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TS 16949––Where Did It Come From?

by R. Dan Reid

T S 16949 is not a term that comes to mind readily when you think about the interna- tional automotive community. It’s certain-

ly not something such as “see the USA in your Chevrolet” that Madison Avenue would come up with for brand recognition. Yet Technical Specifi- cation (TS) 16949 is rapidly gaining recognition. Based on ISO 9000, TS 16949 is an international fundamental quality management system (QMS) specification for the automotive industry and is the

In 50 Words Or Less

• Until the mid-1980s, auto suppliers were troubled by multiple specifications and standards.

• TS 16949 evolved from Big Three manuals, QS-9000 and an effort to align them with international needs and ISO 9000.

• Implementation must be carefully managed to be effective.



first International Organization for Standardization (ISO) technical specification. The International Automotive Task Force (IATF) and the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Assn. (JAMA) produced TS 16949 with support from ISO Technical Committee 176 (TC 176), the ISO commit- tee that deals with quality management standards.

QS-9000 Morphs

TS 16949 evolved from the DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors (GM) quality system require- ments (QS-9000) and the quality system assessment (QSA) manuals released in August 1994. Large sections of QS-9000 text (outside of the ISO 9001:1994 text) are still recognizable in TS 16949. Surprisingly, QS-9000 was not a DaimlerChrysler, Ford or GM idea. Actually, the automotive suppli- ers suggested it in a June 1988 ASQ Automotive Division conference with the Big Three automakers’ purchasing vice presidents.

Where We Were

By the mid-1980s, suppliers were subject to numerous military, national and customer stan- dards. Large automotive suppliers dedicated full- time employees to each customer account just to address the varying customer quality requirements. For tier two suppliers—those who sell to a tier one supplier—the situation was worse. They were subject to numerous unique tier one supplier quali- ty standards, which also included the standards of the final customer. Furthermore, tier two suppliers typically have fewer resources for dealing with variation than tier one suppliers have. In 1987, the ISO 9000 family of QMS standards was released. Its use promoted the use of consistent quality terminology internationally and resulted in significant harmonization. The standards were slow to take root in the United States, however. The Big Three elected to use the ISO 9001 stan- dard as the base for QS-9000, mainly because there was a widespread rumor at the time that companies would have to be ISO 9000 certified by the mid- 1990s to do business in Europe. While nothing in ISO 9000 was objectionable to the Big Three, it lacked some elements in current automotive industry documents, such as business plans, customer satisfaction, continuous improve-

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ment, manufacturing capabilities and much of the advanced quality planning content.

Adding to Supplier Profits

The benefits of QS-9000 have been documented.

A 1998 ASQ/Automotive Industry Action Group

(AIAG) survey of more than 200 suppliers reported the average cost of QS-9000 registration to be about $120,000. 1 All but $20,000 paid by the supplier to the certifi- cation body—17% of the total reported cost—turned

out to be discretionary cost on the part of the suppli-

er, such as for consultants or training. The average

sales of the survey respondents was $130 million, and they reported an average savings of 6% of sales

as a result of the QS-9000 registration, which is about $8 million per company.

This 1998 survey also correlated greatly with the

1997 version of the same survey, which had more

than 600 respondents. 2 That survey indicated a 3- to-1 return on total costs and almost 17-to-1 return on certification body fees. In addition, about half the suppliers improved their parts per million

defect rates by about 50%. This contrasts with the benefits of ISO 9000. In a

1999 McGraw-Hill ISO 9000 survey with more than

1,100 respondents, the average total cost of ISO 9000 registration was reported to be $156,000, with an average total savings of $187,000, or a savings-to- cost ratio of only 1.2-to-1. 3 Less than 19% reported their defect rate was significantly improving and of these, only one-third reported the improvement was

attributable to the ISO 9000 registration to a high or very high extent. The difference in quality improvement and sav- ings between QS-9000 and the ISO 9000 scheme is primarily due to the additional sector specific requirements and process controls imposed on the third-party registration system—for example, QS-

9000 appendixes B, G, H and I.

