Bitzer Case Study ISO/TS 16949

Bitzer Products had a problem. Their largest customer, Caterpillar, required them to be ISO/TS 16949 certified. Despite hiring a consultant, the Chicago-based manufacturer never got certified to either TS or AS. “We were having trouble,” admitted Bill Sturgeon, the company’s vice president and owner. “SimpleQuE came highly recommended, and we needed someone who really knows this system.”

“SimpleQuE kept emphasizing that you need to be intelligent about implementing this system because you don’t want to create a lot more work than necessary,” he said. “They simplified the whole process rather than making it more difficult. Their approach throughout was that this can be—if organized properly—a rather simple process, and the more simple the better. We wish we would have hired simpleQuE earlier because it would have saved us a lot of time, effort and money… and we would have been certified sooner.”

With simpleQuE now performing regular internal audits, Bitzer Products has achieved five consecutive years with Caterpillar at zero PPM and continues to be one of Caterpillar’s strategic sources.

When Boeing—another major client—mandated AS9100 certification, simpleQuE was Bill’s first call. Within six months, Bitzer Products was AS9100 certified.

Bill has referred simpleQuE to many other companies


Caterpillar, one of Bitzer Products’ main clients, began requiring their suppliers to become ISO/TS 16949 certified. In the summer of 2005, Bitzer Products found themselves behind on their timetable to reach that certification. The company needed an expert in the certification process to come in and review their efforts up to that point, and then perform an internal audit to determine the most efficient path toward certification.

“Our motivation for calling upon simpleQuE was much more than just the internal audit,” said Bill Sturgeon, vice president and owner of Bitzer Products. “We were having trouble with the organization required to implement TS 16949 so our initial thought was, ‘Let’s get somebody in here who really knows this system.’ SimpleQuE came highly recommended so we originally called on them to help us get this organized, to have them look at what we had already put in place, and then to have them do an internal audit for us.”


“SimpleQuE read over a lot of things in advance of even coming here,” said Sturgeon. “After simpleQuE looked over things here, they made a lot of suggestions and gave us some direction.”

“In particular, we were having real trouble with FMEA’s and control plans within PPAP submittals. I took one stab at it, but it was the wrong approach. I took another stab at it and that was also the wrong approach. SimpleQuE was able to pretty much simplify those and said, ‘You’re not thinking about this on a basic level.’ SimpleQuE ended up outlining what we needed to do and it frankly was a lot simpler than we were trying to make it.”

In addition to identifying and simplifying their customer-oriented processes and management and support processes, simpleQuE also helped Bitzer recognize efforts that were going above and beyond certification requirements.

“As a company doing business for a number of years, they already had very mature systems in place,” Jim Lee said, as the lead consultant. “They just really struggled understanding what the automotive TS requirements were and how they could link them to what they were already doing. For example, they had many outstanding processes and programs for employee motivation, morale and satisfaction that far exceeded TS standards. I just helped them realize that they didn’t need to do anything new in order to meet certification requirements. They just needed to know how to take credit for things they were already doing.”

“I was able to give Bitzer a very simple template,” he said, “that helped them create a lab scope that met the requirements with no problem. Another issue they had was Caterpillar dictated suppliers. The TS standard requires these suppliers to be certified to ISO or TS and that PPAP requirements flow down to suppliers. To handle that problem, simpleQuE provided them an option to secure waivers from Caterpillar to use those suppliers without any further
certification requirements and without supplier PPAP’s.” Caterpillar, as their only automotive customer provided the written waiver.


Bitzer Products passed their initial audit with the registrar but had a few findings. All but one had been previously identified by simpleQuE as an internal audit finding or opportunity.

“I worked with them after their audit to assure appropriate root cause analysis and systemic corrective action so they could get the findings closed and become certified,” said Lee. “They addressed almost all of the gaps I identified, but the ones they didn’t were the identical gaps the registrar found. Although they may not have had the resources to get it all done in time for the audit, they were able to close their findings in the time frame allowed.”

On November 17, 2005, Bitzer Products received certification to ISO/TS 16949 in the company’s very first attempt at third-party certification.

“Right from the start, we could see that simpleQuE was extremely professional and obviously had done this before, which was comforting because we needed that,” Sturgeon said. “We needed an expert, which simpleQuE obviously is. As things progressed, we realized simpleQuE is really knowledgeable and we really liked their approach.”

“SimpleQuE kept emphasizing that you need to be intelligent about implementing this system because you don’t want to create a lot more work. They simplified the whole process rather than making it more difficult. SimpleQuE’s approach throughout was that this can be – if organized properly – a rather simple process and the more simple, the better.”

“I’ve already referred simpleQuE to at least four or five other companies as a consultant. We simply told them, ‘If you’re trying to implement TS 16949, we would highly recommend simpleQuE’s services.’ We wish we would have done it months before because it would have saved us a lot of time, effort and money but that is just hindsight now. I probably
should have had simpleQuE in here earlier because we would have been certified earlier. But much more importantly, we would have done less work and, in particular, a lot less re-work.”

Shortly after TS certification, simpleQuE was hired to help get Bitzer Products AS9100 certified for Boeing, which was completed in 6 months. SimpleQue continues to be used by Bitzer Products to perform their internal audits to assure ongoing compliance and maintenance of their ISO/TS 16949 and AS9100 certifications.

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