To understand the impact that ISO certification has upon OEM automotive parts, one must first understand what the ISO is all about.

Wikipedia has a great explanation of ISO:

ISO 9000 is a family of standards for quality management systems. ISO 9000 is maintained by ISO, the International Organization for Standardization and is administered by accreditation and certification bodies. For a manufacturer, some of the requirements in ISO 9001 (which is one of the standards in the ISO 9000 family) would include:

  • A set of procedures that cover all key processes in the business;
  • Monitoring manufacturing processes to ensure they are producing quality product;
  • Keeping proper records;
  • Checking outgoing product for defects, with appropriate corrective action where necessary; and
  • Regularly reviewing individual processes and the quality system itself for effectiveness.
  • Facilitate continual improvementA company or organization that has been independently audited and certified to be in conformance with ISO 9001 may publicly state that it is “ISO 9001 certified” or “ISO 9001 registered.” Certification to an ISO 9000 standard does not guarantee the compliance (and therefore the quality) of end products and services; rather, it certifies that consistent business processes are being applied.Although the standards originated in manufacturing, they are now employed across a wide range of other types of organizations, including colleges and universities. A “product”, in ISO vocabulary, can mean a physical object, or services, or software. In fact, according to ISO in 2004, “service sectors now account by far for the highest number of ISO 9001:2000 certificates – about 31% of the total” – source:


  • The quality manual is a formal statement from management, closely linked to the business and marketing plan and to customer needs. The quality manual is understood and followed at all levels and by all employees. Each employee needs measurable objectives to work towards.
  • Decisions about the quality system are made based on recorded data and the system is regularly audited and evaluated for conformance and effectiveness.
  • You need a documented procedure to control quality documents in your company. Everyone must have access to up-to-date documents and be aware of how to use them.
  • To maintain the quality system and produce conforming product, you need to provide suitable infrastructure, resources, information, equipment, measuring and monitoring devices, and environmental conditions.
  • You need to map out all key processes in your company; control them by monitoring, measurement and analysis; and ensure that product quality objectives are met. If you cant monitor a process by measurement, then make sure the process is well enough defined that you can make adjustments if the product does not meet user needs.
  • For each product your company makes, you need to establish quality objectives; plan processes; and document and measure results to use as a tool for improvement. For each process, determine what kind of procedural documentation is required. (Note: a product is hardware, software, services, processed materials, or a combination of these.)
  • You need to determine key points where each process requires monitoring and measurement, and ensure that all monitoring and measuring devices are properly maintained and calibrated.
  • You need to have clear requirements for purchased product. Select suppliers appropriately and check that incoming product meets requirements.
    You need to determine the skills required for each job in your company, suitably train employees and evaluate the effectiveness of the training.
  • You need to determine customer requirements and create systems for communicating with customers about product information, inquiries, contracts, orders, feedback and complaints.
    When developing new products, you need to plan the stages of development, with appropriate testing at each stage. You need to test and document whether the product meets design requirements, regulatory requirements and user needs.
  • You need to regularly review performance through internal audits and meetings. Determine whether the quality system is working and what improvements can be made. Deal with past problems and potential problems. Keep records of these activities and the resulting decisions, and monitor their effectiveness. (Note: you need a documented procedure for internal audits.)
  • You need documented procedures for dealing with actual and potential nonconformances (problems involving suppliers or customers, or internal problems). Make sure no one uses bad product, determine what to do with bad product, deal with the root cause of the problem and keep records to use as a tool to improve the system.

So you can see that ISO is very involved process that addresses the entire process of design and manufacture of products.

Additionally, the automotive industry has an additional level of ISO called the ISO/TS 16949:

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.

ISO/TS 16949 succeeds QS-9000, which, since 1995, was the quality system standard promoted by General Motors, Daimler- Chrysler, and Ford (plus some heavy truck makers). QS-9000 stays in effect until 2006 unless earlier called off by one or more of the Big 3. (Chrysler, for example, requires its suppliers to have transitioned to ISO/TS 16949 by July, 2004.)

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.)
  3. Requirements for practices that measure the effectiveness of various aspects of the system. (In God we trust; all others bring data.)
  4. 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. What many do not fully appreciate is that implementing the system — expensive, exhausting, and annoying as it can be — can also have the salutary effect of improving the performance of your organization. Not just at first, but on an ongoing basis.

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