Interest in adopting QS-9000 within the Big Three original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) globally was high from the beginning. To accom- modate the international rollout, the second edi- tion of QS-9000 was released in February 1995. The second edition was the first version to be deployed by OEMs worldwide. This required the translation of the requirements, certification scheme

information and training materials into several lan- guages, including German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese

information and training materials into several lan- guages, including German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Portuguese.

Global Standardization Launched

In May 1995, during a QS-9000 rollout meeting in Europe for suppliers and certification bodies, representatives of the European automotive OEMs approached the task force to point out similar har- monization efforts had already been undertaken in Europe. In fact, there were already three national automotive supplier quality requirements manuals in Europe: VDA 6.1 in Germany, AVSQ in Italy and EAQF in France. QS-9000 was now a fourth. As a result of this discussion, it was agreed additional harmonization should be pursued for the benefit of the shared supply base. In Italy, Fiat Auto, IVECO (a truck and engine manufacturer) and 16 primary suppliers represent- ing 85 suppliers in total had worked on AVSQ. In France, Renault and PSA, which consists of Peugeot and Citroen, teamed with FIEV, the French automotive supplier association, and four primary suppliers representing some 300 suppliers in total, to publish EAQF. In Germany, Adam Opel, Audi, BMW, Daimler Benz, Ford Werke and VW worked with their auto- motive trade association, VDA, and 18 primary suppliers representing some 500 total suppliers in the development of VDA 6.1, one of a number of common manuals in the VDA 6 family of quality documents. VDA 6.1 has been translated into sev- eral languages and has been deployed internation- ally, as has QS-9000. Extensive efforts were undertaken early in the process to identify where the content of the docu- ments was similar and where it differed. Much of this effort involved translation of the documents into English, the only language common to the group. When these manuals and QS-9000 were compared, they were all found to be remarkably similar. Most differences were in areas of emphasis and in the amount of guidance included with the requirements. The most significant differences were in the meth- ods of determining conformance to the requirements. The European approaches were based on second- party (customer/supplier) audits, with a general agreement for reciprocal recognition of each other’s

audits. The introduction of third-party certification with QS-9000 was the most revolutionary change to the requirements or the existing process in the last few decades.

Actually, the automotive suppliers suggested QS-9000 in a June 1988 ASQ Automotive Division conference with the Big Three automakers’ purchasing vice presidents.

Subsequent meetings of the U.S. and European OEMs were scheduled, and the group became known as the IATF.

Migration to ISO 9000

The international launch of QS-9000 was also being noted by ISO member bodies and TC 176. In November 1995, ISO TC 176 chair Reg Shaughnessy contacted the task force as a follow-up to a TC 176 resolution passed in the ISO TC 176 plenary meet- ing in Durban, South Africa. In this annual meeting, TC 176 resolved to undertake efforts to avoid proliferation of sector specific standards such as QS-9000 by investigating collaborative efforts with the automotive group. The aim was to convince the automotive group to adopt the use of ISO 9001. This was consistent with the ISO directives at the time concerning sector specific requirements. There were several additional meetings and numerous communications before the next ISO TC 176 plenary in Tel Aviv, Israel, in November 1996, to explore the possibilities of collaborative efforts. It was soon apparent to all that the ISO 9001:1994



text alone was insufficient for use by the automo- tive industry, so efforts were then focused on how best to accommodate them. At the November 1996 TC 176 plenary, a resolu- tion was adopted to ensure the generic quality man- agement needs of the automotive industry would be addressed in the future revision of the ISO 9000 family.

It was soon apparent to all that the ISO 9001:1994 text alone was insufficient for use by the automotive industry, so efforts were then focused on how best to accommodate them.

Alternatives as to how this might work were discussed, but the prevailing thought was to use another type of document in the ISO portfolio, a technical report, to house the additional require- ments. Additional meetings between IATF and TC 176 leadership led to IATF being recognized as a liaison member to ISO TC 176, under a new category. The TC 176 plan then was for the automotive industry to participate in the ISO 9000:2000 revision process already under way to see whether enough additional content could be added to make the next version of ISO 9001 fit for automotive industry use without supplement. Eight IATF members became engaged in the various activities of TC 176 and its subcommittees. However, this participation came about too late. The year 2000 design specifications for the revision were complete by then, so much of the significant content brought forward by the automotive group was rejected as being outside of the design specifi-

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cations or not applicable to other product sectors. In discussion with the other sectors involved with TC 176, such as medical devices, aerospace and telecommunications, two things became apparent. ISO TC 176 would either have to find a way to accommodate the automotive sector specifics outside ISO 9000 but within the ISO port- folio of documents or the automotive group would continue to publish its own supplier requirements. These other sectors preferred ISO 9001 contain only the minimum requirements for quality assurance while each sector published its own sector specific requirements.

