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ISO/TS 16949 is the international quality management standard specifically intended for organizations in the automotive industry supply community. It is for organizations that produce and deliver parts, sub-assemblies, process materials, and certain other products and services to OEM manufacturing locations.

ISO/TS 16949 actually consists of ISO 9001 (2000), word for word - plus a large number of automotive industry specific requirements. There are approximately 1,039 separate and specific requirements in the basic ISO/TS 16949 Standard. In addition, each of the Big 3 have published a set of supplemental requirements to the Standard.

Since "meeting customer needs" is one of the (many) definitions of quality, ISO/TS 16949 is often called a "quality system" or a "quality management" system. But the rules, referred to as "requirements," go beyond "quality" matters as they are traditionally understood. The requirements fall roughly into four types:

  • Requirements that help assure that the organization’s output (whether product, service, or both) meets customer specifications. (Making customers happy, and keeping them that way.)
  • Requirements that assure that the quality system is consistently implemented and verifiable. (We must actually do what we say we are supposed to do. This must be verifiable via independent, objective audit.)
  • Requirements for practices that measure the effectiveness of various aspects of the system. (In God we trust; all others bring data.)
  • Requirements that support continual improvement of the company’s ability to meet customer needs. (We cannot sit still. We must strive to get better all the time, because customers change, and competitors gain strength.)

The bottom line is this. ISO/TS 16949 is a comprehensive set of rules -- a business system, really -- that can cause the way your organization runs to profoundly change, almost always for the better. Not just at first, but on an ongoing basis.

Almost exclusively, the organizations that implement ISO/TS 16949 management systems do so because they are compelled to by key customers. Tier 1 automotive suppliers must, by definition, by ISO/TS 16949 registered. They in turn frequently compel their key suppliers to do likewise. Any organization not under this sort of mandate would be wise to implement ISO 9000 instead.

Directly impacted are the functions directly involved in the process of meeting customer needs. That means your marketing people, design department, purchasing, production / service delivery, warehousing, transportation, etc. Impacted also are certain support functions, including maintenance, training / human resources, and purchasing. About the only significant part of your organization not generally taken under the quality management system umbrella is finance.

Of course you don't have to. It's a business decision. If you don't want to annoy an important customer, or risk losing their business, swallow hard and agree. You could also counter-propose that you go ISO 9000 instead -- this sometimes settles the issue and would be far less burdensome for you.

As to their motives, most likely they are diligently meeting the ISO/TS 16949 requirement for development of sub-suppliers to ISO/TS -- one of the most controversial requirements in the Standard.

  1. Satisfies the demands of current or prospective customers for registration.
  2. Improves customer focus. We focus controls on management of the processes that enable us to achieve and improve customer satisfaction.
  3. Boost international acceptance and credibility. ISO/TS 16949 is in fact an international quality management specification. It is known, recognized, and accepted without question all over the world.
  4. Places you in an elite category of businesses. Registration to ISO/TS 16949 puts your organization on the identical level of excellence shared by organizations of all kinds worldwide.
  5. Keeps you prepared for external audits and inspections – i.e. regulators, customers, etc.
  6. Facilitates continual improvement.It sounds like a cliche, but it really is true. In today's intensely competitive global market, there is no such thing as a safe, protected market. Your competitors, out to eat your lunch, are striving to improve. You must do so too.
  7. Provides competitive advantage. When you're head-to-head with a competitor for a piece of business -- and you're certified but they're not -- who's going to get the nod?
  1. Transforms your operation from detection mode to prevention mode. Prevention is less work and less expense than detection. With an ISO/TS management system, you prevent product nonconformities. Prevent pollution by addressing the causes. Mitigate or eliminate hazards and risks to protect the health and safety of employees and others.
  2. Creates consistency throughout the organization built around "best practices".
  3. Improves business performance. A well designed, well implemented ISO compliant management system can help improve satisfaction of customers and consumers; and boost internal manufacturing and operational efficiencies.
  4. Lessens dependency on key individuals. An ISO management system distributes responsibility and accountability across the work force. More people share more information and accountability for key quality tasks. Result: tasks or processes don't collapse just because one person leaves or changes jobs. And each person carries his or her small share of the load.
  5. Provides blueprint for controlled, disciplined growth. Some organizationis see ISO/TS management systems as a way to organize the business, systematize practices, and ensure management accountability as the organization expands.
  6. Ensures consistent training. An ISO system is like a collection of road maps. Each road map provides direction from one end of a process to the other. New people to the process are trained using the road map. They refer to the road map while they're learning. Their performance is tested against the road map. And once they know their process, they don't need to refer to the road map anymore. Except when the process changes, in which case the road map changes and people are retrained to it.
  7. Improves management oversight. An effective ISO management system incorporates monitoring and measurement of key performance indicators in quality and customer sastisfaction. This gives management objective data upon which to base decisions. The required self-auditing function is even more powerful. Internal auditing is an "early warning system" to help you spot process problems and potential customer satisfaction issues – giving you the chance to address and resolve them before they are detected by others, rather than after. And then management review, closing the loop, provides management with solid data, enabling management to make decisions based on facts and evidence.

No. The related Standards have parallel construction and many significant elements in common. You can implement an integrated business management system that addresses quality as well as environmental management and even health/safety management -- without redundancy or duplication of effort.