ISO 16232 / VDA 19 – What are they and why do I need to know about them?

In terms of engineering component quality, one of the areas that affect both the finished part and the interaction of that part with other components is cleanliness. The ISO 16232 and VDA19 standards aim to set a level for people to work to that helps to achieve a level playing field in terms of cleanliness.

The basics;

ISO is an acronym for the International Organisation for Standardisation. Their aim is to help manufacturers achieve a level of quality, a standard of safety and a level of efficiency for creating products across the world. They also set a baseline standard that manufacturing systems need to achieve before they can become an accredited company. More details can be found HERE:

VDA is a German safety system standard. (Verband der Automobilindustrie). It is specific to the automobile industry and was created to increase workplace safety. As the organisation has grown, since its inception in 1970, the remit has changed considerably and now includes quality management in its portfolio. Their standards have become recognised across the world and their influence helps to shape the direction of the motor industry. More details can be found HERE:

ISO 16232 Road Vehicles — Cleanliness of components and systems

ISO 16232 was originally released in 2007 and was specific to road-going vehicle manufacturing. It has undergone a number of changes since its first draft, but in essence, it describes the principles of extracting contaminants and particles from a component by some form of pressure rinsing. The aims of ISO 16232 are to;

  1. Further, improve the comparability of cleanliness inspection results;
  2. Include new (extraction and analysis) techniques; and
  3. Provide information on how to define cleanliness specifications and explain how to react when cleanliness limit values are exceeded.

To achieve an effective measurement of cleanliness, several factors need to be taken into account. Materials are the obvious start, then identifying contaminant sources, such as cutting methods, lubricating oils, cooling materials, washing materials, outside contaminants etc.


Alongside the above, staff create their own effects. Trained staff can be more cautious in the machined product handling, thus reducing possible contaminations sources.
The final parts of the process are filtration methods, cleaning methods and finally cleanliness measurement processes.

All of these phases and processes leave a trace of the finished product. That trace is what ISO 16232 is concerned with and the whole framework provides a methodology to both identify and remove contaminants and increase quality across the whole manufacturing process.

The document that is ISO 16232 can be found HERE:


VDA 19 was originally released in 2004. Since then, it has had numerous updates in line with changing policy and increased scientific understanding of the processes involved. The standard shares a lot of similarities with ISO 16232 and is broken into the following areas;

  1. Initial inspection and evaluation;
  2. Inspection of incoming and outgoing components; and
  3. Quality control or monitoring of manufacturing processes relevant to cleanliness (e.g. cleaning, surface treatment and assembly processes).

The Standard comes with a caveat;

“This document does not define any cleanliness limit values for specific components or systems. The degree of cleanliness required for a specific component or system is dependent on a number of highly individual factors. Cleanliness specifications are intended to be undertaken only by specialists who not only know the component concerned but also the system it is built into, the later conditions of use, technically-feasible practices and possible consequences for manufacturing processes and the supply chain. Guidance for deriving limit values can be found in Annex H”.

In 2012, a comprehensive revision was made of the content, which led to various additions to the standard as well as an in-depth review of processes and impacts. This revision helped to cover areas that had not really been investigated in the original documents and showed just how far this area of manufacturing had grown since the original document.
Across the manufacturing world, the impact of this Standard has seen the implementation of ‘clean rooms’ in factories and specialised labs. The implementation of Cleanliness Inspector roles and a whole area of manufacturing speciality has led to much higher levels of both understanding and investigation, which in turn has led to huge steps forward in the manufacturing quality process across the world.

The 2015 VDA 19 document can be found HERE:


VDA 19 & ISO 16232 work hand in hand together to cover the whole spectrum of standardisation of the processes involved in manufacturing and cleanliness of componentry for motor vehicles. Any business that sets out to adhere to these two levels of standards can set its stall out into the world marketplace as opposed to a local or country-specific marketplace.
Of course, as with all things, achieving these standards is only part of the story. Once at that operating level, the standards have to be maintained and any staff and processes kept at least up to those levels. The standing of any business is only as good as the last works completed.