The ISO Sector Pilot

In consultation with TC 176, it became clear the best path was through a pilot project with the auto- motive group so ISO could gain some experience on how to address sector specific requirements going forward in conjunction with a revision to the ISO directives. At the November 1997 ISO TC 176 plenary meet- ing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, another resolution was adopted that approved the pilot to go forward according to the plan jointly developed by TC 176 and IATF. This plan called for the development of an ISO technical report as the vehicle for the automotive requirements. It also targeted a decision to be made by the end of the first quarter of 1998 with regard to which version of ISO 9001 to use: the 1994 text, which would allow the project to begin immediate- ly, or the 2000 text, which would require a delay in beginning the project but would include the Japanese OEMs. The work group would consist of subject matter experts (SMEs) from TC 176 subcommittees 1, 2 and 3 and the IATF if the short-term option was chosen, or the IATF and representatives from JAMA if the long-term option was selected. The SMEs on the work group would ensure consistency with ISO protocols for terminology, standards and auditing. The issue of Japanese OEM involvement was raised a year earlier by TC 176. JAMA preferred having one or two representatives join the ISO pilot project when the work began on integrating the new ISO 9001:2000 text. Once the short-term approach was selected, the

pilot progressed rapidly based on the IATF work already done, using the third edition of

pilot progressed rapidly based on the IATF work already done, using the third edition of QS-9000 as the baseline. The Japanese OEM affiliates in the United Kingdom had considered adopting QS-9000 some years earlier as part of the UK automotive trade association, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). At that time, SMMT stopped short of endorse- ment and use of QS-9000 over some terminology differences. The Japanese OEMs had indicated QS- 9000 was not particularly objectionable, but rather that their process was different. In fact, Toyota’s North American operation issued a supplier quali- ty manual several years ago telling suppliers to use techniques from the Big Three supplier quality ref- erence manuals covering issues such as failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) and measure- ment systems analysis.

ISO/TS 16949 Released

The draft document was balloted by TC 176 in the third quarter of 1998 and approved for release. During the ballot, ISO’s central secretariat noted availability of a new document type in the ISO portfolio, TS, if IATF wanted to use that category rather than the existing technical report category. This was supported, and in November 1998, ISO/TS 16949 was released as the first ISO/TS. IATF said ISO/TS 16949 would be an optional doc- ument for automotive suppliers to use to satisfy existing customer certification requirements.

Automotive Certification Reengineered

A new feature incorporated into the IATF recog- nized certification scheme for TS 16949 is the selec- tion and contracting of approved certification bodies by IATF oversight bodies in the United States and Europe. Capacity for third-party certifi- cation to QS-9000 far exceeded the global demand, so this provided the IATF an opportunity to not only align global capacity with demand but also upgrade global audit competency at the same time. This contract gives IATF members a mechanism to revoke the TS 16949 qualification of certification bodies whose performance proves unacceptable. Examples of this could be failing to abide by IATF

rules for the TS 16949 certification scheme or main- taining the certification of companies who chroni- cally ship poor quality product to their customers. This contract replaces the oversight function per- formed by national accreditation bodies under pre- vious automotive certification schemes.

Alignment With ISO 9000:2000

Over the past few years, participating automak- ers have been migrating to the TS 16949:2002 edi- tion as their requirements document, opting to add customer specific requirements as applicable.

