IATF 16949:2016 Clause   Customer-designated 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.

Customer-designated special characteristics refer to specific features, attributes, or characteristics of a product or service that are deemed critical or important by the customer. These characteristics have a direct impact on the product’s performance, function, safety, or compliance with customer requirements. They are identified and specified by the customer as key factors that need to be closely monitored and controlled during the manufacturing or service delivery process. Customer-designated special characteristics are typically communicated to the supplier or manufacturer to ensure their proper implementation and adherence.Examples of customer-designated special characteristics can vary depending on the industry and specific customer requirements. Here are a few examples:

  1. Dimensional Specifications: Specific dimensions, tolerances, or geometric features that are critical for proper fit, assembly, or functionality of the product.
  2. Performance Parameters: Performance characteristics such as speed, capacity, accuracy, or output that directly impact the product’s functionality or effectiveness.
  3. Safety Requirements: Safety-related features or attributes that must be carefully controlled and ensured for the safe operation or use of the product. This may include safety interlocks, fail-safe mechanisms, or specific safety certifications.
  4. Material Properties: Specific material properties such as hardness, strength, conductivity, or resistance to corrosion that are essential for meeting the product’s intended performance or environmental conditions.
  5. Surface Finish or Coating: Certain surface finishes, coatings, or treatments that are critical for aesthetics, corrosion resistance, durability, or other specific requirements.
  6. Electrical or Electronic Specifications: Electrical or electronic characteristics such as voltage range, power consumption, signal integrity, or electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) that need to be closely controlled for proper functioning or compatibility with other systems.
  7. Environmental Standards: Characteristics related to environmental regulations, such as compliance with emissions standards, recyclability, or use of environmentally friendly materials.

It’s important for suppliers or manufacturers to clearly understand and document these customer-designated special characteristics to ensure that they are properly addressed and met during the manufacturing or service delivery process. Effective communication, documentation, and quality control measures are essential to achieve customer satisfaction and compliance with the specified special characteristics.

Clause   Customer-designated special characteristics

The organization is required to conform to customer requirements for designation, approval documentation, and control of special characteristics.

The standard requires the supplier to comply with all customer requirements for designation, documentation, and control of special characteristics and to supply documentation showing compliance with these requirements. This clause requires the designation of special characteristics that should have been accomplished during product realization . As for the documentation of special characteristics, the symbols should have been applied both when establishing the process controls and preparing the control plan and associated documentation during the planning phase. As is stated in the standard, all characteristics are important and need to be controlled. However, some need special attention as excessive variation may affect product safety, compliance with government regulations, fit, form, function, appearance, or the quality of subsequent operations. Designating such characteristics with special symbols alerts planners and operators to take particular care. It also alerts those responsible for dispositioning nonconforming product to exercise due care when reaching their decisions. The control plans should make provision for any specific controls required by the customer and these must be implemented. Evidence is required to show that all the controls specified in the control plan have been implemented and a way of doing this is to make provision for recording verification of conformity against the relevant requirement in the control plan. Customer requirements for the designation, approval documentation, and control of special characteristics may vary depending on the industry, product/service, and specific customer needs. However, here are some common customer requirements to consider:

