Contingency Planning

Contingency plans are required for the automotive quality system standard, TS 16949.  While the idea is great, the requirement, or at least the way it is worded, gets it wrong. 

The requirement in TS 16949 states that;

“The organization shall prepare contingency plans to satisfy customer requirements in the event of an emergency such as utility interruptions, labor shortages, key equipment failures and field returns.”

There are two problems with this requirement, or more specifically with the way they are commonly interpreted by consultants and auditors.

First, the expectation is usually that there is a specific plan to cover each of the listed situations; utility interruptions, labor shortages, key equipment failures and field returns.  I’m sure that many organizations have received non-compliance reports for not having one or the other of these addressed in their system.  The problem is that none of the situations listed requires specific contingency plans.

In the foreword of TS 16949 it states that;

“Where the term “such as” is used, any suggestions given are for guidance only.”

The list in the contingency clause begins with “such as” and therefore is only to provide examples of the types of situation that the organization should consider.

The second problem is more serious.  Because the requirements state that the organization “shall prepare plans” for specific actions, it infers that organizations can predict what specific actions they will take in the case of a specific type of emergency.

The problem, of course, is that when emergencies happen, they rarely happen the way we plan for them.  The truth is, until an emergency happens and until the severity and details about the problem can be established, no one can effectively deal with an emergency of any size.

What the standard should say is:

“The organization shall develop a business continuity planning process which includes contingency planning to satisfy customer requirements such as…..”

And, as a matter of fact, the AIAG already has a “Business Continuity Planning Toolkit” available (see AIAG Website) that lays out the process for an effective approach to contingency planning.

Pat Ambrose has 40 years of experience in Quality and Management Systems development.
He is an accomplished Auditor, Trainer and Consultant.
He is located in Ontario, Canada
Pat can be contacted at:

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One Response to “Contingency Planning”

  1. Dan Waldron says:

    Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template