The current edition maintains most of the content of the initial edition but uses the ISO 9001:2000 stan- dard as the foundation. The new ISO 9001 abandons the previous 20-element format for an eight-section format more like the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria—a process driven approach. ISO 9001:2000 requires the organization to identify the processes needed for the system and determine the sequence and interaction of these processes (ISO 9001:2000, clause 4.1). This requirement is subject to internal and third-party auditing as well as having the products and processes meet customer specified requirements. Organizations should then map their processes to the current TS 16949 requirements to ensure all are adequately addressed. Organizations that have been fully compliant to the intent of QS-9000 or the first edition of TS 16949 should be able to upgrade in a surveillance audit. There is now additional emphasis on content related to meeting specific customer satisfaction requirements, which include:

• Delivered part quality performance.

• Customer disruptions (including field returns).

• Delivery schedule performance (including incidents of premium freight).

• Customer notifications related to quality or delivery issues. 4 Another key generic QMS requirement of the automotive industry is the control of process design. ISO 9001:2000 addresses product design and devel- opment but completely ignores process design and development. This subject has been given signifi- cant treatment in the automotive OEM reference manuals and now in TS 16949, but the new edition limits the subject to manufacturing processes.



What Could Go Wrong?

For many years, there have been some chronic

implementation problems with TS 16949 that orga- nizations and auditors should be aware of. Some of these problems are:

• Characteristic management.

• Production part approval process (PPAP).

• Control plans.

• Error proofing.

• Work instructions and training.

• Management representative empowerment.

• IATF approved certification body.

Characteristic management. Automakers define

at least two types of product characteristics: standard and key/critical/significant. QS-9000 and ISO/TS

16949 use the term “special” to harmonize the vari-

ous company specific terms in use for the latter type.

ISO/TS 16949 defines a special characteristic as being a product characteristic or manufacturing process parameter that can affect safety or compli- ance with regulations, fit, function, performance or subsequent processing of product. 5 These characteristics require extra care to miti- gate the effects of a potential problem. The types of controls necessary are customer specific. TS 16949 emphasizes it is a joint responsibility of the cus- tomer and supplier organizations to identify and designate special characteristics, even for cus- tomer-responsible designed parts. In some cases the suppliers are the only parties

in a position to identify some special characteristics because of their unique knowledge of their produc- tion processes. If a supplier organization takes a minimalist approach to the identification and des- ignation of special characteristics, the customer stands to lose much of the power of the ISO/TS

16949 specified quality planning and control tools

such as FMEAs, control plans, work instructions and standard operating procedures. PPAP requires only that initial process studies be performed for special characteristics. This assumes special characteristics have been properly identi- fied and designated by both the customer and sup- plier, which may be a bad assumption. Incomplete or inadequate FMEAs can compromise the proper identification of special characteristics and thus impact the effectiveness of this part qualification activity. The result is the risk an end user finds the

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problem in the field, which likely would generate customer dissatisfaction and possibly warranty or recall exposure. PPAP. PPAP was a common Big Three require- ment predating QS-9000. About 15 items must be completed for each PPAP (third edition) approval, regardless of how much evidence the customer requests from the organization to ensure the items have, in fact, been completed. For example, the customer may request only a PPAP source warrant (PPAP level one submission). The warrant is a record to certify the other PPAP requirements have been completed with no noncon- formance found except as is noted on the warrant. Organizations may not have all the necessary PPAP documentation or records as required when audited, despite the intent of the warrant form. Third-party auditors should cite this as a noncon- formance. Further, the organization is to notify the customer when the product or process changes from the last PPAP approved process. A significant quality prob- lem can result when changes have not been commu- nicated to the OEM customer. These changes could actually occur at a tier two or lower level in the sup- ply chain as well as within a tier one supplying organization. Control plans. Control plans are one of the key deliverables of the automotive quality planning process. Controlled characteristics, including all special characteristics, are to be documented in the control plan (TS 16949:2002, clause Too often, control plans are not developed with a multidisciplinary process (TS 16949, clause and are not current relative to the process they are to control, such as gage or device numbers, inspec- tion frequency or location. The control plan should be up-to-date and representative of the process. Operators should have input into the control plan development to ensure applicability. Further, when proven effective controls are in place, these should be deployed to similar processes and control plans across the organization. Error proofing. Despite published material now available regarding error proofing methodology, the subject is still not well deployed in the automo- tive supply chain considering its value and poten- tial. W. Edwards Deming pointed out in his famous

14 points that management should cease depen- dence on inspection to cause quality to happen.

