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When looking for ways to improve your quality management system (QMS), the real question you’re asking is: how do I put my supply chain in the best position to act on problems before they become catastrophes?
It is, after all, well-known that a proactive approach is much preferable to a reactive one. A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure: and every cent spent on preventing problems will save you multiple dollars on trying to fix them.
In this article, we will explore the importance of a seamless quality management system, as well as ways to improve an existing quality management system that will help you take control of your quality control operations and build an effective, safe and ethical supply chain.
A Quality Management System (QMS) is a set of business and manufacturing practices aimed at finding ways to:
The most recognizable standard for establishing QMS best practices is the International Standard Organization (ISO) 9001:2015 "Quality Management System Requirements."
ISO 9001 is organized into seven quality management principles (QMP), including Customer Focus, Leadership, Improvement, Evidence-based Decision Making, and Relationship Management.
However, what do these principles mean in practice?
Fundamentally, an effective QMS should achieve consistent product quality, compliance and transparency at every stage of production. The first step towards that is establishing consistent -- and consistently understood -- customer-oriented goals across the supply chain.
To achieve those goals, multiple operational processes can be executed as part of a company’s Quality Management System, including:
The concept of quality management, in some shape or form, has been around since pre-industrial times. During the 20th century, ideas of quality management have gone through many transformations, and the publication of the original ISO 9001 standard in 1987 was a major landmark.
In today’s digital age, quality management is inextricably linked to online capabilities and data-oriented technologies. In the past decade alone, cloud-based software has helped to supercharge every aspect of quality management by streamlining data storage, analysis, and communication across supply chains of all sizes and spans.
Today's cutting-edge quality management software goes even further, with the capability to target specific areas within the manufacturing process. This includes platforms specifically designed with a focus on Testing, Inspection, and Certification (TIC) management, which can be quality management system.
At first glance, the concept of a quality management system, with its many principles and requirement, may seem daunting. You might even start to wonder if your business needs an actual QMS, especially if you’re operating on a relatively small scale.
However, looking at the introduction to the ISO 9001:2015 standard, we see an explanation of what kind of organizations the QMS requirements are aimed at. Those are organizations that:
Simplified, the above means that a quality management system is instrumental for:
-- and therefore, a QMS is necessary for any business that markets products or services, no matter its size, industry or specialization.
A quality management system isn’t a “fire and forget” solution, something that is established once and never addressed again. To achieve its primary objective of ensuring continued customer satisfaction, a QMS must also continuously improve in alignment with the evolving needs of your business and the changing environment it operates in.
Any changes to keep your quality management system up to date must be based on timely and informed decisions. Decisions, in turn, must be rooted in reliable and accurate data, collected at every step of your supply chain, ideally in real-time, and readily available to all relevant stakeholders. This is why forward-thinking companies have come to rely on digital technologies and integrated platforms to help improve QMS.
Companies with effective and flexible quality management systems are the best positioned to ensure customer satisfaction by delivering products that are of consistent quality, safe, and sustainable:
Consistent Quality -- achieved by ensuring that raw materials, components and final products meet your specifications, manufacturing processes are continuously monitored and improved, and any production issues are investigated and addressed before they escalate.
Safety and Regulatory Compliance -- accomplished by staying on top of your production standards to make sure they are aligned with the latest regulatory requirements, maintaining a safety testing program, and tracing any issues to the source in case of product recalls.
Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing -- QMS practices can also be effectively leveraged to organize and roll out ethical and environmental requirements, monitor adherence, implement corrective actions and monitor improvement.
Whether you already have a mature QMS, or still establishing one, the following tactics will help you continuously improve your quality management system and ensure that it keeps contributing to your business success and customer satisfaction.
Today, even small businesses tend to have supply chains that reach across the globe, and rely on multiple suppliers and supply chain partners. Disparate and siloed management systems can make it impossible to see the real state of material or manufacturing quality in some, if not all, parts of your sourcing ecosystem.
Professional quality control and compliance software can bring all of your supply chain stakeholders to one transparent platform, allowing to consolidate scattered and siloed inspection data, and leverage it into actionable results.
