IATF 16949:2016 Clause Special characteristics

According to Clause 3.1. Terms and Definition, Special characteristics are product characteristics or manufacturing process parameters that can affect safety or compliance with regulations, fit, function, performance. Requirements, or subsequent processing of product. Special Characteristics is a blanket term. Practitioners may break it further to suit their purpose. All sorts of classification are available: by nature (safety and quality), by criticality (A, B, C, D etc). They are all treated as Special Characteristics by IATF. External Special Characteristics are decided by customer. Internally Special Characteristics are decided by own core team.Special Characteristics and their appropriate management in the automotive industry are a key aspect of the quality, safety, and performance ensuring of the produced vehicles. Their implementation is carried out in specific steps assigned to the launch plan milestones. They are usually divided into two categories: Significant Characteristics and Critical Characteristics .

Significant Characteristics: These are characteristics that are important to the customer or final client, but do not have a direct impact on the safety, performance or functionality of the product. They can still affect customer satisfaction. In the production process, they should be monitored and controlled to ensure that they meet the relevant requirements.

Critical Characteristics:These are special characteristics that are crucial for the safety, performance, or functionality of the product. They have a direct impact on quality, reliability, safety and the lack of these features can result in serious consequences. Critical characteristics require special attention and control to ensure their consistency and compliance with necessary requirements and specifications. They are used to define appropriate priorities

You must identify and include all special characteristics using the customer’s or your own equivalent symbol or notation in your process control documents such as – control plan; FMEA’s drawings; operator instructions and other documents used to make or verify product. Note that special characteristics can also include process parameters such as temperature, timing, concentrations, etc. Not all products or processes necessarily have special characteristics. You may define them as appropriate and include them in the documents mentioned above. Guidance in determining special characteristics, comes from customer requirements; regulatory requirements and analysis of previous concerns

Clause   Special characteristics

The organization must use a multidisciplinary approach to establish, document, and implement its process to identify special characteristics, including those determined by the customer and the risk analysis performed by the organization. This includes documentation of all special characteristics in the product and/or manufacturing documents the drawings as required, risk analysis such as FMEA, control plans, and standardised work/operator instructions, special characteristics are identified with specific markings and are documented in the manufacturing documents which show the creation of, and controls required, for these special characteristics. Development of control and monitoring strategies for special characteristics of products and products and production processes. customer-specified approvals, when required. Compliance with customer-specified definitions and symbols or the organization’s equivalent symbols or notations, as defined in a symbol conversion table. The symbol conversion table shall be submitted to the customer, if required.

The first step in special characteristics managing is linked with their identification. There are several approaches that can be applied here, including:

  • product design
  • prototyping
  • testing

The identification process should be comprehensive. The starting point is the collaboration of the engineering department with the customer (for co-design projects). It should also take into account all the relevant features and aspects of the given project, as well as the analysis of customer needs and expectations.After the identification process is completed, it’s time for documentation. It should contain a detailed description of the properties, functions that must be fulfilled, and any design deviations or related requirements.Verification and validationare carried out to ensure that the defined characteristics meet the appropriate requirements and specifications in the engineering and project documentation. Here, we can choose between testing, simulation, or analysis. Monitoring is is carried out through regular tests and checks. Monitoring is usually carried out during project meetings. They can be managed internally within the organization or directly by the customer. 

The Design Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (DFMEA) is one of many activities conducted in the early project launch phase. Special Characteristics play a crucial role in DFMEA because they can affect the potential failure and the severity (also named as gravity) of its consequences.For example, if a component’s special characteristic is its ability to withstand high temperatures, it is necessary to carefully evaluate its potential failure modes related to temperature and assess their consequences.An important step is to assign an appropriate symbol for each type of failure mode. These symbols should also be included in the PFMEA documentation and Control Plan prepared by the facility.

The standard requires the supplier to apply the appropriate methods to identify special characteristics, to include these characteristics in the FMEA, control plans, and standardised work/operator instructions, and to comply with any specific definitions and symbols the customer may use. During the planning phase, a preliminary list of special product characteristics should be produced. Special characteristics are those characteristics of products and processes designated by the customer and/or selected by the supplier through knowledge of the product and the process. They are special because they can affect the safe functioning of the vehicle and compliance with government regulations, such as flammability, occupant protection, steering control, braking, emissions, noise, EMC, etc. During the product design and development phase, the list should be refined and reviewed, and consensus reached. The output should be documented in the prototype control plan. During process design and development, the list should be converted into a matrix that displays the relationship between the process parameters and the manufacturing stations and this documented in the production control plan. The standard also requires documents such as FMEA, control plans, etc. to be marked with the customer’s specific symbols to indicate those process steps that affect special characteristics. As the characteristics in question will be specified within documents, the required symbols should be applied where the characteristic is mentioned rather than on the face of the document. For drawings, the symbol should be applied close to the appropriate dimension or item. Alternatively, where a document specifies processes that affect a special characteristic, the appropriate symbol should be denoted against the particular stage in the process that affects that characteristic. The symbols therefore need to be applied during document preparation and not to copies of the document. The instructions to apply these symbols should be included within the procedures that govern the preparation of the documents concerned.

