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QS-9000: On the Way Out?

Automakers could drop QS-9000 in favor of an enhanced ISO 9001 and a companion document.

by Paul Sciccitano

Even as thousands of automotive suppliers are racing to meet 1997 deadlines for QS-9000 registration, there is a growing possibility that, in a few years, the automotive requirement will become just another bit of Motor City history.

Chrysler, Ford and General Motors appear eager to get out of the standards-writing business. And it's no wonder, if you consider that QS-9000 task force members may have collectively racked up as many frequent flyer miles in recent years as Henry Kissinger. Of course, such a move hinges on the Big Three's ability to influence the next iteration of the popular ISO 9001 standard, which is not yet a done deal.

Companies that are in compliance with QS-9000 also comply with ISO 9001 or ISO 9002, depending on whether they do design work. And while the Big Three incorporated ISO 9001 verbatim in QS-9000, they felt a need to supplement it with additional industry requirements due to a belief that the basic ISO 9001 standard did not go far enough in certain areas and failed to address others entirely, such as employee involvement and satisfaction

In Tel Aviv late last year, R. Dan Reid of General Motors urged ISO Technical Committee 176, charged with maintaining the ISO 9000 family of standards, to consider what he described as "generic" changes to ISO 9001, which could lead to the elimination of QS-9000 in its present form by the year 2000.

All three members of the Big Three's QS-9000 task force attended the meetings, as did representatives from some European manufacturers that had been working with the Big Three in recent months to identify shared interests with respect to common supplier quality requirements. The European manufacturers included BMW, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Renault and Volkswagen. Reid's message was on behalf of the entire lot.

Japanese manufacturers were noticeably absent from the meetings; however, representatives from other car companies say the Japanese were invited to participate and are not precluded from doing so in the future.

Included among the automakers' suggested changes to ISO 9001 are enhanced clauses on process control, delivery and quality planning/process audit; the addition of employee involvement and satisfaction; the addition of customer product approval; and the elimination of ambiguous language in the standard.

Following Reid's presentation, standards writers overwhelmingly passed a resolution pledging to address "generic quality needs" of the automotive industry in an attempt to minimize and/or harmonize sector-specific approaches like QS-9000. Depending on how successful they are, automakers could drop QS-9000 in favor of an enhanced ISO 9001 as a basic quality standard and an appropriate ISO companion document for more specific requirements. This will appeal to the international standards-writing committee because the committee would like to minimize the trend toward industry interpretations such as QS-9000.

Meanwhile, the Big Three are gearing up to release a third edition of their document, tentatively planned for release in the second quarter of this year. An attempt will be made to harmonize the next QS-9000 revision with similar industry initiatives in Italy, France and Germany, where the documents share common supplier quality requirements. Like QS-9000, the European initiatives also are based on ISO 9000.

In particular, U.S. automakers hope to achieve reciprocity with the European documents on two key elements of QS-9000: 4.6.2 Evaluation of Subcontractors and 4.17 Internal Quality Audits.

According to Reid: "The supplier still has to be registered to QS-9000. But if we are successful in our current efforts, we would say to the registrar, 'You can accept suppliers working to the other catalogue's criteria for those two elements, and vice versa.' "

Last year brought the first significant wave of QS-9000 registration activity, and 1997 promises to usher in the mother lode of automotive certificates. Chrysler and General Motors are requiring thousands of suppliers to meet third-party registration deadlines later this year. Ford, which is only requiring QS-9000 compliance, recently became the first of the Big Three automakers to achieve ISO 9000 registration at all of its North American automotive operations. Its glass division and electrical fuel handling division also plan to seek QS-9000 registration this year.

 None of the proposed changes by themselves are expected to result in additional requirements for suppliers. If anything, they should make it easier for companies to become global suppliers.

About the author

Paul Scicchitano is managing editor of Quality Systems Update and QSU's Environmental Management Report, monthly newsletters devoted to ISO 9000, QS-9000 and ISO 14000 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, 11150 Main St., Suite 403, Fairfax, VA 22030. Telephone (703) 591-9008, fax (703) 591-0971,

e-mail: isoeditor @aol.com.

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March 97 Quality Digest