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What is a quality management system (QMS)?

Written by: IQS

What is a quality management system (QMS)?

The term “high quality” is frequently used throughout all industries, and it’s a result that every customer desires. But, ensuring continuous quality improvements requires a specific set of quality standards along with relevant measurements (usually in the form of KPIs). Such a system will substantially improve efficiency, decrease costs, and align with the needs of both internal and external stakeholders. Thus, implementing a robust quality management system (QMS) is crucial to maintaining a competitive edge in your industry.

But what is a QMS? How will a quality management system benefit the whole organization?

In this short guide, we’ll define “quality management system,” discuss QMS benefits, and reveal important QMS components that can provide value throughout your entire organization.

COMMON DEFINITION OF A QMS

At a high-level, a QMS is a documented and standardized quality control system. More specifically, a QMS is designed as a comprehensive framework that comprises enterprise resources, procedures, policies, regulatory requirements, and methods. One of the primary objectives is to manufacture high-quality products on a consistent basis.

In total, a QMS encompasses all software and quality processes which, in turn, include both manual, paper-driven procedures. Essentially, a QMS serves as a reliable toolkit for quality managers in that it is a formalized collection of processes designed to ensure that customer requirements and regulations are precisely met.

Keep in mind that a QMS is not a siloed system. It must be constructed and deployed within the context of the larger enterprise environment, e.g., organizational culture, structure, governance, government-industry standards, market conditions (particularly technological innovation), and the internal organizational process assets.

As conditions change, it’s likely that you’ll make adjustments to your QMS. Indeed, monitoring your QMS for potential degradation is an imperative function of sustainable growth. Such is the reason that iterating through the “plan, do, check, act” methodology has proven to be a tried-and-true approach within quality management.

THE BENEFITS OF A QMS

Continuous improvement is the most prominent benefit of implementing a QMS. Digging a bit deeper into what constitutes “continuous improvement,” more incremental, yet highly impactful, advantages emerge, such as:

  • Early detection and mitigation of errors.
  • Reduction in the likelihood of having to rework the product.
  • More efficient routing and usage of resources.
  • Substantial increase in productivity.
  • Enterprise-wide reinforcement of meeting or exceeding customer or client expectations, i.e., total quality management.

Quality is a critical market differentiator, and this holds true regardless of your particular sub-sector. But, controlling costs is the ever-present contender that can constrain the quality thresholds. Notably, a well-configured QMS will allow you to balance the cost vs. quality equation much more effectively. It will afford your company the benefits of consistency, reliability, and cost-effective resource usage, all of which come full circle to the more prominent benefit of continuous improvement.

As previously discussed, a QMS shouldn’t be a disconnected sub-system of the entire enterprise. All internal stakeholders, e.g., employees, need consideration when you’re planning, building, and implementing the QMS. Changes in policies or procedures, any changes really, will have an impact on their job function.

To achieve an optimal level of quality management, everyone within the enterprise should embrace and actively participate in the drive for improvements. This includes quality management at the individual level (improving the efficiency and precision of their individual work) as well as system-wide. As such, incorporating total quality management into your QMS will instill an improvement feedback loop between individuals, departments, and C-level executives that supports total employee buy-in and perpetual involvement in the customer-focused mindset.

PROBLEMS WITH NOT HAVING A QMS

If your company has not yet implemented a QMS, then traceability is a major concern. Did the defect originate with a single supplier, or did the defect surface as the result of faulty, uncalibrated equipment? Was it a software glitch? Did someone on staff make an error?

Errors and defects not only negatively impact product quality, but they also increase production costs. This means, when an error or defect occurs, you need to act quickly and find the exact source that is causing the issue. Without an effective QMS in place, you’ll be forced to be reactive rather than proactive. Plus, sourcing the error will be much more difficult and time consuming.

On the other hand, an effective QMS gives you the means to help predict when and where defects are likely to occur, what to do when they manifest, and even how to avoid defects and errors altogether. Plus, you’ll be able to swiftly locate the cause before it turns into a far larger, and more costly, problem.

IMPORTANT QMS ELEMENTS

The most prominent and widely-used quality standard in the manufacturing industry is ISO 9001:2015, a set of quality management standards issued by the International Standards Organization. Earning the ISO 9001:2015 certification sends a clear message to customers that you are committed to quality management and actively focus on customer satisfaction. To achieve certification for ISO 9001:2015, your quality management system must satisfy the following clauses:

  • Scope
  • Normative references
  • Terms and definitions
  • Context of the organization
  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Support
  • Operation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Improvement

All of the components listed above are indispensable inputs for continuous improvement. Yet, this can only be achieved if you design a QMS from a global, holistic perspective. Likewise, organizational context is absolutely pivotal to strategic, tactical, and operational success. Your QMS must clearly define expectations from all stakeholders, both internal and external.

The explicit requirement for company leadership to take ownership of quality processes is another integral factor you cannot bypass. Good quality begins with good leadership from all departments, but particularly from information technology stakeholders because IT often takes the lead during new software implementations.

QMS AUTOMATION

In complex systems, such as manufacturing, logistics, and supply chains, automation plays a key role in boosting efficiency and uninterrupted monitoring of systemic operations. Fortunately, in terms of QMS, Enterprise Quality Management Software can help with automation implementation. For example, IQS quality management software will automatically notify you if the results of an audit require either corrective or preventative actions. Furthermore, the software automatically updates compliance requirements, which saves a tremendous amount of time and resources.

Automated QMS systems are used to maximize efficiency and maintain up-to-date compliance in highly regulated industries, such as in the automotiveaerospace and defense, and manufacturing industries. Ultimately, due to the multiple benefits that a robust and automated QMS provides, successful QMS systems rely on automated platforms like IQS to achieve a state of customer-focused continuous improvement and ongoing regulatory compliance. Contact IQS today to request a demo or learn more about our quality management solutions.

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