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The concept of quality management systems can actually be traced back hundreds of years to the craft guilds that were organised by craftsmen to ensure that quality of work was adhered to and that best practices were always utilised.  Over time, best practices for controlling the outcomes of products and processes became established and documented, these becoming increasingly important during the 20th century, especially during the Second World War uniformity and consistent quality standards were essential in the production of bullets and other wartime products.

Modern day quality management systems can largely thank developments by both the Americans and the Japanese who moved from the idea of ‘total quality management’ to today’s term of quality management systems, recognising that there are a multitude of unique systems that can be applied. Today, quality management systems have incorporated sustainability and transparency too, reflecting consumers’ increasing demand for these factors.

The Benefits Of Implementing a Quality Management System (QMS)

The benefits for an organisation implementing a quality management system are directly attributable to the purposes of such as system. Therefore, any organisation that implements a quality management system effectively will see them:

  • Meet their customer’s requirements and needs consistently. This in turn helps to instill confidence in the organisation which can then lead to an increase in customers, sales and profit.
  • Meet their regulatory requirements in a cost effective manner, creating opportunities for expansion and growth. Also, this too instills confidence and allows the organisation to function free from sanctions, fines, or other regulatory restrictions.

These benefits show just why organisations are prepared to go through the rigorous process of implementing a quality management system, the financial resources required clearly being an investment rather than a cost.

Establishing a Quality Management System

Establishing a quality management system should be done once an organisation has identified all the various processes and products that ensure their customer’s satisfaction is met as well as their regulatory requirements. Once this is done, the basic steps of establishing a quality management system should be undertaken:

  • Design – The most important stage, the design develops the basic structure, processes and policies of the quality management system.
  • Build – The construction of the quality management system
  • Deploy – Often done in a granular format with each process being broken down into its components with staff trained accordingly.
  • Control and measure – Usually achieved through systematic, routine audits.
  • Review and improve – Continuous review of the quality management system

Introduction To ISO 9001 & 14001

The two main international quality standards that relate to quality management systems are as follows:

ISO 9001:2015

Quality management systems are often mentioned in the same breath as ISO 9001:2015 and often the two terms are used interchangeably and confused. However they are two completely different things although closely linked. Essentially, ISO 9001:2015 is not a quality management system in itself, it is the most prominent and recognised approach to quality management systems. Therefore, organisations use the ISO 9001:2015 international quality management system standard to ensure that their quality management system fulfills its aims of consistently meeting their customer’s needs as well as their regulatory requirements.

ISO 14001

ISO 14001 is part of the ISO 14000 family of standards  that provide organizations with the practical tools necessary to manage their environmental responsibilities. ISO 14001:2015 is the specific quality standard that focuses on environmental systems  to achieve this.

There are other standards that are applied to quality management systems including:

  • ISO 9000 – Managing for the sustained success of an organization — A quality management approach
  • ISO 13485 – Quality management systems for medical devices
  • ISO 19011 – The auditing of management systems
  • ISO/TS 16949 – Quality management systems for automotive-related products

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