Are your QM processes Ready for ISO 26262?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

#Functional Safety

ISO 26262 compliance is rapidly becoming more important to suppliers of firmware for automotive systems. But these suppliers must also conform with other standards (such as ASPICE, ISO-TS 16949, CMMI, etc.) and with the internal processes implemented by each company. The question of how ISO 26262 fits with the other processes is a topic of great discussion within the functional safety community. This can be a concern both to those who establish the ISO 26262 standards, and to those who use them in product development. To emphasize this, both ISO 26262-5:2011(E) and ISO 26262-6:2011(E) in their introductory sections state that

“Safety issues are intertwined with common function-oriented and quality-oriented development activities and work products. ISO 26262 addresses the safety-related aspects of development activities and work products.”

Notice that the above information addresses the safety related aspects of product design, but does not address any particular quality management system. So, what happens when an automotive supplier must provide objective evidence to their customer showing how their Quality Management standards support the functional safety goals of ISO 26262?  For example, consider a supplier that has been independently assessed as meeting ASPICE Level 1 certification (which does not cover the full deployment of QM processes).  What can such a supplier do to show that their projects nevertheless implement suitable quality management steps required under ISO 26262?  Is any single quality management standard best suited to ISO 26262?

ISO 26262 does not state a preference for any overall quality management/process standard. There is an understandable reason for this.  The committee that wrote the ISO 26262 standard was concerned with capturing the details of functional safety itself.  As a result, the members agreed to defer supplemental authority to other standards whenever those standards exist.  This allows suppliers to add support for ISO 26262 functional safety while retaining existing processes that already meet the requirements of ISO 26262.  This approach minimizes the amount of re-work and process modification required to add support for functional safety management.

To make matters a bit more confusing when ASPICE or CMMI are used, there may also be a debate as to the appropriate capability level required, but again there is no definitive answer. So, what immediate steps can a supplier take when its organization is evaluated at a maturity level less than the target requested by the OEM customer?  It may take a year or more of concerted effort following a given assessment to implement the process changes needed.  So immediate efforts should be targeted towards increasing the focus on quality and how it is managed throughout the software development cycle.

Managing implies that quality is planned and monitored from the beginning of the project, paying as much attention to following and improving the product development process as is paid to financial and scheduling activities. This implies planning how many defects will be found in each work product, as well as where they will be detected and removed.  If the planned quality of a work product is not met, then appropriate actions are taken to ensure that it does.  This applies starting at the quality of the requirements, through the architecture, detailed designs, code, code reviews, and unit, integration and software testing.

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Do you need to improve your automotive product development, to increase efficiency, or to comply with ASPICE and Functional Safety? You are at the right place.

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