How to Get an IATF 16949 Certification?

What is the IATF 16949 certification? What should you prepare to pass their audit and become an IATF 16949-certified manufacturer? Learn more in this article!
Four automotive technicians, three in dark coveralls and one in an orange shirt and apron, are standing together in a garage. Two are holding tools, while a woman holds a clipboard, and they appear to be discussing something. Cars and workshop equipment are visible in the background.
Published on:
21 March 2024
Updated on:
22 May 2024

For automotive manufacturers worldwide, being IATF 16949-certified is crucial. It’s the industry’s primary benchmark for quality management. IATF 16949 supplements the more generic ISO 9001 certification family – adding many important automotive industry-specific metrics.

By January 2024, there were already 93,908 IATF 16949-certified production sites globally – and counting. Thus, this certification scheme is highly sought-after by automotive manufacturers across the globe.

However, IATF 16949 sets a high standard for manufacturers. The certification process is rigorous. It assesses many aspects of a plant – which includes both technical and managerial elements.

The audit process typically takes only a few days to a few weeks (depending on the plant’s size). Yet, the preparation process can easily take up to a year – depending on the plant’s current readiness.

For those new to IATF 16949 certification, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry! This guide will walk you through the process of obtaining an IATF 16949 certification.

We will start by introducing the basics of IATF 16949. Afterward, we’ll continue with a step-by-step guide to get an IATF 16949 certification and what comes after.

In this article, you’ll also find a free PDF Quality Control Checklist Template.

Automobile assembly line with workers wearing blue uniforms. Cars are elevated for assembly and maintenance. The manufacturing facility is well-lit, with a variety of tools and components organized around the workspace.

What Is IATF 16949 Certification?

The IATF 16949 is an international quality certification scheme, created & managed by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). The IATF is an ad-hoc group consisting of major automotive manufacturers such as FordStellantis, and Volkswagen.

Additionally, several national automotive industry associations, such as Italy’s ANFIAthe United Kingdom’s SMMT, and Germany’s VDA, are also members of the IATF. They contributed significantly to shaping the IATF 16949  standards.

Any plant manufacturing automotive products can apply for an IATF 16949 certification. Therefore, plants that produce automotive components or accessories can also apply for certification. As a result, a vehicle’s entire supply chain can be IATF 16949-certified.

IATF 16949’s certification scope is very broad. The certification manual consists of 10 chapters. It assesses your plant’s technical & managerial elements and its ability to fulfill various demands. This ranges from general industry regulations to your customers’ specific requirements and demands.

Learn more about IATF 16949’s chapters and key clauses and an IATF 16949 vs ISO 9001 comparison. For extra clarity, check out the freely downloadable IATF 16949 frequently asked questions and answers PDF document.

Steps Needed to be IATF 16949 Certified

To be IATF 16949 certified, your plant must be audited by an official IATF auditor organization. However, since the certification itself is very extensive, you’ll need to prepare your plant far in advance. Without proper preparations, it’s likely that your plant won’t fulfill the IATS 16949 requirements.

Consider Whether to Do the Preparations Independently or by Hiring External Consultants

You can organize this preparation independently or by hiring external consultants (preferably from an official IATF auditor organization). Both ways have their own advantages and disadvantages.

By hiring external consultants, you’ll gain the expertise needed to make your plant IATF 16949-compliant. They’ll provide your team with IATF 16949 training, check your plant’s compliance before the real audit, and give you feedback on what needs to be improved.

However, hiring IATS 16949 consultants is an additional expense. An IATF 1694 consultant’s services typically cost more than EUR 500/day. This is outside their travel, accommodation, and other expenses. Multiply that by the number of hired consultants and the number of days they’ll work during the preparation process. The preparation process generally takes several weeks or months (depending on your plant’s existing readiness). Thus, discussing the preparation cost thoroughly with your finance department is important.

Whether you’re preparing it independently or by hiring external consultants, here are the common steps to prepare for an IATF 16949 certification:

A man in a suit holding a tablet points forward while speaking to another man wearing a yellow hard hat and work vest in an industrial setting. The scene suggests a discussion or inspection related to the workplace.

