Manufacturing/Published: August 21, 2017

Top 5 IATF 16949 Challenges (and How to Solve Them)

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As of September 14, 2018, ISO/TS 16949 certificates will no longer be valid, requiring automotive suppliers to certify to the new version, IATF 16949. Transition audits are underway and will continue into next year, but many companies still have a long way to go to prepare.

Let’s look at some of the biggest challenges companies are facing, including new requirements that could trip you up and how to efficiently document compliance.

1. Learn About IATF 16949

The first step in IATF 16949 readiness is getting up to speed on the new requirements. In addition to reading IATF 16949:2016, your company will need to send at least one person from your organization for training.

The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) offers several training courses depending on your goals and expertise. These programs range from 2-day courses for experienced auditors to a 5-day exemplar course for full AIAG Supplier Auditor Certification. Most automotive companies will need to train an internal lead auditor, unless you plan to hire a third-party auditor.

2. Preparing for Customer-Specific Requirements

A major change in IATF 16949 is that it incorporates many best practices that were once customer-specific requirements. The goal of integrating these requirements is to promote industry standardization and streamline the number of customer-specific requirements. The newly added requirements focus on areas such as:

In many cases, auto suppliers will also need to demonstrate effective layered process audit (LPA) programs, which leading manufacturers such as GM and Fiat Chrysler require. LPAs require multiple layers of management to conduct a large number of audits annually, verifying processes to catch errors upstream of traditional product inspections.

3. Transitioning to ISO 9001-2015

IATF 16949 is built on top of ISO 9001 for quality management, requiring companies to comply with ISO 9001 to achieve IATF 16949 certification. Unfortunately for suppliers, that means simultaneously transitioning to a new version of ISO 9001, which underwent a major revision in 2015.

Changes in ISO 9001:2015 that automotive suppliers need to be aware of include:

  • New structure: Along with all new and revised standards, ISO 9001:2015 follows a common structure designed around the plan-do-check-act cycle. The goal is to help companies that use multiple management systems and/or want to implement multiple ISO standards.
  • Risk-based thinking: Both IATF 16949 and ISO 9001:2015 place strong emphasis on risk-based thinking. While earlier versions of ISO 9001 separated out preventive action, ISO 9001:2015 requires companies to account for risk at every stage of the process and a more proactive approach to risk mitigation, rather than a reactive one.
  • Continual improvement: Companies must demonstrate continual improvement of quality management system (QMS) effectiveness. Key tools here include audit findings, corrective and preventive action and proactive data analysis.
  • Process focus: ISO 9001:2015 contains fewer prescriptive requirements, providing more flexibility around how you document and implement your QMS. Instead, the standard focuses on whether and how your process ensures customer satisfaction.

4. Creating Management Accountability

Some of the biggest changes in IATF 16949 and ISO 9001:2015 involve holding management responsible for audits. From a practical perspective, this means management should be closely involved in:

  • Ensuring completion of scheduled audits
  • Performing audits
  • Participating in monthly or quarterly reviews of audit data
  • Managing action plans and KPI target dates

Management buy-in has long been a top priority of quality management and many process excellence methodologies. Under the new standards, it’s less of a suggestion and more of a formal requirement—companies must now demonstrate management accountability.

5. Documenting IATF 16949 Compliance

When it comes to IATF 16949 certification, documentation is likely to be a significant challenge for many companies. It’s common for suppliers to manage LPA programs with paper checklists and Excel spreadsheets, but these don’t always support the high volume of LPAs required over the course of the year.

Organizations often struggle with scheduling, low audit completion rates and effective use of data. By the time their team has collected and analyzed audit data—often weeks or months later—critical opportunities to limit the damage of problems have passed. All of this presents a clear challenge to documenting continuous improvement for the purpose of IATF 16949 and ISO 9001.

LPA software can help companies demonstrate compliance with IATF 16949 audit requirements, allowing you to:

  • Schedule audits for the entire year in a matter of minutes
  • Simplify audits with email reminders, links to electronic checklists and mobile audit capabilities
  • Close the loop on non-conformances by assigning corrective actions or completing mitigations on-the-spot
  • Automatically sync LPA findings and generate instant charts and reports

In addition to helping you comply with audit and data analysis requirements, the LPA system itself serves as documentation that your company is taking a proactive approach to quality. And really, that’s what IATF 16949 is all about—a commitment to quality, safety and creating reliable systems that ensure customer satisfaction.

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