EMS companies are moving beyond QS9000 and ISO/TS16949.

Looking back over the past two decades, automotive quality standards have typically been the most far-reaching of all industry quality standards in terms of the improvement processes they drove. Previous automotive standards such as QS9000 and ISO/TS16949 contributed to an evolution of quality focus beyond basic internal procedures by adding requirements associated with strategic planning, supplier assessment and responsiveness to customer feedback. IATF 16949:2016 is no exception. Under the new standard, there is greater focus on risk management and definition of stakeholders whose interests must be considered in those assessments.

While the International Standards Organization (ISO) was previously the governing body for ISO/TS 16949, the current IATF 16949:2016 revision passes that responsibility to the International Automotive Task Force (IATF).

Firstronic’s facility in Juarez, Mexico, recently received its certification to the revised IATF standard. The preparation for that activity began last year. In this implementation, the team found the IATF revision required stronger identification of the scope of the quality management system and customer-specific requirements. This drove centralization of customer requirements and more formal documentation in a central repository. There were more requirements on product safety and the personnel who are responsible. Additionally, the revision increased top management accountability.

Expansion of risk-management activities was one of the primary changes in the revision. Firstronic’s existing procedures did a pretty good job of addressing risk management within the operations, but they weren’t as strong in risk management planning associated with interested parties such as customers’ strategic suppliers, employees, shareholders, etc. As a result, a risk-planning analysis and improvement form was created, and the process of risk assessment, correction and team responsibilities were fine-tuned.

The Role of ERP

Firstronic’s Plex Online ERP system is playing a big role under the new revision. Plex allows searching for process and product risk. As part of every new customer transition, the team looks at the top 10 product risks for that customer. The ERP system gives real-time visibility into all aspects of project activity to top management at all facets of the organization. Supply-chain management and new product introduction (NPI) are two of the areas that have been most enhanced in terms of additional risk-management tools.

The goal has been to integrate risk-management analysis into the organization at all levels. This requires process definition, analysis of the links with interested parties for each process and identification of the associated risks.

One of the first steps was defining process owners and their responsibilities. Process owners included program management, quality engineering, purchasing, sales, customer service, production operators, quality inspectors, shipping, quality management, process engineers, product engineers and supervisors.

Firstronic defines cross-functional teams (CFTs) for each customer. These teams include a program manager, quality engineer, process/product engineering, material analyst, test engineer, production manager and production operators. One of the reasons for including production operators is they are on the frontend of problem identification and including them in problem-solving activities enhances feedback.

CFTs are at the heart of every corrective action. In preparation for this, there was significant training on problem-solving, failure-mode effects and analysis (FMEA), purchased part approval process (PPAP), control plans and the corrective-action process. Now everyone on each team understands the core tools, and when they are engaged in a corrective action, everyone has a defined responsibility.

From an operational standpoint, the Juarez facility also enhanced its visual factory philosophy, adding visual status indicators. Product is barcoded and integrated with Plex to create a permission-based system that can stop production at any point, freezing material and production until the identified issue is resolved by the CFT analyzing machine, man and methods to determine the best corrective action.

Internal audits have been enhanced. There is strong focus on risks and outputs. There are also more checklists and expanded procedures related to launch readiness reviews, gateway audits and change management. There is also now a “show me” element to internal audits, rather than just a documentation review.

This aligns well with the revision’s new requirements associated with management review. IATF drives greater communication throughout the Tier 1 to Tier IV automotive supply chain on issues related to vehicle recall. Management review now includes monitoring field failures and determining if those increase vehicle recall risk. Review frequency has also increased. Centralized verification documentation and real-time data within Plex provide management with significant visibility into project status, quality trends and operational efficiency.

Supplier development and management have also been expanded from fabricated part suppliers to chip suppliers. Supply chain disruption and the risks of long lead-times are included in risk assessment. Dual sources are now required on all chip components.

The result is a stronger focus at all levels of the organization on the consequences of specific actions or failure to perform those actions. The engagement of the entire team in this process, coupled with visual status indicators, ensures early identification of issues. The systems element enables a rapid organizational response and enhanced real-time visibility into project status and organizational metrics. The stronger focus on checklists and audits ensures pressures of short deadlines and frequent NPIs do not create deviations from defined processes.

Christine Foley is corporate quality systems auditor at Firstronic (firstronic.com); cfoley@firstronic.com.

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