came up with a technical specification to ISO 9001 in 2016. They called it the ISO TS 16949. This was changed to the IATF 16949 in 2016.
We will now discuss what this certification means, what differences there are to the ISO 9001 standard and why we apply this standard.
The industry has been working with different quality standards for years. Such standards (partly) provide companies with the tools to organise their quality management system in such a way that this leads to greater customer satisfaction. In addition, the standards offer a good opportunity to continuously improve business processes.
This took off in the 1980s with ISO 9001; a standard that sets requirements for a company’s quality management system. A quality standard requires the company to describe and record its business and production processes. In other words: write down what you do and do what you have written down.
This creates a working standard and the customer knows what to expect. Each year, a delegation from a so-called Notified Body visits the company to check whether it is still working in accordance with the standards.
An accredited body, such as Lloyd’s or DEKRA, is authorised by the government to issue certificates for a period of three years each for specific standards. An interim certification audit takes place annually. These checks are also called ‘surveillance’ audits.
For the automotive industry, however, this proved to be insufficient. A few years ago, a number of major car manufacturers introduced the IATF 16949 standard. “This was actually a logical successor to the ISO standard,” says Johan van den Biggelaar, Project Engineer at Sentech.
“Whereas ISO 9001 requires a company to describe its business processes, IATF 16949 goes a lot further. Because you must also demonstrate that you are continuously working on improvements. To prevent errors and to avoid undesirable variation in your product and waste.”
Unlike the ISO 9001 standard, IATF 16949 quality is an obligation, says Ingrid Willems, Quality Manager at Sentech. “The automotive industry only works with companies that have obtained the certificate. It is a customer requirement that makes it possible and permitted to supply this industry.
There are other reasons to comply with IATF 16949, however. The standard offers a company assistance in setting up a quality management system and thus helps the organisation to achieve effective and efficient business processes.”
An important part of the IATF 16949 standard is a commitment to strive for improvement. This must be measurable. An example of this is that an organisation records any irregularities that are detected during production. By investigating the cause of these irregularities, targeted improvements can be identified and implemented.
Johan provides an example: “Imagine having to attach a sensor to a two-metre cable. If you cut the cable by hand, there is a chance that it will be cut too short. Then you get incorrect sensor readings. You can avoid this by creating a mould in which you can cut the cable to the correct length. Each cable will have the same length and will meet the specification. So, there will be less variation.”
Sentech is IATF 16949 certified. According to Ingrid, it is just as important as it is obvious that Sentech should have the IATF 16949 certificate. “We value quality. And we consider it important that we deliver good products to our customers. There are also certain commercial benefits, of course. With a certificate, you can demonstrate to customers that you meet their requirements and that you can therefore do good business together.”
Process owners are responsible
Sentech has a company handbook, which describes a number of crucial business and work processes. Furthermore, the documentation for the quality management system is available digitally. As a result, standardisation also has its advantages internally: you can look up how a certain process is described and what needs to be done. And who is involved.
This is also one of the reasons why an owner is assigned to each process within the company. Ingrid: “The process owner is responsible for a (sub-)process within the company. He or she should keep an eye on whether the process is running smoothly and where improvements can be made.”
Risks known in advance
A major difference to ISO 9001 is that the risks associated with a customer request are investigated and determined in advance with the IATF 16949 standard.
Johan: “Suppose a customer like DAF asks if we would like to supply a certain product. We first look at related internal processes to see if we can make it and what is needed to do that. These processes are based on the automotive standard, of course. Each step is mapped out; from the first telephone call with the customer to delivery of the final product.”
The risks are assessed during each step. “What is required? What could go wrong? How often? How is that possible? How serious is the fault? And then you make an assessment of the potential faults and risks. It’s true that an assessment plan like this, including work instructions and production process, means a lot more work in advance. But it also gives a lot back, because you now know in advance what risks there are and how to deal with them. In every respect, I am glad that Sentech works in accordance with the standard,” says the Project Engineer.
Taking on challenges with IATF 16949
Using IATF 16949 quality management, a robust sensor assembly with an optical level sensor was produced for Tridec. This challenge is a good example of a modern steering aid that is the precursor to autonomous driving.
Discover how to make it cheaper and more sustainable.