The result? Consolidated, cross-checked data and detailed QC reports available from a single source -- enabling your quality team to spot quality trends, identify hotspots and high-risk parts of your supply chain, and proactively intervene before quality issues spin out of control.
With real-time and accurate supply chain data distilled into actionable insights, you can make any quality, compliance and sustainability markers visible to your supply chain partners and stakeholders as you deem relevant.
Access to shared insights helps foster collaboration, keep all connected partners on the same page, and contribute to informed and timely decisions in every part of your supply chain. Among other things, this enables your quality management system to address issues more comprehensively, and with input from all relevant stakeholders.
Performance in your sourcing network can vary greatly from supplier to supplier -- and one approach to quality management will not fit all.
If your QMS has the ability to capture supplier performance data, consolidate it and present it to you in an easy-to-understand way, you can use those insights to create a risk profile for every supplier. Based on those, you can decide how much scrutiny each supplier needs.
For example, mature manufacturers with a good track record can be empowered to self-inspect a part of your production order, while new and higher-risk suppliers will need third-party inspections. Having the data to make these decisions will help you make the best of your quality control budget, and manage your supplier relations effectively.
When suppliers and inspectors can work from standardized processes and specifically designed workflows, it makes it a lot easier to monitor adherence to quality and compliance requirements, and ensure that your quality data is internally consistent, instead of being stuck comparing “apples and oranges”.
Professional QMS software can come pre-bundled with a library of checklists and templates, designed by industry expects based on best practices, and updated based on regulatory changes that occur in your designated marketplace. You can use those libraries to set up your quality control and compliance workflows.
Furthermore, if all of your inspectors and suppliers are connected to the same platform, you can roll out updated standards and procedures with just a few clicks, and be confident that no part of your supply chain is operating on out-of-date specifications.
It is critical that you have an accurate picture of every supplier you consider adding to your sourcing network -- before you give them your business. However, getting comprehensive and objective data about your potential new partner’s operation can be time-consuming and costly, especially if they are located overseas. If you are choosing between several suppliers, the issue can be further complicated: for example, if their assessment was done by different parties, and the results are not immediately comparable.
To avoid this problem, you can implement a standardized process for auditing new suppliers. Detailed, customizable and ready-to-use templates for this purpose are often provided by QMS software with TIC features, helping you can make the supplier vetting process straightforward and cost-effective.
Delivering a high-quality, safe and sustainably sourced product that is a proper reflection of your brand means that your production must adhere to a slew of market regulations, auditing and certification schemes, as well as your own production standards.
With this complicated web of requirements to navigate, clear and consistent guidance for all parts of your supply chain is a vital part of your QMS.
By giving your own and your suppliers’ teams access to educational resources and training materials -- from workshops and online courses, to step-by-step videos to guide QC operations in the field -- you ensure that your brand’s and target market’s requirements are being followed consistently and contribute to lasting improvement within your own business and among your partners.
Today’s consumers are increasingly demanding products with sourcing practices that are in line with their values. Indeed, buyers are willing to stay loyal to brands that practice transparent, sustainable and environmentally friendly sourcing, and prepared to leave those that do not deliver on the ethical front.
As customer satisfaction is among the ultimate goals of a well-functioning QMS, it only makes sense to expand its reach to concerns of sustainable sourcing, supply chain ethics and transparency. The good news is, the fundamental QMS tools that you may already be using to ensure manufacturing quality and regulatory compliance -- such as consistent standards, real-time data collection, supplier training, and more -- can be effectively leveraged to monitor adherence to ethical standards and build a more ethical supply chain.
Furthermore, we wanted to give you ways to develop your quality management system that build on your existing resources, without the need to scrap or fully overhaul your existing supply chain management platform. To achieve that, we made sure that the QIMAone quality control and compliance software can be integrated with existing management tools and platform, such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Warehouse Management Software (WMS).
Discover the many features of QIMAone, and see how they can become powerful ways to improve your quality management system.
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