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What Is ISO 26262?

If you work in the automotive industry, you should already be very familiar with ISO 26262, the international standard for the safety of electrical and/or electronic (E/E) systems in series production automobiles. If not, you are likely asking yourself, what is ISO 26262? As a basic introduction, this blog post gives an overview of what the standard covers and how this standard affects the automotive supply chain.What Is ISO 26262?

What Is ISO 26262?

Based on the general functional safety standard IEC 61508, ISO 26262 outlines a unifying, industry-specific standard for the functional safety of E/E systems in passenger vehicles. Since this standard is industry-specific to automotives, you may not be very familiar with its modus operandi if you work in the medical device or oil and natural gas industry, for instance. Originally published as a draft international standard in the summer of 2009, ISO 26262 has taken hold as one of the most important standards for ensuring that automotive suppliers conform to a standardized, risk-based approach to the safety of E/E components and systems.

What Is the Scope of ISO 26262?

This standard provides a framework for assessing the potential hazards caused by E/E malfunctions and their likely effects on passenger safety. As such, it does not cover E/E components and systems in special-purpose vehicles or larger vehicles in excess of 3,500 kg. The creators of the standard intended it to address the hazards caused by malfunctioning safety-related E/E systems and provide a means to evaluate risk with “automotive safety-integrity levels” and ensure an acceptable level of risk.

How Is ISO 26262 Structured?

In total, ISO 26262 contains 10 volumes of information to give original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers a means to focus tightly on the potential hazards of E/E systems. With respect to the automotive safety life cycle, it entails instructions for:

  • Management
  • Development
  • Production
  • Operation
  • Service
  • Decommission

Throughout the standard, automotive safety-integrity levels play a key role. Other industries have similar standards governing their supply chains, but this standard deals only with the safety of E/E in series production automobiles.

Why Is ISO 26262 Necessary?

You cannot work in quality management without recognizing how your supply chain impacts the safety of the products your company manufactures. You need only to look at the latest international headlines on automobile malfunctions, high-profile recalls, and the tragic effects on passenger safety. Major automotive manufacturers are not immune to these hazards, and from one perspective, the depth and breadth of their supply chains create more risk exposure.

ISO 26262 gives OEMs a means to vet their supply chain’s ability to ensure that E/E safety hazards do not come to light later in the production process. It assesses risk as early as possible to reduce the risk of liability for automotive manufacturers. In one manner of speaking, the standard allows manufacturers to identify who has responsibility to address a particular failure. Is the supplier at fault, or is the manufacturer at fault? It outlines a framework to eliminate finger pointing between suppliers and manufacturers when incidents occur.

What Does ISO 26262 Mean for Automotive Suppliers?

E/E system components are absolutely critical in this standard. As such, it should come as no surprise that automotive suppliers have become very familiar with this standard. If your supply chain does not conform to it, you are falling behind leaders in the industry that have given this standard its proper place. Suppliers are affected by ISO 26262 in few ways, which relate to the safety of E/E systems and the potential effects on passengers

Primarily, it gives suppliers at every tier a way to ensure that the safety of their systems is a top priority. ISO 26262 does not merely add another acronym to the “alphabet soup” of quality management terminology. It serves to ensure functional safety, which is beneficial to all parties involved, financially and morally. Both consumers and manufacturers benefit from this standard because E/E systems have been the root cause of several tragic incidents over the last few years.

Second, it provides business benefits to suppliers. By implementing a standard-compliant system, suppliers can improve their qualifications to work with major OEMs across the globe. In fact, some major OEMs will not even work with suppliers that do not meet the standards set. Today, ISO 26262 has become business-critical for suppliers in the automotive industry.

Without doubt, the safety challenges facing the automotive industry are numerous, to say the least. ISO 26262 gives OEMs and suppliers a unified framework for assessing how failures in E/E systems can affect passenger safety and provide a way to mitigate these risks systematically.

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