Identifying special characteristics in the automotive industry involves understanding the unique features and requirements specific to this sector. Here are some steps to help you identify special characteristics in the automotive industry:

  1. Research and study: Conduct thorough research on the automotive industry, including its history, key players, technological advancements, and market trends. This will provide you with a broad understanding of the industry and its special characteristics.
  2. Industry standards and regulations: Familiarize yourself with the industry standards and regulations that govern the automotive sector. These may include safety standards, emissions regulations, quality management systems, and other relevant guidelines. Understanding these requirements will help you identify the special characteristics that automotive companies must adhere to.
  3. Automotive technology: Explore the latest technologies and innovations in the automotive industry. This could include electric and autonomous vehicles, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), connected cars, and other emerging technologies. These technological advancements are significant special characteristics of the automotive industry.
  4. Supply chain and manufacturing processes: Study the automotive supply chain and manufacturing processes. The automotive industry relies on a complex network of suppliers, manufacturers, and assembly plants. Understanding the intricacies of this supply chain and the specific manufacturing processes involved will help you identify unique characteristics related to production, logistics, and quality management.
  5. Product features and requirements: Analyze the characteristics and requirements of automotive products. Vehicles have specific features, such as engine performance, safety systems, fuel efficiency, and durability, which are critical to the automotive industry. Understanding these product features and requirements will provide insights into the special characteristics that differentiate the automotive sector.
  6. Market demands and customer expectations: Consider the market demands and customer expectations in the automotive industry. This could include factors such as design aesthetics, comfort features, user experience, and environmental sustainability. Identifying the evolving needs and expectations of customers in the automotive industry will help you recognize special characteristics that drive market competitiveness.
  7. Industry collaborations and partnerships: Look into the collaborations and partnerships within the automotive industry. Automakers often form alliances with technology companies, suppliers, and research institutions to develop cutting-edge solutions. These collaborations contribute to the unique characteristics and advancements within the industry.
  8. Continuous learning and staying updated: The automotive industry is constantly evolving. Stay updated with industry news, attend conferences and trade shows, and connect with professionals in the field. This ongoing learning process will help you stay abreast of new technologies, trends, and special characteristics that emerge in the automotive industry.

By following these steps and immersing yourself in the automotive industry, you can identify the special characteristics that define this sector and contribute to its uniqueness and success.

Multidisciplinary approach to establish, document, and implement its process to identify special characteristics

Establishing, documenting, and implementing a multidisciplinary approach to identify special characteristics in the automotive industry involves the collaboration of various stakeholders and departments within an organization. Here’s a suggested approach:

  1. Form a cross-functional team: Create a multidisciplinary team comprising representatives from different departments such as engineering, design, manufacturing, quality assurance, research and development, supply chain, and customer service. This team will provide diverse perspectives and expertise.
  2. Define the objective: Clearly articulate the objective of identifying special characteristics. Determine the purpose, scope, and desired outcomes of the process. For example, it could be to identify unique features that differentiate the organization’s products in the market.
  3. Conduct a thorough review: Review relevant documentation, industry standards, regulations, and customer requirements to understand the context in which special characteristics are identified. Consider standards such as ISO 9001, IATF 16949, safety regulations, and customer-specific requirements.
  4. Brainstorm and collaborate: Facilitate brainstorming sessions and workshops involving the multidisciplinary team. Encourage open discussion to generate ideas and insights on potential special characteristics within the organization’s products, technologies, processes, and customer expectations.
  5. Analyze market trends and customer feedback: Stay updated on the latest market trends and gather feedback from customers. Analyze customer preferences, demands, and expectations to identify special characteristics that align with market needs and provide a competitive advantage.
  6. Assess internal capabilities: Evaluate the organization’s internal capabilities, including technical expertise, manufacturing processes, research and development capabilities, and supply chain partnerships. Identify areas of strength and potential unique features that can be considered as special characteristics.
  7. Prioritize and validate: Review and prioritize the identified special characteristics based on factors such as market demand, technical feasibility, strategic fit, and alignment with organizational goals. Validate the identified characteristics through feasibility studies, testing, and customer surveys, if applicable.
  8. Document the process: Document the entire process of identifying special characteristics, including the inputs, activities, outputs, and responsibilities of each team member. Create clear guidelines, templates, and documentation standards to ensure consistency and traceability.
  9. Implement and communicate: Implement the identified special characteristics into the organization’s processes, product development, manufacturing, quality control, and marketing strategies. Communicate the special characteristics internally to ensure alignment and understanding across departments.
  10. Monitor and review: Establish a mechanism to monitor the effectiveness of the identified special characteristics over time. Regularly review and update the list of special characteristics based on market dynamics, technological advancements, and customer feedback.