Step 1: Establish an Internal IATF 16949 Certification Team

The first step is to create an internal IATF 16949 certification team within your plant. The team ideally consists of a representative from each workstation. This is to ensure that there’s a clear line of communication across all workstations in your plant.

For example, you’re organizing an internal audit in your car factory. During the audit, you found non-conformities in the car painting workstation. You can immediately alert the car painting workstation representative, who will, in turn, make the necessary changes to their workstation.

Step 2: Set the Targets and Resources That Will Be Allocated for the IATF 16949 Certification Process

After the team has been formed, it’s time to sit together and determine the following aspects:

  • The roles and responsibilities of your team members.
  • The funds allocated for the preparation and certification process.
  • The preparation and certification timeline. How long should the preparation take? When do you plan to take the IATF 16949 audit from an official IATF auditor? Should the team meet daily or weekly? And other time-related aspects.
  • Whether to prepare the certification independently or by hiring external consultants.

Step 3: Provide IATF 16949 Training for Your Team

The next step is to inform your team of the IATF 16949 ‘s preparation & certification process. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

If You Prefer to Do the Preparation Independently

In this path, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your entire team members fully understand how the IATF 16949 certification works. First, you’ll need to acquire all relevant IATF 16949 materials from their website. You also purchase additional IATF 16949 training materials from official IATF auditor organizations.

Present these materials to your team. Use our employee training planning & tracking software for your IATF 16949 training activities. With it, you can share your training materials, create a training timeline, and send an automated notification to your employees whenever a training or task is due.

A digital planning interface titled

Find out how you can organize an effective IATF 16949 internal auditor training.

If You Choose to Hire External Consultants

Generally, IATF 16949 consulting services also include training sessions. These experienced professionals will prepare the IATF 16949 training courses for your team. So, you don’t have to gather and develop the materials yourself.

Nonetheless, evaluating your team’s knowledge after these training activities is always a good idea. You can use a skills matrix software to help you visualize and keep track of your team’s IATF 16949 knowledge.

A screenshot of a Competency Matrix from the AZU BIKE 2021 system. It displays a grid listing various competencies with proficiency levels (Novice to Expert) represented by colored dots and numerical scores for 'Assembly operators' and 'Frame operators.'.

Learn More About Azumuta’s Skill Matrix & Training

Keep track of your employee’s training progress and competencies
Learn More

Step 4: Make an IATF 16949 Audit Checklist

After your team has fully understood the assessed aspects of the IATF 16949 certification, it’s time to plan an internal audit. This internal audit will assess your plant’s existing performance and how it compares to the IATF 16949 requirements.

Plan your internal audit by drafting an audit checklist. There, you should list the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and attributes assessed in the IATF 16949 certification. The 10-chapter guideline contains many assessed KPIs and attributes, so take your time to include everything in your audit checklist.

Use customizable digital checklists as your IATF 16949 audit checklist platform. You can also include videos and images there as extra references.

A screenshot of a 5S audit checklist from Azumuta's software interface. The checklist includes sections like instruction steps, variants, recordings, skill matrix & trainings, and ergonomics. The audit items have checkboxes and fields for notes, indicating their status.

Download Your Free Quality Control Checklist Template

Download Template

Step 5: Organize an Internal Audit to Measure Your Plant’s Existing Compliance

Once the audit checklist is complete, it’s time to use it in an internal audit. As previously mentioned, this internal audit aims to determine your plant’s current compliance rate with the IATF 16949 standards. Although this is just a mock audit, it should reflect the real IATF 16949 audit procedures.

In this phase, ensure that all KPIs and attributes in the IATF 16949 guideline are taken into account. Use a tool like Azumuta’s Audits & Digital Checklists for this task. There, you can plan and execute your audits. At the end of each audit, you can automatically generate an audit report and use this information for compliance purposes and as a benchmark to track your future progress.

A screenshot of a Competency Matrix from the AZU BIKE 2021 system. It displays a grid listing various competencies with proficiency levels (Novice to Expert) represented by colored dots and numerical scores for 'Assembly operators' and 'Frame operators.'.

