The transition to the newest and most stringent automotive standard to date-ISO/TS 16949:2002-can mean more to a company than going through yet another compliance process.
Instead, it can be an opportunity for an automotive supplier to make significant improvements to its quality management system and organizational performance in general, if the changes are understood and handled correctly, according to a tire and rubber industry quality consultant.
The ISO/TS 16949 standard is intended to be a global automotive technical specification and expected to be an ISO international standard by March 2005, said Debra Detwiler, senior manager of quality consulting for Smithers Management Consulting Group in Akron.
The ISO/TS certification will serve as an upgrade to QS 9000 certification, which is being phased out but will remain in effect until December 2006, Detwiler said. She discussed the ISO/TS program as part of a presentation during the 2004 International Rubber Molding Conference held April 27-28 in Cleveland.
The QS 9000 standard will be around for two more years to avoid panic and aid in an orderly transition, as well as because the number of registrars for the ISO/TS standard has been reduced to less than 50 from 200, she said.
ISO/TS 16949-which originated in 1999 and was updated in 2002-should raise the bar in standard-setting, Detwiler said. It will be more difficult to attain, but also more encompassing and meaningful. Compliance with ISO/TS 16949 will satisfy all current requirement documents issued by Italian, French and German original equipment manufacturers, as well as U.S manufacturers which have demanded QS 9000 certification, she said.
The new specification was prepared by the International Automotive Task Force, made up of some of the world's biggest auto makers-including the U.S.'s Big Three, Detwiler said. DaimlerChrysler A.G., Renault S.A. and PSA Peugeot Citroen S.A. publicly have mandated certification for their suppliers by July, she said.
Many of the requirements of QS 9000 are carried over into the ISO/TS 16949 program, but there are some major changes. Instead of QS' 20-element structure, the newer certification is based on five quality system requirements, with a focus on processes-chains of value-added activities-and how they interact, Detwiler said.
The ISO/TS standard calls for more ``user-friendly,'' flexible documentation, increased emphasis on top management involvement, an increased emphasis on meeting performance and effectiveness objectives at various levels and functions within an organization, and a more business-focused QMS, she said.
The ``process approach'' calls for identification of a process; its sequence and interaction with other processes; control over a process, including methods and criteria; resources available within a process, including equipment and training; monitoring and analyzing a process; and continual improvement of a process, Detwiler said.
Because there is importance placed on how processes interact, the approach eliminates organizational ``chimneys'' or ``silos,'' provides control over the links between processes and stresses the elimination of gaps and good communication between them.
``There's more emphasis on everything working,'' Detwiler said. ``(The ISO/TS standard) tells us to manage our business as a series of processes that are linked together. Good organizations are the ones where the various processes work well together.''
The five quality system requirements outlined by ISO/TS 16949 are a QMS, which includes measures of process effectiveness and document and records control; management responsibility; resource management; product realization; and measurement, analysis and improvement, she said.
There are many implementation strategies for the ISO/TS standard, but Detwiler recommends a four-phase plan: assessment and training, planning and documentation, education and implementation, and registration and audit support.
The improvement opportunities are vast as well. They include a new emphasis on process performance, the setting of meaningful goals and objectives, a concentration on interaction and linkages, streamlining of documentation, electronic control of documents vs. the use of manuals and reliance on data analysis to make decisions, she said.