By adopting a multidisciplinary approach and involving various stakeholders, organizations can effectively identify, document, and implement special characteristics that differentiate their products in the automotive industry. Collaboration and ongoing evaluation are key to ensuring the relevance and competitiveness of the identified special characteristics.

Documentation of all special characteristics in the drawings , risk analysis such as FMEA, control plans, and standard work/operator instructions

To document all special characteristics in the drawings, risk analysis (such as Failure Mode and Effects Analysis – FMEA), control plans, and standard work/operator instructions, here are the steps you can follow:

  1. Identify special characteristics: Review the list of special characteristics identified through the multidisciplinary approach described earlier. Ensure that all relevant special characteristics are accounted for in the documentation process.
  2. Drawings: If special characteristics are related to specific features or dimensions of a product, ensure that they are clearly indicated on the engineering drawings. Use appropriate symbols or annotations to highlight these characteristics. This will help in manufacturing, inspection, and quality control processes.
  3. Risk analysis (FMEA): Perform a detailed Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) for the identified special characteristics. This analysis helps identify potential failure modes, their effects, and causes, as well as the severity, occurrence, and detection ratings. Document the FMEA findings, including the identified risks, risk levels, and proposed mitigation actions for each special characteristic.
  4. Control plans: Develop control plans specifically addressing the special characteristics. Control plans outline the necessary actions, inspections, tests, and measurements required to ensure that the special characteristics meet the defined requirements. Document the control plan for each special characteristic, including the inspection methods, measurement techniques, sampling plans, and acceptance criteria.
  5. Standard work/operator instructions: Prepare standard work or operator instructions that clearly define the steps and procedures to be followed during the manufacturing or assembly process for the special characteristics. This documentation should include specific instructions, visual aids, inspection points, and any additional requirements to ensure the proper handling, measurement, and control of the special characteristics.
  6. Integration and traceability: Ensure that the documentation of special characteristics is integrated into the overall quality management system. Establish traceability between the drawings, risk analysis (FMEA), control plans, and standard work/operator instructions. This will facilitate easy reference and alignment throughout the organization.
  7. Document control: Implement an effective document control system to manage and maintain the documentation related to special characteristics. This includes version control, revision history, distribution, and access control to ensure that the most up-to-date information is available to relevant personnel.
  8. Training and communication: Conduct training sessions to educate employees on the documentation related to special characteristics. Ensure that employees are aware of the importance of following the documented procedures and instructions. Facilitate communication channels for employees to ask questions and provide feedback regarding the documentation.
  9. Regular review and update: Periodically review and update the documentation of special characteristics to reflect any changes or improvements. As new special characteristics are identified or existing ones are modified, ensure that the documentation is revised accordingly.

By following these steps, organizations can effectively document all special characteristics in the drawings, risk analysis (FMEA), control plans, and standard work/operator instructions. This documentation provides a clear reference for manufacturing, quality control, and continuous improvement activities, ensuring that the special characteristics are properly addressed and controlled throughout the automotive production process.

Development of control and monitoring strategies for special characteristics of products and production processes

he development of control and monitoring strategies for special characteristics of products and production processes involves implementing measures to ensure the consistent quality and adherence to specific requirements. Here are the steps to establish control and monitoring strategies:

  1. Identify critical special characteristics: Determine which special characteristics are critical to the performance, safety, or customer satisfaction of the product. These are the characteristics that require special attention and control.
  2. Define acceptance criteria: Establish clear acceptance criteria for each special characteristic. These criteria should specify the allowable tolerances, limits, or specifications that must be met for the special characteristics. This can be based on customer requirements, industry standards, or internal specifications.
  3. Develop measurement and testing methods: Determine the appropriate measurement and testing methods for evaluating the special characteristics. This may include physical measurements, functional testing, visual inspections, or non-destructive testing techniques. Ensure that the selected methods are capable of accurately and reliably assessing the special characteristics.
  4. Control plan implementation: Create a control plan specifically for the special characteristics. The control plan outlines the steps and processes required to control and monitor the special characteristics throughout production. It includes details such as inspection points, measurement techniques, frequency of inspections, and documentation requirements.
  5. Implement process controls: Integrate process controls into the production processes to ensure the consistent achievement of the special characteristics. This may involve implementing error-proofing mechanisms, setting up real-time monitoring systems, or utilizing automation to minimize variation and defects related to the special characteristics.
  6. Statistical process control (SPC): Consider implementing statistical process control techniques to monitor the special characteristics during production. SPC involves collecting and analyzing data to detect and address any variations or trends that may affect the special characteristics. Control charts, capability indices, and trend analysis can be used to monitor and control the special characteristics’ performance.
  7. Training and competency development: Provide adequate training to employees involved in monitoring and controlling the special characteristics. Ensure they understand the importance of the characteristics, know how to perform measurements and inspections correctly, and are familiar with the control plan and related procedures.
  8. Document control and traceability: Establish a robust document control system to manage the control plan, measurement procedures, inspection records, and other related documents. Maintain traceability between the special characteristics, measurement results, and actions taken to address any deviations or non-conformances.
  9. Auditing and continuous improvement: Regularly conduct internal audits to verify the effectiveness of the control and monitoring strategies for the special characteristics. Use the audit findings to identify areas for improvement and implement corrective actions to enhance the control and monitoring processes continually.
  10. Supplier management: If the special characteristics involve components or materials from suppliers, ensure proper supplier management. Collaborate closely with suppliers to establish mutual understanding and alignment regarding the control and monitoring of the special characteristics. Set clear requirements, conduct regular supplier evaluations, and address any non-conformances promptly.

By following these steps, organizations can develop robust control and monitoring strategies for the special characteristics of their products and production processes. These strategies help ensure consistent quality, meet customer expectations, and minimize the risks associated with the special characteristics.

Compliance with customer-specified definitions

Compliance with customer-specified definitions, symbols, or the organization’s equivalent symbols or notations is essential to ensure clear communication and understanding of special characteristics. Here’s how you can ensure compliance and provide a symbol conversion table if required:

  1. Understand customer requirements: Gain a thorough understanding of the customer’s specified definitions, symbols, or notations related to special characteristics. Review any provided documentation or specifications that outline these requirements.
  2. Evaluate organizational symbols or notations: Assess the symbols or notations used within your organization to represent special characteristics. Determine if they align with the customer’s requirements or if any conversion is necessary to ensure compatibility and understanding.
  3. Develop a symbol conversion table: Create a symbol conversion table that maps the customer’s specified symbols or notations to the organization’s equivalent symbols or notations. The table should provide a clear reference for employees to interpret and use the symbols correctly.
  4. Document the symbol conversion table: Document the symbol conversion table in a formal document or specification. Include the customer’s specified symbols or notations, the corresponding organization’s symbols or notations, and any additional explanations or clarifications necessary for proper interpretation.
  5. Verify customer requirements for submission: Review the customer’s requirements or specifications to determine if the submission of the symbol conversion table is necessary. Some customers may explicitly request this table to ensure consistency and clarity in communication.
  6. Share the symbol conversion table with the customer: If required by the customer, submit the symbol conversion table for their review and approval. Clearly communicate the purpose and content of the table, highlighting how it ensures compliance with their specified definitions and symbols.
  7. Address customer feedback or revisions: If the customer provides feedback or requests modifications to the symbol conversion table, carefully review and address their concerns. Engage in a dialogue with the customer to reach a mutually agreed-upon solution that aligns with their requirements.
  8. Incorporate approved changes: Update the symbol conversion table based on the customer’s feedback or revisions. Ensure that all relevant stakeholders within the organization have access to the latest version of the table to ensure consistency in interpreting and using symbols or notations for special characteristics.
  9. Maintain traceability: Maintain proper documentation and traceability of the symbol conversion table, including version control, revision history, and distribution. This ensures that the approved table is readily accessible and communicated to all relevant parties.
  10. Continuous communication and alignment: Maintain an ongoing communication channel with the customer to address any changes or updates related to symbols or notations for special characteristics. Proactively align with the customer’s requirements and collaborate to resolve any potential issues or challenges that may arise.

By following these steps, organizations can ensure compliance with customer-specified definitions, symbols, or the organization’s equivalent symbols or notations for special characteristics. Providing a symbol conversion table, if required, facilitates effective communication and eliminates any ambiguity or misunderstanding related to the representation of these critical features.

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