14 points that management should cease depen- dence on inspection to cause quality to happen. 6 Problems must be prevented, and error proofing provides an ideal solution when applicable. Work instructions and training. As organizations continue to cut discretionary costs, one area typically affected is training. Yet, as technology and customer expectations increase, this area should be carefully managed to ensure competency of workers. Typically work instructions document the pro- cess to be followed and exclude direction for the worker regarding what action to take when things go wrong. This direction should be referenced on the control plan it applies to where applicable. Management representative empowerment. Clause 5.5.2 of ISO 9001:2000 requires the manage- ment representative to have responsibility and authority to establish, implement and maintain the entire QMS. For organizations with product design responsi- bility, this would have to be a senior executive. Too often, however, organizations delegate this require- ment to a position that lacks the necessary cross functional empowerment to comply. This is not cited as a major nonconformance in third-party audits, compromising the effectiveness of the system. IATF approved certification body. While there are many QS-9000 certification bodies, there are a limited number of IATF approved certification bodies. If you have a customer requirement to be TS 16949 certified, you should verify you use an IATF approved and qualified certification body.

What’s Next?

It is unlikely ISO 9000 or any subsequent volun- tary management system standard with enough content to be used as is by industry sectors will ever be agreed on by ISO. Too many ISO commit- tee members favor a minimalist approach for the international standards, and many companies are not willing or able to fund the resources necessary to work with ISO to make a difference. Fortunately, there is significant global consensus in the automotive sector on the fundamental quali- ty requirements in TS 16949. These requirements have been fairly stable for the last 10 or more years. This makes the task of maintaining the standard fairly easy, as it was with the TS 16949 revision.

Future editions will just need to “cut and paste” the existing requirements around the new ISO standard’s outline. However, using future revisions of TS 16949 as an opportunity to raise the bar will likely result in some new content being introduced, but it should be evolutionary. As long as the standard continues

Fortunately, there is significant global consensus in the automotive sector on the fundamental quality requirements in TS 16949.

to be ISO based, it will be on a five-year revision cycle. This all suggests there will continue to be a lengthy period of stability of the fundamental sup- plier quality requirements for automotive OEMs. The challenge facing automotive suppliers during this period will be dealing with additional company

specific requirements and initiatives being driven by

a fiercely competitive global environment. The face

of these requirements may not yet be revealed, but they will likely not be standards based because there

is insufficient time to build consensus.

Third-party certification will likely continue for now, but OEMs will not depend on certification alone to ensure purchased part quality. Third-party certification will likely migrate to become the ticket to get into the game, but expect OEM specific ini- tiatives as supplementary to provide the necessary customer assurances going forward.


This article is based on the author’s previously pub- lished material in the ASQ ISO 9000:2000 Handbook, chapter



48 (ASQ Quality Press, 2001) and in Quality Progress’ “Stan- dards Outlook” columns of April 2000, January 2002 and November 2003.


1. 1998 Annual Quality Survey Report, Automotive Indus-

try Action Group (AIAG), 1998.

2. “1997 AIAG/ASQ Quality Survey Results” presented at

a 1997 quality survey workshop, March 17, Novi, MI.

3. ISO 9000 Survey ’99: An Analytical Tool To Assess the

Costs, Benefits and Savings of ISO 9000 Registration prepared by Quality Systems Update and Plexus Corp., McGraw-Hill,



Technical Specification ISO/TS 16949, Quality Management

Systems; Automotive Suppliers; Particular Requirements for the Application of ISO 9001:2000 for Automotive Production and Relevant Service Part Organizations, clause, Interna- tional Organization for Standardization, 2002.

5. Ibid, clause 3.1.12.

6. W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, MIT Press, 2000.

R. DAN REID, an ASQ Fellow and certified quality engineer, is a purchasing manager at GM Powertrain and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is co- author of the three editions of QS-9000 and ISO/TS 16949; the Chrysler, Ford, GM Advanced Product Quality Plan- ning With Control Plan, Production Part Approval Process and Potential Failure Modes and Effects Analy- sis manuals; ISO 9001:2000; and ISO IWA 1. Reid also was the first delegation leader of IATF.



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