Expert interview



IATF 16949 extends the sector-neutral requirements of the quality management standard ISO 9001 with supplementary requirements for the automotive industry. IATF 16949 is therefore to be seen as a supplement to ISO 9001 and can only be applied in conjunction with this standard. With certification according to IATF 16949, suppliers to the automotive industry have the opportunity to introduce a sustainable, industry-specific quality management system and to continuously improve internal processes.


Dr. Michael Zöller from Würzburger Umwelt- und Qualitätsmanagement Consulting GmbH (WUQM) and the managing director of the automotive supplier Solvaro answered questions about the challenges and opportunities of IATF 16949 certification in an in-depth interview. The QM specialist Dr. Zöller accompanies the specialist for perforated metal components Solvaro as an external auditor during the introduction of IATF 16949.

With the declaration of intent by Solvaro’s management to introduce a certified quality management system in accordance with the automotive standard IATF 16949, the company has underlined its philosophy of customer and industry orientation. With the introduction of the QMS standard, the supplier is pursuing the goal of meeting the demands of many OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers for IATF 16949 certification and at the same time putting the company’s continuous improvement process to the test.

Overview IATF

External support for the introduction of the automotive standard

Certification according to IATF 16949 is preceded by a demanding introduction process in the course of which existing processes are put to the test and optimised and new methods are introduced. For this reason, Solvaro commissioned Dr. Zöller to accompany the introduction of the standard in the company.

Dr. Zöller is with us today together with Solvaro Managing Director Gerhard Bullinger – in our interview we have the opportunity to look at the QMS introduction according to IATF from the internal and external perspective.

Gerhard Bullinger

Mr Bullinger, Solvaro has issued a declaration of intent to strive for certification according to IATF 16949. What motivated the company to do this?
The company Solvaro stands for problem solving – Solvere comes from Latin and means “to solve”. So a solution-oriented way of working is part of our DNA. And as we all know, the easiest way to solve mistakes is to avoid their occurrence. This guiding principle accompanies us in our daily work – we have already largely internalised the continuous improvement of our processes.

The customer’s demand for IATF certification is therefore a natural development for us. It is particularly important for us that every improvement results in a concrete benefit for the customer and that we do not just comply with the “manual”. Every process, every improvement must bring a result and not be carried out as an end in itself.

With the introduction of the IATF standard, we are creating a common understanding of quality along the entire value chain. The fact that we are already certified according to ISO 9001 facilitates the implementation process.

It is particularly important for us that every improvement results in a concrete benefit for the customer and that we do not just comply with the „manual“.

Gerhard Bullinger
Managing director, Solvaro
Dr. Michael Zöller

Dr Zöller, please explain this statement. In which aspects does IATF 16949 complement the ISO 9001 standard?
IATF 16949 is an industry-specific requirement of automotive manufacturers for their supply chain. The IATF is 100% based on ISO 9001:2015 and imposes much tougher requirements on the organisation compared to ISO 9001. Even relaxations that ISO 9001 introduced with its last change, e.g. the abandonment of the QM manual, are still required by the IATF. In the medium term, the IATF is to permeate the entire supply chain up to tier-n.

Independent of the more comprehensive requirement profile of IATF 16949, certification according to IATF is the market access authorisation to remain a permanent partner of the automotive industry in the automotive sector.

Mr Bullinger, what do you see as the concrete advantages of certification according to IATF 16949?
In addition to the prevention approach mentioned, it is crucial for us to establish the standard as an internal control function for quality standards and as a guideline for the continuous improvement of processes. Many customer requirements are already taken into account in the standard as standard, thus creating trust with customers and reducing the effort required on both sides for customer audits. In addition, we manage to significantly simplify the onboarding process with new clients.

You mention risk identification as an advantage of the standard, can you explain this to us with a concrete example?
A good example are components that are also formed by us, in most cases in the deep-drawing process. Identifying possible sources of error right at the beginning of the project is essential in this context. We work here with cost-intensive tools that cannot be adapted quickly and cheaply. I am thinking in particular of deep-drawing tools: if a defect is not anticipated at an early stage and is only detected after the tool has been completed or perhaps even during series production, massive costs in the six-figure range can arise. In addition, the time delay becomes great – the production of high-quality tools takes time.

Dr. Zöller, how do you go about introducing a QMS according to IATF 16949 at a supplier like Solvaro, what are the first steps?
Solvaro has had a well-functioning QM system for years. The introduction of IATF 16949 starts with a gap analysis to identify the deviations from the requirement standard. On the basis of these deviations, work packages are defined that have to be worked through step by step. The employees are the key here: without the team, the requirements cannot be permanently integrated into the process organisation. This has to be done with the help of practical workshops in which the employees are made aware of the justified need for change and a way is sought to close the gaps in requirements in everyday business life.

In your opinion, what are the biggest hurdles on the way to successful IATF certification?
The biggest hurdle is certainly the permanent implementation of the requirement in the process organisation. The organisation should not leave the quality management officer alone here. Due to the physical distance of the facility, the language barrier and the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, it is very difficult to quickly implement the requirements with the team. The QM officer cannot do it alone and it is not his job. Everyone is involved in quality management and must all pitch in. If this does not work, the project is not viable.

In addition, such conversion projects are always “on top” of the daily work. If not enough time is made available, the project can drag on. In order for quality management to continue to function, a certain amount of “overhead” is necessary. Without this, the requirements of the IATF cannot be kept alive in the organisation.

Everyone is involved in quality management and must all pitch in. If this does not work, the project is not viable.

Dr. Michael Zöller
Würzburger Umwelt- und Qualitätsmanagement Consulting GmbH (WUQM)

How long does the entire certification process take to sustainably integrate the requirements of the standard into the company?
The duration of the project always depends on what resources are made available for the project by the management. The uncertain situation during the Corona pandemic was certainly not helpful. At the moment, it is not possible to make a serious statement about when the project can be completed.


A QM project does not end with certification. Requirements are constantly changing, the state of the art is advancing, the market is developing further and therefore the organisation must constantly develop itself further, constantly improve. Quality management provides the tools to play a leading role.

Information on the expert

Dr. Michael Zöller
Würzburger Umwelt- und Qualitätsmanagement Consulting GmbH (WUQM), QM auditor
Quality management

Information on the expert

Gerhard Bullinger

Gerhard Bullinger

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