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What is a Quality Management System?

birds flying - ISO 9001

What is a Quality Management System?

What is Quality?

For many people, ‘Quality’ and ‘Quality Management System’ are rather abstract expressions. To understand a Quality Management System (QMS), first we need to understand what is meant by quality. There are many definitions of quality, but for products, a (very) simplified and popular understanding is ‘fitness for purpose’.

This principle is also enshrined in consumer protection law, for example, cars and washing machines have to last for a ‘reasonable’ length of time – or in other words – to be fit for purpose.

What is a Quality Management System?

In its simplest form, a QMS which is based on the ISO 9001 principles is a set of business processes and documentation focusing on the enhancement of customer satisfaction by meeting customer requirements as well as any statutory and regulatory requirements.

But a QMS is more than simply business processes and documentation, although these are vital. Communication and leadership are also important. In addition, fostering an environment where all members of an organisation contribute to quality and identify improvements are also part of a QMS.

ISO 9000 goes further with its definition of quality, and says:

“The quality of an organisation’s products and services is determined by the ability to satisfy customers and the intended and unintended impact on relevant interested parties.” and,

“The quality of products and services includes not only their intended function and performance, but also their perceived value and benefit to the customer”.

What are the benefits of a QMS?

  • Reducing downtime and the costs of disruption to operations, project delays
  • Improving product quality and liability, service delivery and customer satisfaction
  • Continual process improvement
  • Improving the ability of the business to respond to issues, such as product nonconformities
  • Demonstrating to your customers that you place great importance on quality and customer satisfaction

ISO 9001:2015 is attractive to organisations because it offers an understandable and feasible implementation of a thoroughly proven QMS framework which will ultimately save money and create continual improvement.

Who or what is ISO?

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization. ISO was founded in 1947 and is based in Switzerland. ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 167 national standards bodies. There is only one member per country. In Australia, the ISO member is Standards Australia.

Through its members, ISO brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, relevant international standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.

What’s the difference between adoption and certification?

Any organisation can say they adopt the principles of ISO 9001 but without certification there is no assurance that they are. Obtaining certification means paying an independent third party to carry out an evaluation and ensure the organisation is adhering to the principles rather than just saying they adopt the principles.

Does it really make a difference?

According to this paper published by the Harvard Business School, yes, it does make a difference:

https://www.hbs.edu/ris/Publication%20Files/09-018_09d65cdf-d6f1-42ea-8840-acbd91b87d38.pdf This is an excerpt from the paper, ‘…sales and employment grew substantially more rapidly post certification at firms that adopted ISO 9001…’.

Want to know more about ISO 9001?

This guide, produced by ISO, debunks some of the common misconceptions people have about ISO 9001:

https://www.iso.org/publication/PUB100368.html