What Is IATF 16949 Certification? [Free Template!]

Learn more about IATF 16949, its clauses, its comparison with ISO 9001, and how you can use an automated quality management system to obtain this certification.
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Published on:
12 March 2024
Updated on:
22 May 2024

For automotive manufacturers, the IATF 16949 certification is a must-have. Besides the more generic ISO certifications series, the IATF 16949 certification is among the most respected quality certifications in the global automotive industry.

Yet, what does the certification consist of? What does it take to be certified? And why does this certification matter for automotive manufacturers?

In this article, we will guide you through the basics of the IATF 16949 certification, how it compares to the ISO 9001 standards, and what the IATF 16949 certification process looks like.

You’ll also find an ISO 9001 Standards Guide that you can download for free.

What Is IATF 16949?

The International Automotive Task Force (IATF) 16949:2016 standards (commonly referred to as simply “IATF 16949”) is a set of quality standards for automotive manufacturers. It was drafted by the IATF, which also oversees its implementation worldwide, in collaboration with its global partners.

Who Is the IATF?

The IATF is an ad-hoc group comprising some of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers. IATF’s members include FordStellantis, and Volkswagen.

In addition, several national associations of automotive manufacturers (e.g., Italy’s ANFIA, the United Kingdom’s SMMT, and Germany’s VDA) are also members of the IATF. These major players teamed up to create a globally-standardized quality management system for the automotive industry.

Besides certifying factories that assemble completely built-up automobiles, the IATF standards also certify sites that produce automotive parts and components. Thus, an automobile’s entire supply chain can be IATF-certified.

IATF partners with selected auditors internationally to organize audits and issue the IATF 16949 certification for 3rd party automotive manufacturers. This way, the IATF 16949 certification has an extensive global presence.

As of January 2024, there were 93,908 IATF 16949-certified production sites across the world. Hence, conformity to the IATF 16949 standards is an important matter for automotive manufacturers worldwide.

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The IATF 16949 Certification Content

The IATF 16949 certification manual contains 10 chapters. They are further divided into multiple clauses and subclauses. Here’s a brief overview of each chapter:

Chapter 1: Scope

As the first chapter, it orients users on what the certification is intended for. Moreover, it informs users that IATF 16949 supplements the more generic ISO 9001:2015 certification (often referred to as simply ISO 9001). Thus, IATF 16949 should always be used in tandem with ISO 9001.

ISO 9001 Vs IATF 16949 Comparison

In general, the IATF 16949 certification is oriented toward users in the automotive industry. On the contrary, the ISO 9001 certification is a generic certification that can be applied in any industry. As a result, numerous extra requirements exist in IATF 16949 that don’t apply to ISO 9001.

Nonetheless, IATF collaborates closely with ISO when developing the IATF 16949 standards. Even in many clauses and sub-clauses of the IATF 16949 standards, the IATF asks its users to refer to specific sections in the ISO 9001 guiding documents.

As stated in Chapter 1, IATF 16949 is a supplement to ISO 9001 and is not a standalone standard. Hence, users should use both standards simultaneously on the shop floor.

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Chapter 2: Normative and Informative References

This chapter informs users that the annexes to the IATF 16949 certification manual are an integral part of the document and should be used when necessary.

Chapter 3: Terms and Definitions

To avoid possible misunderstandings, the third chapter defines all technical terms used throughout the document.

Chapter 4: Context of the Organization

This is the first chapter of the guiding document that mentions aspects that need to be evaluated. It seeks to assess your plant’s approaches to quality management, such as:

  • The scope of your plant’s current quality management system.
  • Your plant’s attempt to conform to the existing regulatory requirements.
  • The overall safety of your products and production process.

Chapter 5: Leadership

The fifth chapter focuses on your plant’s management and corporate culture elements. For example, it checks:

  • Whether your plant has policies on bribery, an employee code of conduct, a whistleblowing system, and other ethics-related policies.
  • If the plant’s organizational structure is clear, where every employee has clearly defined roles, authorities, and responsibilities.
  • The plant’s quality assurers’ response when detecting defective products.

Chapter 6: Planning

The term “Planning” here refers to your plant’s readiness to face challenging situations. For instance, auditors will evaluate:

  • The measures taken by your plant to prevent defects and irregularities.
  • The contingency plans that your plant has against unwanted incidents (e.g., customer complaints, product recalls, etc.).
  • Whether your plant has improved its production system after unwanted incidents occurred.

Chapter 7: Support

The seventh chapter is very broad, as it covers your plant’s entire production resources. This includes its production facility (including machinery and tools), its human resources, and its technical know-how. Examples of graded points here include:

  • Whether all devices with measurements (e.g., scales, thermometers, digital torque wrenches, etc.) are regularly calibrated.
  • Whether all employees are sufficiently trained to perform their role.
  • The compliance of your plant’s infrastructure (e.g., buildings, equipment, vehicles, IT hardware & software, etc.) towards the existing regulatory standards.
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Chapter 8: Operation

This chapter focuses on your plant’s daily operations. This includes the research & development phases of your products, your production activities, and your overall customer service experience. For instance, it evaluates:

  • Whether your product research & development activities follow a clearly defined set of guidelines.
  • The conformity of your production activities towards the existing industry standards.
  • Whether your products completely fulfill the specifications that were advertised to your customers.

