What is Quality Management System (QMS)?
A Quality Management System (QMS) can be defined as a set of interrelated and inter-acting activities/rules and procedures that are used by organizations to direct and control their quality standards, accomplish their quality objectives, and continually improve their performance efficiency.
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines a QMS as a formalized system that documents processes, procedures, and responsibilities for achieving quality policies and objectives. A QMS helps coordinate and direct an organization’s activities to meet customer and regulatory requirements and improve its effectiveness and efficiency on a continuous basis.
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In simple words, a QMS refers to a documented set of policies or a system designed to achieve conformance to specifications and standards and meet and suit the customers’ requirements in an effective manner. QMS evolved as a ‘systems-based’ approach to the management of quality and subsequently led to a new paradigm of ‘standards’ for quality assessment.
QMSs also focus on revenue and savings that an organization can accelerate by controlling and eliminating errors and defects during operations. However, QMSs cannot directly cover the financial functions of an organization.
A QMS acts as a framework for the assessment of a company’s quality system and provides a structure to organizations ranging from the manufacturing process to service to sales and is applicable to both large and small units. QMSs usually provide an accepted and verifiable system of standards using a quality checklist formulated by the organization.
The organization practicing QMS usually studies, explores, and examines various quality issues that it faces. It also trains and prepares its workforce to produce products and/or services having the desired quality. This means that the organization strives for continual improvement of quality in its multiple aspects such as resources, product realization, improvement, customers’ needs, and satisfaction.
One of the most prominent approaches to QMS is Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI). The CQI approach advocates that an organization that has created a corporate quality culture must not stop at that stage. It should rather try to maintain consistency and continually try to improve its quality.
The CQI approach enables the workforce to change and improvise the processes and performances of an organization in its day-to-day operations. Employees are encouraged to generate quality ideas and continually improve their work which leads to small and incremental improvements. It can be said that the CQI focuses on the consistent development of the quality system of an organization, which means that there is an unlimited scope for improvement.
You have studied CQI and TQM, which are widely adopted by organizations for furthering their quality improvement efforts. Apart from these two, there are a lot of other methodologies that help in implementing, maintaining, and controlling quality. These include the Six Sigma methodology and Lean methodology.
Six Sigma methodology includes methods such as Statistical Process Control (SPC) and Design of Experiments (DOE) for quality and process improvements. SPC is a statistical method used in quality control for determining and monitoring whether the quality of output meets the desired standards and specifications.
A control chart is used to implement it and detect errors during the process and take corrective actions. Six Sigma can be clubbed and incorporated with other innovative product development systems and approaches like Materials Requirement Planning (MRP) and Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory control.
Objectives of Quality Management Systems
During the production process, errors might creep in at any stage. The entire production process comprises various stages, such as production, testing, and packaging stages and errors can occur at any of these stages.
The repetitive occurrence of errors not only results in a waste of time, efforts, money, etc., but they also affect the market image of an organization negatively. QMSs aim to strike a balance between the desired standard of quality and customers’ expectations.
Some important objectives of QMSs are as follows:
- Improving the quality of products and services of the organization
- Establishing clear and achievable objectives
- Promoting teamwork among staff members
- Effectively communicating the pre-determined targets and contributions from the workforce
- Effectively recording and archiving information
- Working towards continual quality development in product quality and services
- Providing a framework for competency and awareness skills
- Guiding all organizational members to effectively deal with the changing business environment and improve the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness
- Documenting, communicating, reviewing, and auditing quality systems that are in place
- Determining the gap between the desired standard and the actual output
- Ensuring that all the processes are subjected to quality controls and assessment
- Setting directions to understand customers’ needs and expectations
Applications of Quality Management Systems
An organization usually performs several activities, such as manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, marketing, and development, to fulfill the requirements of customers. To achieve the desired goals and performance standards, it is essential that the individual objectives of the workers and the operational objectives of the organization are aligned.
By implementing a QMS, an organization can maintain quality standards in a systematic manner and can manage and improve the workforce’s performance continuously.
ISO 9001 is a quality standard developed by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). The ISO 9001 standard specifies the requirements of a QMS. These requirements are generic and applicable to any industrial business practice. However, organizations customize QMS standards according to their specific requirements. Organizations can specify the need for a QMS in anticipation of customers’ requirements and the desired quality standard.
The quality system can be defined in the form of documents, in terms of policies, procedures, or instructions. It is the task of the management to ensure that all individuals working in an organization are equally responsible for the quality of its products or services.
An organization can determine the criteria of quality by adopting QMS in its production. There may be variances in the expectations and requirements from one customer to another or from one product to another. Organizations predefine these variations by ISO standards through contract review a type of documentation method that specifies the requirements of customers. The contract review has to be reviewed by all the stakeholders of production, starting from the raw material supplier to the sales team.
The contract review enables the management to see if the workforce team is able to meet technical and organizational requirements. Adoption of QMS includes designing and producing the product as per customers’ definition and in accordance with customer requirements.
It also includes providing better after-sales services, attending to complaints promptly, and establishing a system to monitor and measure customer satisfaction. For example, for customer A, after-sales services may be the key quality attribute; whereas, for another customer, B, the quality and durability of the product may be the main attribute.
Therefore, the quality management system is required to keep a regular tab on changing trends in the market and customer requirements. A QMS is said to be effective if it provides scope for continual improvement to accelerate productivity and customer satisfaction levels. If an organization is able to deliver the required products to the customers, it wins the confidence of customers.
Advantages of QMS
Some important advantages of QMS for an organization are as follows:
- Defines and communicates quality objectives, practices, and policies clearly
- Ensures uniformity in practice
- Prevents and mitigates quality deficiencies
- Provides training and the required skills to new staff
- Maintains good organizational practices
- Creates a need for conducting audits
- Assures quality output and maximum utilization of resources
- Helps an organization to get acclimatized to changes in trends and customer preferences
- Establishes a customer-oriented organization that acquires and uses data for improvement on a regular basis
- Guides an organization in accomplishing objectives set out and documented in its policy and strategy