Last edited 13 May 2016

Quality Management System


[edit] Introduction

Quality management is vital to the success of an organisation. It enables it to deliver products and services that meet both customers’ requirements and regulations, protecting its reputation while reducing costs and driving improvement. It also helps an organisation ensure it is operating in the most sustainable way.

Quality management encompasses a number of different activities:

  • Quality planning: This ensures that quality requirements are addressed throughout the product and service lifecycle.
  • Quality control: This focuses on process outputs to ensure that standards are actually met.
  • Quality assurance: This gives confidence that standards and requirements are being met.
  • Quality improvement: This process is informed by all of the above activities and the requirements of the business.

[edit] What is a QMS?

A Quality Management System (QMS) is an organisation-wide approach to directing, controlling and coordinating quality. Quality management takes a preventative approach, and an effective QMS will identify the risks to an organisation and provide ways to mitigate them. Risks include:

  • Failure in the quality of a product or service.
  • Failure to deliver the product or service on time.
  • Failure to deliver the product or service to cost.
  • Failure to identify trends in customer needs.
  • Failure to meet legal or regulatory requirements.
  • Failure of partners and suppliers.
  • Loss of customer data or property.

In identifying and managing these risks, a QMS provides the following competitive advantages:

  • Superior customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Identification and elimination of waste.
  • Better performance from suppliers.
  • Employees committed to quality and improvement.

The QMS approaches the organisation as a system of processes which interact to deliver products and services. For each process within the system, a methodology known as Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) can be applied:

  • Plan: Establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in line with customer service requirements and company policies.
  • Do: Implement the process.
  • Check: Monitor and measure processes necessary to deliver the results.
  • Act: Take action and continually improve performance.

The QMS helps an organisation to plan for success, and measures and reviews the effectiveness and efficiency of processes to inform improvement. A major misconception is that adopting a QMS demands a large amount of paperwork. Although certain documents are required, the modern QMS can be lean and agile, and should be developed to suit a business in terms of size, complexity and risk.

[edit] The international standard

The ISO 9000 series of standards is the main set of international standards that apply to the management of quality systems. It includes ISO 9001, the standard against which organisations can achieve third-party certification for a QMS.

To achieve ISO 9001 certification, a company must fulfil a number of requirements:

  • Quality leadership: A statement demonstrating that an organisation’s quality policy is driven by senior management. This may cover: identification of the customer’s needs; support and standards of performance for subcontractors and suppliers; a focus on prevention rather than detection; measurement of satisfaction among customers and the supply chain; performance measurement, review and improvement. Leadership also requires senior management commitment to ensuring that the QMS delivers the intended outcomes through communication of the policy, allocation of responsibilities, providing adequate training and resources and so on.
  • Quality planning: Taking into account the commercial context and customer requirements, the QMS will establish “who, what, how and when” the organisation will address risks and opportunities, avoid undesirable effects and achieve desired outcomes.
  • Support: Establishing the resources required to deliver on the quality policy and objectives throughout the organisation and supply chain, including communicating the different roles of people within the organisation in delivering the requirements of the QMS.
  • Operational planning and control: Planning, implementing and controlling internal and outsourced processes to design and deliver products and services.
  • Performance evaluation: Setting out how work is to be monitored, measured, analysed and evaluated, to establish that the QMS is suitable, adequate and effective. Inputs may include audits, metrics, schedules, non-conformities, complaints, monitoring and measurement results.
  • Improvement: Dealing with instances of undesirable results and identifying ways to prevent future occurrence. This also includes considering changes in the internal and external environment and how these future risks and opportunities are to be addressed.

ISO 9001 certification offers a number of advantages for an organisation:

  • Certification can open new markets where it is a customer requirement, as it is among many public and private sector organisations.
  • Certification reduces the number, and therefore the cost, of supplier audits. Instead of multiple audits, it involves a single audit, and provides a certificate that is universally recognised by customers (depending on their own policies).
  • Certification provides an organisation with an independent view of its QMS performance and its capability to consistently meet customer and regulatory requirements and to continue to improve.
  • Certification can provide a level of confidence in the capability of an organisation’s own supply chain to consistently meet its requirements, as well as reducing the cost of the oversight audit that is required.

The Chartered Quality Institute promotes “accredited certification”, which means that the third-party certification operates under the oversight of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service, in the UK, or a similar national accreditation body in other territories. Achieving non-accredited certification may mean that an organisation’s certified status is not recognised by some customers and may not necessarily comply with international standards.

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