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How to Improve Your QMS

Many companies don't benefit from their ISO 9001 quality management system (QMS). Some even find it nothing but bureaucratic busywork. We'll show you what can be done to improve an underperforming QMS and turn it into an ISO system that benefits operations and increases profitability.

What Has Gone Wrong?

Nine out of ten underperforming quality management systems have been improperly set up from the beginning (the remaining ones dropped the ball along the way for various reasons).

Setting up the QMS incorrectly often stems from customer pressure or too strong a focus on getting certified for marketing purposes; operational improvements are of no consideration. The implementation method is chosen based on price or convenience, without realizing that a poorly implemented system can result in costly inefficiencies and productivity losses.

No matter if a consultant set up the ISO 9001 system in isolation or the company used a cheap DIY documentation kit, the typical results are ill-fitting procedures that add bureaucracy and hinder efficiency.

If your company finds itself confronted with the choice of following inefficient procedures or falsifying records in order to pass the next scheduled audit, then it's time to reevaluate and improve your ISO system.

The ISO 9001 standard was developed by the International Organization for Standardization as a tool to help businesses improve their operations, run more efficiently with less scrap or rework, increase customer satisfaction, resulting in increased sales and profitability. Certification and the associated marketing benefits should be considered important but secondary bonuses.

What Can Be Done?

Several things can be done to improve your quality management system.

1. Set Better Objectives

Setting certification as the primary – or only – objective when implementing ISO 9001 is usually the reason why quality management systems subsequently fail. You simply won't get an effective QMS unless you aim for it.

The first step on the path to improving your QMS is for management to set the right objectives. Consider issues like customer and employee satisfaction, process efficiency, scrap and rework, and decision-making processes. What do your customers, employees and managers have problems with or complain about? Now make the improvement of each of these issues a primary objective of your QMS.

How to Improve Your QMS

ISO 9001 is supposed to be used by management as a tool in daily operations. Once managers (and senior executives, in particular) understand both the standard and the benefits it can bring, it's important that they demonstrate their support for it and actively utilize the QMS. Executive training with our online courses or customized on-site programs is ideal for achieving the necessary understanding.

3. Involve all Employees

In order to succeed and be sustainable, your ISO system needs the support of all employees. Everybody should be involved, take ownership and contribute to the aspects that are relevant to their job.

While it's essential that employees understand what ISO 9001 is and how it can benefit them, it's hard to demonstrate the positive side of ISO once dissatisfaction, negativity and doubt have set in. Our short, motivational video courses may be all that's needed to turn things around and generate employee buy-in.

4. Fix Your Documentation

Documentation is at the heart of your QMS. Procedures describe how work processes are to be conducted, and forms and checklists not only simplify the collection of required data but also support certain processes. In other words, the effectiveness of your operational processes is directly impacted by the quality of your documentation and its suitability for your company's needs.

Take a look at your documents and evaluate if they are user-friendly, describe efficient processes that fit your company's operations, and basically just make sense. If you find your documentation inadequate or incomplete, consider filling the gaps with our templates that can easily be adapted to your company's situation. You may even want to consider a fresh start with our ISO 9001 Documentation Toolkit.

Comprehensive Improvement

If you find yourself in a situation that calls for radical improvement to your QMS, we recommend you follow all the tips above. Merely improving your documentation without involving all employees, without getting full management support or without setting the right objectives, won't result in a truly efficient ISO system.

So, again, to improve your QMS you need to follow each of our four tips.

If all of these issues are carefully managed and resolved in tandem, your company's QMS should improve dramatically and you'll be well on the way to reaping the rewards that ISO 9001 is renowned for.

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