The Automotive Industry’s Shift from QS-9000 to ISO/TS 16949:2009

Implementing a quality standard is no easy task.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the automotive industry raced to comply with QS-9000, which was based on the ISO 9000:1999 quality management system. ISO/TS 16949:1999, the quality standard for the automotive industry, wasn’t considered significantly different from QS-9000 and conversion was slow.  As the ISO 9000 quality standard was revised, changes were made to the ISO/TS 16949 standard.  The ISO/TS 16949:2002 version put a greater emphasis on customer requirements.  OEMs felt changes were significant enough to give automotive industry suppliers a deadline to comply with the standard or be removed from the supplier list. Ford, GM and Chrysler required suppliers to certify to the new ISO/TS 1949:2002 standard by December, 2006.

One of the criticisms of the QS-9000 standard was the complicated implementation process. The International Automotive Task Force designed the revised standard with an improved implementation process.  It took a page from quality system design by incorporating input from suppliers, manufacturers and industry experts.

More than Just Compliance to the Standards

The revised ISO/TS 16949:2002 standard put more emphasis on customer requirements.  The revised standards aimed to improve effectiveness and efficiency of the entire process instead of a narrow focus on mere compliance with standards.  A company cannot continue to compete effectively with a quality system that is costly and inefficient.   The revision required employee training and a process to measure the effectiveness of employee training as part of the quality system audits.

The ISO/TS 16949:2009 revision is based on ISO 9001:2008.  It keeps the customer focus of the ISO/TS 16949:2002 version and requires building quality into the entire supply chain process.  It has the dual goal of improving quality and reducing costs—two business elements that can satisfy customer requirements and the bottom line.

Top Down Approach

A quality management system cannot succeed without management support.  The revised ISO/TS 16949:2009 version makes productivity, cost effectiveness and customer satisfaction equal goals that promote growth and the ability to compete in a global market.  These goals are easy for management to support and promote within the organization.

ISO/TS 16949:2009 goes beyond managing the quality process by making it proactive.  Instead of detecting non-conformance, errors and waste just through the audit process, it seeks to build in quality processes at every stage of the supply chain to eliminate the root cause of defects and non-conformance.  While customer feedback is important to the process, it doesn’t wait for customer complaints to analyze, revise and improve processes.

Each revision of the ISO/TS 16949 quality system requirements made it more critical for automotive industry suppliers to move away from the old QS-9000 standards.  A supplier has to comply with the new standards to stay in the game and continue to do business in the industry.

As part of the automotive industry supply chain, it must have a compatible quality management system to provide quality materials or supplies required by the OEMs.   A company with QS-9000 certification may meet all internal quality standards but lack the new requirements emphasizing customer focus, efficiency and cost effectiveness.   A company without ISO/TS 16946 quality system certification will be left on the sidelines while other certified suppliers continue to play and win the game.