What is a Quality Management System (QMS)?
A Quality Management System acts as a road map for how a business intends to consistently make quality products, or provide a quality service, that meets both customer and any legal/regulatory requirements. It puts in place several quality management activities that cover the full life-cycle of a product or service:
- Planning: making sure all customer and any legal/regulatory requirements are addressed
- Quality Control: putting processes in place to ensure consistent output of your products or services
- Quality Assurance: confirming that the quality matches your customer’s expectations – and your own standards
- Improvement: reviewing your output and making changes to your processes to ensure that high standards are maintained and that customer needs are met
Within a QMS, documentation is vital though it should not be confused with the Management System itself. Writing down your policies and creating process maps for each procedure during the planning phase makes it easier to train staff and for them to to know what is expected during the Quality Control phase. Documentation also helps with both Quality Assurance and improvement efforts as it provides a benchmark against which the quality of a product or service can be measured, and provides evidence for quality reviews.
Being risk-based, a QMS looks at how a business manages the risks that would affect the quality of their products or services, regardless of whether those risks result in positive or negative consequences. As well as failures in the quality of the products of service provided, such risks include failing to: identify your customer’s needs, meet legal or regulatory requirements and keep customer data or property safe. Though these failures may be a result of the actions of partners or suppliers, a QMS will put plans in place to manage such failings and address them.
What is ISO 9001?
Developed by a panel of quality experts, ISO 9001 is the International Standard for Quality. It offers a route for businesses that not only want to run a Management System based on internationally-recognised advice, but also want to have their adherence to this Standard verified. And with regular reviews, this ongoing proof of conformity with the Standard will help your business prove that it takes quality seriously, and is doing everything it can to provide a consistent, high-quality service.
The ISO 9001 Standard provides a framework for:
- The participation and consultation of employees
- Risk-based thinking through the assessment, evaluation and resolution of organisational risks and opportunities
- The setting and achieving of Quality objectives
- The management of resources including staff and materials
- The training and awareness of staff in regard to the QMS
- The management of external and internal communications
- The effective control of documents and records
- The effective control of operational activities
- The management of change and the consideration of its impact on the quality of products and services
- The management of procurement processes
- The management of emergency preparedness and response procedures
- The monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation of quality performance
- The performance of internal and external audits in order to maintain certification
- The performance of management reviews to examine overall quality performance
- The employment of processes and actions that encourage continual improvement
How does ISO 9001 add value to a Quality Management System?
Businesses considering adding to their existing Quality Management System by implementing an ISO 9001 certified Management System may experience the following benefits:
- ISO 9001 is a certifiable Standard, so customers and other interested parties can be assured that a high-quality Quality Management System is in place. Added to this is the assurance that the QMS continues to be operated in compliance with the Standard through an annual auditing program
- There is a strong focus on leadership and buy-in from senior management, encouraging a culture of Quality throughout the organisation, rather than being a system that operates independently of core processes
- The yearly external audit to confirm the QMS still conforms to the ISO 9001 Standard can reduce the number, and therefore the cost, of supplier audits
- The QMS encourages businesses to consider the needs and expectations of all stakeholders, not just customers
- Due to a shared top-level layout, ISO 9001 synchronises with most modern ISO Standards, allowing for easier integration
- Businesses may find that they can more easily win tenders that require certification to ISO 9001
- The QMS encourages the determination of Quality roles and responsibilities, allowing staff to know exactly where they stand and what their responsibilities for quality are
- Through processes for spotting and addressing non-conformances, the QMS is set up to help prevent future issues of a similar nature, allowing a business to continually improve its processes and be more efficient