  1. Clear Definition: Customers expect a clear definition of the special characteristics that are important to them. This includes specifying the features, attributes, or characteristics that they consider critical to the product’s performance, safety, or compliance.
  2. Designation Process: Customers may require a formal process for designating special characteristics. This may involve specific forms, templates, or procedures to document and communicate the special characteristics to the supplier or manufacturer.
  3. Approval Documentation: Customers may require the submission of approval documentation related to the special characteristics. This can include detailed specifications, technical drawings, test reports, or other documentation that demonstrates how the special characteristics will be achieved and controlled.
  4. Control Plan: Customers may expect the supplier or manufacturer to develop a control plan specifically for the special characteristics. The control plan outlines the specific steps, methods, and controls that will be implemented to ensure the special characteristics are consistently achieved within the specified limits.
  5. Inspection and Testing Requirements: Customers may have specific requirements for inspection and testing related to the special characteristics. This can include the use of specialized equipment, specific measurement techniques, or adherence to industry standards for verification and validation.
  6. Reporting and Documentation: Customers may require regular reporting and documentation related to the control of special characteristics. This can include the submission of inspection reports, measurement data, and any non-conformities or corrective actions taken to maintain compliance.
  7. Change Management: Customers may require a change management process for any modifications or updates to the special characteristics. This ensures that any changes are communicated, reviewed, and approved by the customer to maintain alignment with their requirements.
  8. Traceability: Customers may require traceability of the special characteristics throughout the production or service delivery process. This includes the ability to track and identify the specific components, materials, or processes associated with the special characteristics for quality control and accountability purposes.
  9. Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration between the customer and the supplier or manufacturer is crucial. Customers may expect open and transparent communication regarding any issues, changes, or updates related to the special characteristics, as well as prompt responses to inquiries or concerns.

It is important for organizations to engage in close collaboration with their customers to fully understand and meet their specific requirements for the designation, approval documentation, and control of special characteristics. This collaboration ensures a shared understanding and enables the organization to deliver products or services that align with customer expectations.

Step to conform to Customer requirements

To conform to customer requirements for the designation, approval documentation, and control of special characteristics, organizations can follow these steps:

  1. Understand Customer Requirements: Gain a clear understanding of the customer’s expectations and requirements regarding special characteristics. Review the specifications, technical drawings, contract agreements, and any other relevant documentation provided by the customer.
  2. Identify Special Characteristics: Identify the specific features, attributes, or characteristics of the product or service that the customer has designated as special characteristics. These characteristics should be critical to the product’s performance, safety, or compliance.
  3. Document Special Characteristics: Document the identified special characteristics in a formal manner. This includes clearly defining each characteristic, its intended purpose, required measurements, tolerances, and any other pertinent details. Ensure that the documentation is accurate, complete, and easily accessible for reference.
  4. Seek Customer Approval: Present the documented special characteristics to the customer for their review and approval. Engage in open communication and clarification if needed to address any questions or concerns they may have. Obtain formal approval from the customer, which can be in the form of signed documents, electronic approvals, or any other agreed-upon method.
  5. Establish Control Measures: Develop control measures to ensure the effective management and control of the approved special characteristics. This may involve implementing specific inspection and testing procedures, utilizing specialized tools or equipment, or defining processes for monitoring and verification.
  6. Training and Competence: Ensure that employees involved in the manufacturing or service delivery process are trained and competent in understanding and handling the special characteristics. Provide training on the relevant standards, procedures, and techniques required to effectively control and meet the customer’s requirements.
  7. Process Control: Implement robust process control measures to ensure that the special characteristics are consistently achieved and maintained within the specified limits. This includes monitoring critical process parameters, conducting regular inspections and audits, and establishing corrective actions when deviations occur.
  8. Documentation and Traceability: Maintain comprehensive documentation and traceability records related to the special characteristics. This includes records of inspections, measurements, tests, and any adjustments or corrections made to maintain compliance. Ensure that all records are properly identified, organized, and stored for easy retrieval and audit purposes.
  9. Communication and Collaboration: Foster effective communication and collaboration with the customer throughout the process. Keep them informed of any changes, updates, or deviations related to the special characteristics. Seek their input and feedback to ensure continuous improvement and alignment with their evolving requirements.
  10. Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and evaluate the effectiveness of the control measures in place for the special characteristics. Seek opportunities for improvement in terms of efficiency, accuracy, and compliance. Proactively address any non-conformities and implement corrective actions to prevent recurrence.

By following these steps, organizations can conform to customer requirements for the designation, approval documentation, and control of special characteristics. Effective communication, thorough documentation, and rigorous process control are key to meeting customer expectations and delivering high-quality products or services.

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