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What is a Process Approach?

A process approach means an organization manages their business as a system of processes – not departments or people or products. This works because if you have a good process, you’ll have good results. Think about making cookies – if you follow a proven recipe (series of processes), it will provide good cookies (output). The interactions (the inputs and outputs that tie the processes together) between these processes is important. If you look at the simplified diagram below, the output of one process is the input of another process, which stresses the importance of not treating each process as an individual silo (department, job, etc). Each process needs to ensure it delivers (outputs) what the next process needs (inputs).
       
IATF 16949 follows a process-oriented approach, examining over 20 processes in its scope, one of which is the entire QMS. The process approach is the core of ISO’s view of the QMS. In summary, the QMS can be thought of as a single large process that avails many inputs to generate many outputs.

What are processes, inputs and outputs?

All organizations are made up of a series of interacting processes. A process is defined as a set of activities that uses resources (people, machines, etc.) to transform inputs into outputs. The process approach examines the interaction between these processes, specifically the inputs and outputs that tie the processes together. The inputs and outputs operate as a train, the outputs of one become the input of another.

The IATF 16949 is designed to manage and improve those processes.

  1. First, you identify your key processes.
  2. Second, you define standards for those processes.
  3. Third, you decide how the process will be measured and evaluated.
  4. Fourth, you document your approach to achieving the desired quality, as determined by your measurements.
  5. Fifth, you continuously improve.

Once these processes are identified, an organization can guarantee that their processes are effective. By establishing quality objectives and auditing, an organization can see how effective the processes fulfill those objectives, and if the processes add value. Using the Process Approach while designing and developing a quality management system enables this to happen.

Process approaches can meet their customers’ (internal or external) requirements and continual improvement in:

  • The organizations’ overall function- the series of processes
  • Processes – the conversion of inputs into output
  • Results – Products and services resulting from processes
  • Quality – fulfilling requirements/objectives
  • Environment – preventing pollution and waste to improve the new bottom-line
  • Safety removing unacceptable risks for the people supporting the processes

The Process Approach approach enables the organization to meet customer requirements and deliver continual improvement.

Visualizing Process Approach

Visualizing a process approach can be extremely beneficial. It allows you to interact and map out your process. This can allow you to better organize the process and is often a helpful tool.

Flowcharts:

Flowcharts a great way to describe a process, break down the process into parts to allow for easier explanation and to help you improve your process. Flowcharts are simple diagrams that map out a process, making it easy to visualize and to communicate. They allow for you to better see what really happens in a process as well as their interaction.

Turtle Diagram:

A turtle diagram is another great tool your organization can use for a visual aid for processes. This tool helps identify inputs, outputs, criteria and other information to allow you to effectively execute and improve processes.

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