Chapter 9: Performance Evaluation

Chapter 9 tests your plant’s ability to evaluate its performance. This includes the ability to measure your own products’ quality and your customers’ satisfaction. Examples of assessed elements include:

  • Whether your plant has a performance evaluation mechanism.
  • Whether your plant monitors its customers’ satisfaction rate.
  • The effectiveness of your plant’s evaluations and internal audits.

Chapter 10: Improvement

The final chapter sees whether your plant is continuously seeking improvements. Hence, some of the aspects that auditors will check are:

  • Whether your plant is constantly trying to improve its products’ quality.
  • Your employees’ reactions whenever a defect or deviations are detected on the shop floor.
  • Your plant’s error-proofing strategy to prevent future defects and deviations.

The complete certification guidelines (in multiple languages) can be found on IATF’s website. To complement these guidelines, there are also free multilingual IATF 16949 questions and answers PDF documents.

How to Be IATF 16949 Certified?

Now that you’ve learned the basics of IATF 16949, it’s time to move to the next step. How can your plant be IATF 16949 certified?

To achieve an IATF 16949 certification, your plant must pass an audit done by an accredited auditor. The list of accredited auditors can be found on IATF’s website.

To ensure success on your IATF 16949 certification, you should prepare your plant’s readiness in advance. Check out our guide on how to get an IATF 16949 certification and how to provide IATF 16949 internal auditor training.

Here’s an overview of the steps that should be taken and how Azumuta can be used as an IATF 16949 certification-supporting software:

Step 1: Within your plant, create an ad-hoc IATF 16949 certification team. Then, study the IATF 16949 certification standards, its rules, and other useful materials.

Step 2: Equip your team with the necessary knowledge by providing IATF 16949 training courses. Use our interactive training software to ensure that they are well-informed in the certifications’ details.

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Use our employee skill matrix chart to assess and visualize their knowledge.

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Step 3: Create an IATF audit checklist – a document that lists your plants’ evaluated Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and attributes. Use our drag-and-drop and multimedia-supported Digital Checklists to create an easily actionable IATF audit checklist.

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.

Step 4: Run an internal audit to see whether your existing KPIs and attributes have fulfilled the IATF 16949 standards. Our 100% paperless audit software will help you plan, execute, and analyze what you need to reach the standards. Advanced manufacturing software like Azumuta will automatically generate audit reports – so you don’t have to draft them manually.

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Take advantage of our automated quality management system to obtain the necessary KPIs and attributes. Your existing systems and shop floor devices can be paired with our module. This allows them to automatically feed data to your desktop, tablet, or smartphone – even when you’re not on the shop floor.

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Step 5: Based on your internal audit, check whether your plant has fulfilled the requirements set by the IATF 16949 standards. If some KPIs and attributes underperformed, take the necessary actions to improve them. Afterward, re-take the internal audits until all KPIs and attributes fulfill the IATF 16949 requirements.

Step 6: If all audit KPIs and attributes are satisfactory, then it’s time to take the actual IATF 16949 certification – performed by authorized external auditors.

What Are the Benefits of Being IATF 16949-Certified?

Unlike national quality certifications, an IATF 16949 certification is not mandatory. However, there are still many advantages of having an IATF 16949 certification, such as:

Improved Corporate and Product Reputation

As stated previously, the IATF 16949 is a globally renowned quality assurance certification for automotive manufacturers. Per January 2024, there were 93,908 IATF 16949-certified production facilities globally.

Moreover, the IATF 16949 certification is known to be rigorous and far-reaching. They assess everything. From choosing materials and components that will be used in a product to handling customer complaints.

Therefore, having IATF 16949 certification is proof that your production activities conform to the industry’s standards. It also shows that your products meet customers’ expectations. It’s a testament to your customers (particularly corporate clients) that they can rely on your production facilities to fulfill their demands.

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Having a Standardized Benchmark for Your Quality Management System

The IATF 16949 can be used as your plant’s primary quality management system benchmark. The IATF 16949 standards can serve as your main guidelines and quality control checklist when drafting the standard work for your production activities.

Be sure to consider other standards as well, such as the mandatory national standards and the voluntary ISO standards series. Thus, you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” and spend unnecessary time and effort crafting your own quality management system from scratch.

This standardization into an internationally-recognized quality standard will positively impact your production process. With the standards being translated into work instructions, your employees will always have clear guidelines to follow when doing their tasks.

This standardization will minimize the possibility of deviations on your shop floor. Moreover, it minimizes the possibility of defective products from ever reaching your customers’ hands.

Better Business Practices

In addition to the aspects directly related to the production activities, the IATF 16949 certification also assesses your plant’s general business practices. Examples of non-technical elements evaluated in the IATF 16949 certification include:

  • Your plant’s employee code of conduct.
  • Whether your plant has a whistleblowing mechanism.
  • The hygiene of your production facilities.
  • Employee motivation.
  • Customer service procedures.
  • And various other non-technical elements.

Even though they’re not directly a part of your production activities, these elements are still crucial to any manufacturing business. Advancing these more general elements will definitely improve your plant’s performance in the long run.

Try Azumuta Today!

Check out how Novy’s use of Azumuta has led to impressive improvements! 60% fewer customer complaints, 50% less time spent on creating and managing work instructions, 40% quicker problem resolution, 40% less time spent on employee training, and an overall 20% full-time employee gain due to increased work instructions efficiency.

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.

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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.

Joris Cuvelier
Quality Assurance Coordinator at Novy

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