Your Transition to IATF 16949: 5 Critical Things to Think About Right Now


By Shawn Faircloth
November 8, 2016

Over the years, ISO/TS 16949 has emerged as the leading standard for quality system requirements in the automotive industry.

But now, as a result of last month’s publication from the International Automotive Task Force (IATF), the industry will have to brace for an evolved global industry standard, referred to as IATF 16949.

As organizations start thinking about compliance, there are critical insights and decisions that will need to be considered along the way. In this blog, we’ll highlight five key factors that are shaping this change, what they mean, and why your organization should start thinking about them now.

1: Expect More Frequent Changes in the Future

Looking ahead to the future of the automotive industry, there is reason to believe it will be shaped by both tighter requirements that change even more frequently. ISO/TS 16949 has been updated roughly every seven years as it has been closely coupled to ISO 9001 updates.

Simply put, updates and modifications have been few and far between, but the industry is facing significantly-accelerated change.  In transitioning to an International Automotive Task Force (IATF) standard, there’s a greater likelihood of more frequent guideline updates. This is largely a reflection of more holistic ownership from stakeholders in the automotive industry. We can expect the IATF’s constituent groups to be more actively involved as well.

2: Start the Recertification Process Now

For organizations in the automotive industry, there is one – and only one – option: your company is required to comply with IATF 16949 by September 14, 2018. After that time, all ISO/TS 16949 certifications will no longer be valid.

It should go without saying that organizations who fail to comply with the new standards will lose their ability to deliver parts and services to their biggest customers – which would obviously be catastrophic to business.

And while the looming deadline may feel far off in the future, organizations now recognize they have to plan time for the unknown complications that can slow the recertification process. Organizations will need to begin considering the costs of recertification, and whether or not there are ways to reduce those costs. (For this, implementing an auditing software platform can provide the artifacts needed to help reduce recertification costs).

Also, organizations will need to reevaluate their quality system documentation to make sure it is aligned with the new requirements. The bottom line is that it’s simply too risky to put off the recertification process — so take action now.

3: Map Out the Steps of Your Action Plan

Building on the last point, think about some actionable steps you can take that will help get you started. It’s important to note here that, according to the IATF, organizations transitioning to IATF 16949 must do so through a transition audit that is in line with an organization’s current ISO/TA 16949 audit cycle.

Consider the following high-level framework to guide your action plan. You can reference the IATF’s 16949 Transition Strategy and Requirements Guide for more details, but in summary it advises to:

  • Understand your timing requirements and audit requirements
  • Complete an organizational gap analysis against ISO/TS and IAATF 16949 to ensure your QMS meets new requirements
  • Develop an implementation and training plan specific to your organization
  • Update your organization’s documentation in order to show proof of compliance

4: Consider Evolving Customer Expectations

Under the IATF 16949 format, several “customer-specific requirements” that were previously just recommendations are now mandated requirements.

That means, along with the tighter mandates, organizations in the automotive industry will likely face tougher, more stringent expectations as well from their biggest customers – many of which will be OEM companies whom those organizations rely upon for the most business.

It’s likely that these expectations will continue to trend higher, too, as the likelihood of more frequent updates under IATF will drive changes in customer requirements. And as we all know, customers typically use these standards as only a base upon which to layer on their own additional rules and requirements.

In an increasingly competitive industry, that means it’s absolutely essential to continue to stay on top of such changes – or else you’ll risk of losing business to competitors who are doing a better job of it.

5: Recognize The Need for More Transparency

For both first- and second-party auditors, IATF 16949 imposes additional standards in areas such as the documentation of processes, internal auditor training, and minimum competencies required of auditors.

So it makes sense that, along with those updated requirements, comes the need for more visibility throughout the audit process, whether it’s conducted internally or by another party. External auditors do not eliminate risk, either.  There can be significant consequences for failures – to the auditor and also to your organization.

This is another reason it is particularly helpful to have an audit management platform which provided visibility into status, performance, and the artifacts associated with these activities.  Tools such as Ease Beacon can provide this transparency throughout the process, while making the entire process faster, cheaper and easier.

All in all, the changes that are unfolding in the automotive industry are significant. They are set to redefine compliance mandates, reshape the competitive landscape, and rewrite the operational playbook for many automotive companies.

With the September 2018 compliance deadline set, it’s not enough to simply have a high-level awareness or distant action plan. The clock is ticking now — so the sooner you take into account these key considerations, and implement the tools or systems that are necessary in helping you through them, the better you’ll set yourself up for future success.

Related article: Rising to the Challenge: How Automotive Suppliers Are Addressing IATF 16949

Shawn Faircloth
Shawn Faircloth
Senior Enterprise Account Executive at EASE

Shawn Faircloth has been a customer-centric business development leader and account executive for EASE since 2011.