A quality management system (QMS) is a collection of processes focused on meeting customer requirements and enhancing their satisfaction with your service or product.
Implementing a QMS is a strategic business decision. Its build and integration must have the needs and objectives of your organisation in mind, otherwise there’s simply no point installing one if you’re unsure of the reason for doing so.
Some of your objectives may include:
- Improving customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Developing employee skillsets
- Developing better quality products and services
- Increasing efficiency
- …and so forth.
Whether you’re just starting or are looking to review what you have in place, this article looks at 3 fundamental elements you should consider in order to have an effective system that meets – and continues to meet – your corporate goals.
Is your QMS fit for purpose?
First off, consider why you are putting a QMS in place. Bring the context of your business into the picture. What do you do? Who do you interact with? Prospects, customers, suppliers, staff, investors etc?
You must then consider which business objectives you’re hoping to meet. Perhaps you’re looking to gain certification against international standards (such as ISO 27001 and ISO 9001) and accreditations? If so, check the requirements they have alongside any regulations you need to comply with.
Once you’ve collated the above information you can delve into the (potential) risks associated with each of them.
As an aside, it’s best to record risks in a manner that makes them easy for you to review and assess your business’ approach to each of them. It’s worth pointing out that it’s wise not to delve in at too low a level initially because as your QMS matures, you will spot what details need to be added so that you always have an effective risk assessment and treatment plan.
Finally, document your policies, procedures and processes that meet the identified requirements and reflect what you do or will do. Records supporting these are of course also needed.
Secondly, is your QMS usable?
To be effective, your QMS must be embedded into your business and used. There is little point in having such a system in place but is then ignored or forgotten about. It should be part of your organisation’s day-to-day in order to improve operations and not simply so that you can maintain certificates and accreditations.
To ensure it’s on the right path, ask yourself:
- Are its documents and records easy to access?
- Are you keeping the number of policy documents to a minimum? (No one likes reading a large number of documents.)
- Have the policies and procedures got accompanying instructions/guidelines (where appropriate)?
- Have you defined any regulatory and legal terms used?
- Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined?
- Have you scheduled regular updates and training to the rest of the organisation?
Is your QMS being maintained and improved?
All business systems can be improved upon, and so too can your QMS.
It should go without saying that measuring and monitoring your system must be part of your regular management reviews. (This also shows management commitment to the QMS and its maintenance.)
Internal audits are an excellent method for identifying concerns, finding improvements, and suggesting solutions. These, along with any external audits, should be viewed as part of the improvement process and not an accusatory process.
Remember, the QMS put in place is there to support your business, not to be a burden. Consistent and regular checks and necessary updates will equip your organisation with the agility to adapt to changes in industry and customer requirements.
Developing an effective QMS will require time, effort and resources to get it right. But once you’ve achieved this and have formulated its continuous improvement into your day-to-day function, your organisation can start reaping the benefits.
It will guide your strategic direction and equip you with the information to identify where things are going awry and identify where this is occurring.
It will help provide a holistic view of your objectives which you can then use to check you’re addressing all areas of the business and not focusing on a select few.
Most of all, your customer and business efficiencies will remain front of mind throughout your daily operations.
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