Learn More About Azumuta’s Audits & Digital Checklists

Here’s the first step to have a paperless factory

Learn more

Step 6: Analyze Your Internal Audit Results

After you’ve obtained your internal audit results, the next step is to analyze them. See which KPIs and attributes are IATF 16949-compliant, and which ones are not.

For the satisfactory KPIs and attributes, great work and keep it up! For the KPIs and attributes that haven’t fulfilled the IATF 16949 requirements, you’ll need to implement some improvements, which we will further discuss in the next step.

At this phase, it’s normal if a large chunk of your requirements are still unsatisfactory. That’s the main idea of running an internal audit: To pinpoint your plant’s weak points and fix them before the actual certification audit.

Step 7: Make the Necessary Improvements to Fully Comply and Re-take the Internal Audit

The previous step pinpointed the unsatisfactory KPIs and attributes. Now, you should implement the improvements needed to make these KPIs and attributes-IATF 16949 satisfactory. Of course, the type of improvement will depend on the KPI and attribute concerned.

After you’ve completed all improvements for the unsatisfactory KPIs and attributes, it’s recommended to take further internal audits until all KPIs and attributes are proven satisfactory. Some companies prefer to conduct this second internal audit (and beyond) only on unsatisfactory KPIs and attributes. Meanwhile, some others prefer to conduct this additional internal audit on all IATF 16949 KPIs and attributes for extra certainty.

Regardless, you must ensure that all of your assessed KPIs and attributes comply with the IATF 16949 standards before moving to the next phase: the real IATF 16949 certification audit.

Step 8: Schedule the Certification With an Official IATF 16949 Accreditation Body.

After completing all the preparation steps, it’s time to proceed to the final phase: taking an IATF 16949 certification audit. You should contact one of the official IATF auditor organizations and request a certification audit.

They’re present in all corners of the globe. Hence, finding one based in your country or region shouldn’t be difficult.

How long is the audit process? Well, the IATF has a standardized audit timeline. The duration is based on the number of employees at the audited plant. The more employees a plant has, the longer the audit process will take.

Meanwhile, the audit cost will depend on multiple factors. The main factor is the plant’s scale. The bigger it is ( in terms of production capacity, plant size, number of employees, and other industrial metrics), the costlier it will be.

Each official IATF auditor organization has its own specific rate. To get an estimate of the total cost, it’s best to contact them and ask for a quote. Don’t forget to inform them of your plant’s current scale.

Your Plant Is IATF 16949-Certified. What’s Next?

If your plant successfully passed the official audit and received the IATF 16949 certificate, congratulations! The certificate is valid for 3 years – with a mandatory annual surveillance audit. This annual surveillance audit is less rigorous than the initial certification audit.

Once your IATF 16949 certificate is approaching its expiry date, your plant will need to be recertified. You can apply for recertification within the last 3 months of your IATF 16949 certificate’s validity period.

As the world’s primary automotive industry certification, being IATF 16949-certified is essential. It proves that your production process is dependable – and your products conform to the latest industry standards.

Try Azumuta Today!

Learn how Azumuta’s modules have helped Reynders to reduce human error-related complaints by 60%, speed up employee training by 60%, and reduce the time needed to create and manage manufacturing-related work instructions by 50% – all in just 3 months of implementation.

Not yet convinced? Be sure to check other success stories as well. Our Digital Work InstructionsAudits & Digital ChecklistsQuality Management, and Skill Matrix & Training modules will make your compliance effort to the IATF 16949 standards an effortless and seamless process. Use Azumuta as your primary IATF 16949 software tool.

A person wearing a light blue button-up shirt and a white hairnet stands facing the camera. The shirt features a small logo on the left side. The person has a slight smile and appears against a plain background.

The ability to adapt quickly to changes in work instructions has given us a competitive advantage, while the fully automated distribution of work instructions has decreased complexity and reduced errors on the shop floor. Azumuta has revolutionized our work instruction management process and made our operations more agile.

Koen Catteeu
Operations Manager at Reynders

Join The Digital Shop Floor Revolution!

A profile of an assembly operator is displayed on the left side, showing categories such as Pre-Assembly, Assembly, and Testing. Adjacent charts detail tasks like Cleaning, Assembly, Packaging, Pre-Assembly, and Testing, each with numerical values.
© Azumuta 2024