Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department or School

College of Engineering and Technology

Committee Member

Dan Fields, Ph.D, Chair

Committee Member

John Dugger, Ph.D

Committee Member

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, Ph.D

Committee Member

Konnie Kustron, JD


Third-party quality audits have been a continued practice within the manufacturing community since release of the ISO 9000 standard in 1987. In recent times, many within the manufacturing industry are questioning the value of the audit process. (Sayle, 1995, Sayle 1999, Douglas, 2000, Gordon, 2000, Dalgleish 2006) Consequently, a need exists to better understand the impacts and perceptions of the third-party auditing process. This research used a grounded theory approach to explore the following question: How do management representatives perceive the third-party audit process?

Collection of data consisted of 25 in-depth interviews taken from management representatives within the automotive industry. Job titles of subjects included Quality Director, Quality Manager, and Quality Engineer.

Results of the research include (a) the third-party audit process is adequate to assess an organization’s quality management system against the ISO/TS16949 standard, (b) the third-party audit process fails to add tangible value for the organization, (c) the relationship between the auditor (registrar) and auditee (organization) represents a significant conflict of interest, (d) the continued audit cycle is redundant and offers diminishing value, and (e) mature organizations fail to benefit from the third-party audit process. Results substantiate the views offered by Sayle (1995 & 1999), Douglas (2000), Gordon (2001), Karapetrovic and Willborn (2002), Beckmerhagen, Berg, Karapetrovic, and Willborn (2004), and Dalgleish (2006). Furthermore, a final model is offered to depict the fundamental changes recommended to improve the audit process.

Suggestions for further research include (a) conducting a quantitative study to demonstrate the financial impact of the third-party audit process; (b) determining if an vii organization’s quality and customer performance improves over time after becoming ISO/TS certified; (c) conducting a quantitative study of management representatives within the automotive community to determine the percentage that support third-party audit process; (d) completing a case study on a successful, profitable non-ISO-certified manufacturing organization; (e) conducting a Delphi study on the Kluse Utopian Third-Party Audit Model; and (f) investigating alternatives to the audit process as a method to determine QMS compliance and effectiveness. Additionally a future researcher may seek to understand how factors such as human resources practices, organizational climate and knowledge management affect an organizations quality-related performance.