Hyundai and Kia had to recall 1.4 million cars globally in April 2017 because engines were prone to stalling, increasing the likelihood of a fatal crash. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that your entire supply chain is ISO/TS 16949 compliant. Chris Johnson, managing director of automotive bearing specialist SMB Bearings, says quality assurance is essential, even for the smallest automotive components.

ISO/TS 16949 defines the quality management systems for automotive manufacturing. In 2016, the standard began transitioning to the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) standard, IATF 16949:2016. The technical specification strives for continuous quality improvement in automotive supply chains and aims to prevent defects and waste.

The standard impacts each part of the car, including every nut, bolt, and bearing.

One vehicle could require several dozen separate bearings, each required for a different application. So, different suppliers are sometimes required for similar parts, and all should be compliant.

Some may argue that for smaller components, high quality management standards are not as necessary as they are for the engine or brake pads. However, in a quality-driven industry, reducing the likelihood of faults can have significant financial and reputational effects. For example, using quality electric motor bearings for wing mirrors can guarantee smooth mirror rotation, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing the likelihood of complaints.

Bearings for slow moving parts and controls, such as steering column bearings, can also negatively impact the customer experience if they are not properly specified. Due to the parts’ speed, the lubricant is often a dampening grease which reduces rotation vibration. Any temporary failure in the bearing manufacturing process not picked up by quality control could result in product recalls.

Ensuring quality throughout the supply chain may seem like a colossal task, but identifying problems with suppliers, particularly in the later manufacturing phase, can be costly. Automotive manufacturing executives estimate that production-line downtime costs around $22,000 per minute — that’s $1.3 million per hour.


For example, Japanese manufacturer of miniature, small, and specialty bearings EZO offers automotive bearings with assured ISO TS/16949 approval. EZO ensures the bearings meet ISO standards, and the customer is granted third-party reassurance.

Choosing the wrong bearing supplier may not cause a 1.4 million car recall, but in a quality-driven industry, it makes sense to use quality suppliers, even for small components.

SMB Bearings
IMTS 2018 Booth #134725