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Quality Management Systems – The Ultimate Guide

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Are you looking to achieve higher productivity and lower wastes for your company’s operations? Well, would you like to minimize customer complaints for your services?

Well, if this seems tempting to you, you may need a quality management system (QMS) for your business. 

Honestly, these are surely one of the best business solutions to improve efficiency, and minimize wastages for business operations. However, the only problem with quality management systems is that these are often too complex to implement correctly with the limited technical capabilities of most companies.

Well, in this ultimate guide to quality management systems, we will be looking at everything you need to know about this impressive business solution including the quality management system definition, along with tools and resources you need to fully realize the potential of these systems and how these can assist businesses improve their workflow processes and operations.

We will be taking a stepwise approach, so as to provide you with a step by step guidelines and information on QMS for better understanding.

Introduction to Quality Management System

To put it simply, a quality management system can be defined as a set of business processes and functions that are meant to enhance the quality of business operations to meet and exceed customers’ expectations and requirements.

Defined as a robust framework of organized procedures, processes, and policies, and resources, QMS also assists companies to ensure that their business agreements, responsibility, and contracts are in compliance with the safety standards (food, environmental, and product).

History of the Quality Management System

While the movement for quality management may have its roots as far back as the 13th century, in true essence, quality management systems were only formally developed by the Americans in the 1950s, and were initially implemented in Japan. The essence behind quality management systems were to keep managers at par with the quality standards, and help them to improve quality within the organization through two core concepts;

  • Knowing the causes of common systematic errors (these can be caused by various reasons including humans, machines or products), like lower quality material, improper bills of lading, poor service design, and others;
  • Special causes of errors  like lack of training, malfunctioned equipment, poor material lot, and others.

It was due to the excessive focus and implementation of quality management systems that the Japanese manufacturing industry was able to dominate the world market by offering customers with superior quality products. In the USA, the realization of the importance of quality management systems only started in the 1980s, when the American manufacturers realized that they had to instill the QMS to compete and survive against the dominating foreign competitors. The first American company to instill a quality management system into its operations was perhaps Ford Motor, which was able to transform its car production business into essentially a quality-oriented business by implementing QMS.

How quality management systems help companies to improve profitability?

While the essence of a quality management system isn’t to maximize profits, but to ensure highest quality standards; in essence proper implementation of QMS does help companies to increase profits significantly. In today’s business world, many companies have successfully skyrocketed their profits by implementing QMS and reaping its hidden and often unconsidered benefits. Some of the tangible benefits of implementing quality management system includes;

  • Quantitative increase in productivity
  • Maximum efficiency in utilization of company’s resources
  • Superior customer satisfaction, leading to higher customer loyalty and subsequently increase in repeat business
  • Higher morale for employees, leading to lower turnover rates and thus reducing the wastage of time and resources to train new employees
  • Challenging targets that motivates growth and expansion
  • Sense of accountability that nurtures active participation of employees through open communication at all levels
  • Timely, and measured detection of defects, and gaps in business processes

The Different Methods to Managing Quality

Each business comes with its unique set of products, values, and goals. The different types of quality management systems are meant to adhere to the unique needs of each business. Each of these QMS systems comes with their own set of strengths, limitations and features. Here are some of the most common types of quality management system used in the industry; 

  • Standardized Systems:

Standardized systems represent any QMS that comply with federal codes and regulations. For most parts the standardized quality management systems including ISO certifications, HACCP, cGxP, OHSAS, and others. 

Businesses looking to follow one or multiple of these systems will require meeting all criteria as specified in each of these systems and passing detailed audits. Also, these standards may be mandatory to one industry, and optional (for added appeal) to other businesses. 

  • Total Quality Management (TQM):

Total quality management system represents a unique quality management approach that emphasizes quality assurance across all aspects of business. The core objective of TQM is to enable companies to achieve long-term quality management for products or services by breaking down each process and activity into smaller segments to ensure all parts contribute towards the company’s quality and productivity goals. 

  • Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI):

The continuous quality improvement system is another quality management approach that tends to keep businesses on toes to ensure quality standards. The essence of the approach is to continually look out for improvements. CQI achieves its goal by placing less emphasis on the processes and functions, while keeping more emphasis on people and their role in keeping up with quality standards. Rewards are also an essential component of continuous quality improvement approach and it has been adapted by various companies; including businesses where CQI isn’t the primary QMS.

  • Six Sigma:

Six-sigma is a highly preferred and advanced quality management approach that relies on data-driven methodology to ensure perfection in quality standards. The core focus of six-sigma as a quality management system is to apply specific processes (define, measure, analyze, process, control, improve) to ensure higher quality standards are maintained. Today, Six-sigma approach is implemented by various multi-million dollar businesses including General Electric, Motorola, and others that aspire to lead the industry with meticulous products, and services to achieve highest customer satisfaction.

Quality Management System Obstacles

Well, as we have seen so far, quality management systems come with various benefits for companies. However, as we mentioned earlier, the key problem with QMS is the complex process of implementation. In fact, any improper or unsuccessful attempt of implementing a quality management system may backfire and lead companies to lower quality and profitability goals. Below, we will be looking at some of the biggest obstacles to the successful implementation of QMS.

The Disorganized Organization:

Disorganization can affect any business component, however, document control is certainly one of the most crucial components, which is responsible to regulate and control almost all critical business processes, and functions. Any organizational issue with document control may lead to problems in various business processes. 

Overcoming this obstacle:

Perhaps the easiest way to overcome issues with document control is by implementing document control management software. However, as with any other software not all document control systems are equal and each comes with its unique advantage and limitations. Also, not all document control programs may integrate with existing operating systems of the business. Thereby, before you implement any particular document control program, make sure you understand your business needs and goals.

Higher work frequency with low staff!

While the increasing competition in the manufacturing industry has led companies to greatly improve the quality of their products or services, this in turn, has created an additional problem regarding the disparity of work required to comply with quality standards. Many organizations are frequently finding themselves with overworked staff, which not only increase the chances of accidents, but also lead to increased chances of compromised quality.

Overcoming this obstacle:

Staffing issues are undoubtedly one of the most challenging issues for businesses. That’s because on one hand the budgetary limitation may not allow for additional hiring, on the other hand, overworked staff pose serious problems to maintaining quality standards. That’s where innovation and “out of the box” thinking comes into play. Businesses facing such a dilemma need to come up with innovative solutions that encourage smart work practices to achieve “Do More with Less”. Encouragement, rewards, and a flexible working model may be some of the solutions for businesses to keep up the morale of overworked employees, as well as keep productivity and quality in check.

Are you quality-driven?

Quality management systems are meant to deliver organizations with a robust framework that defines the guidelines to achieve quality and productivity standards of businesses. The key to successful implementation of QMS lies with finding the right balance between simplicity and customization. Businesses need to find out the best quality management system that is meant to meet the compliance requirements and quality standards for the company, while simultaneously bringing on a positive impact on workplace culture. 

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