What does quality management mean?
Let’s start with a couple of definitions:
- Quality management is the management, planning, evaluation and improvement of operations to achieve set quality objectives.
- A quality management system, on the other hand, is a commonly agreed set of best current practices designed to meet customer needs and continually increase customer satisfaction. It is continually improved in a result-driven manner, taking feedback and evaluations into account.
The primary goal of a quality management system is to ensure that products and services comply with regulations and customer expectations. It helps to ensure quality throughout the supply chain from design, production and distribution to post-delivery services.
A good quality of products, operations and service has become an expectation. However, factors such as the product working flawlessly, being delivered on time and the service being appropriate, do not always come true.
The minimum level of quality management is the fulfillment of operational requirements such as laws, regulations, obligations and agreements. The target level is the level of expectations set by the organization’s stakeholders.
The Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith (1720-1790) wrote:
The baker and the butcher do not expect us to pay them because of our good hearts, but because they manufacture the products we want, to further their own interests.”
This hasn’t changed much.
Quality management and standards
We all know that products are standardized to be compatible and commensurate. The customer can be confident that the product is approved and compliant, allowing them to focus on other influencing factors when choosing a supplier.
ISO 9001 standardizes organization, resource and information management practices, as well as feedback, evaluation, and measurement practices. However, the goal is not for all organizations to work in the same way, but for each organization to find its own solutions and competitive advantages in its own operating environment, guided by the standard.
What does quality management involve?
Quality management is strongly linked to the principle of continuous improvement:
- Evaluate the results
- Repair, improve and root
This includes the idea of a self-developing process – You learn by doing.
The consideration of quality management practices should begin by defining the following:
- What kind of business do we have?
- What does the operating environment expect of us?
- What it means to succeed in quality management and put it in the form of a promise, or quality policy, and to organize activities, i.e., responsibilities and authorities accordingly.
- Objectives should be set for activities, taking into account possible risks and changes.
- The availability of resources (including trained and competent staff) and information needed to achieve the objectives should be ensured.
- Repeatable processes as well as criteria and methods should be identified and defined.
- Progress should be monitored, measured and analysed, and measures decided.
Quality management in support of daily operations and development requires visual software or tools for:
- management of documents, risks, processes, suppliers, staff competencies, audits and deviations,
- measurements, analyzes and reports, and
- corrective and preventive action.
What is the future of quality management?
The need for quality management is not disappearing. In fact, quality management and business have come across in everyday life. The same need for continuous improvement, efficiency, result-orientedness, data collection and analysis can be found in both. The perspective just changes. Without one, it’s hard to be good at another.
Quality, value, growth and dividend shares can be found on the stock exchange, and quality shares are a recognized investment style in investment activities. According to MSCI, the world’s largest index producer, it has actually been the best style to invest in recent decades.
However, in quality management, it seems that a lot of time has been spent describing processes. Simply describing processes as a standard requirement no longer takes real process development and quality management forward. Smart tools for problem solving and action development are needed.
How to solve problems and develop activities further?
Once the ISO 9001 level has been reached, various Lean methods such as lean value stream analysis, increasing flow efficiency or Root Cause Analysis can be used to improve efficiency.
Still, getting people and teams motivated to develop their work is a challenge. Personnel surveys and measures based on them are conducted, but a stronger goal of self-direction, inspiration, a strong corporate culture and more successful business is still needed.
As an extension of the ISO 9001 standard, it is good for organizations to reflect on and develop their own practices, for example on the basis of the best practices of the GPTW, Great Place to Work framework. The Trust Index © survey is an effortless way to measure the level of corporate culture, compare it to the results of the best jobs, and further develop the business.
Lastly, what are the benefits of quality management?
In short, quality management saves time, money and resources.
The benefits are manifested in products, customer satisfaction, corporate image, best practices, communication, fact-based decision making, and performance such as lead time, yield, flawlessness, or productivity. In the end, it is a matter of business development.