quality management

Using your quality management system to make your production more efficient

Nov. 2 2020 - 5 min

In a difficult economic context, businesses need to operate as efficiently as possible by reducing costs and optimizing processes. Yet to thrive long-term, companies need to make sure that their efforts to cut waste do not impact the quality of products or the customer experience.

A quality management system (QMS) can support organizations to achieve both objectives. Your existing QMS can be a highly useful tool to assess and mitigate risk in times of disruption, and to manage business lockdowns and restarts.

We take a fresh look at some key aspects of the QMS that can provide real value to organizations in times of disruption.

Risk-based thinking: addressing potential issues head-on

Finding the optimum balance between efficiency and quality is complex at the best of times. It is even more difficult in the midst of a pandemic, when organization of business processes is also determined by sanitary considerations.

Organizations that use quality management systems successfully know that a risk-based standard allows you to analyze and manage the risks associated with changes to your processes.

Risk-based thinking means continually evaluating risks and proactively managing them. It’s a fundamental business management tool that can help you ensure that the right questions are asked early on. What is the potential impact on production quality if one site closes as a result of COVID-19 restrictions? If you reduce headcount, how can you ensure that customers receive the same high quality service?

Sober analysis of the risks involved in the decisions you make enables you to anticipate the issues, implement controls, assess their effectiveness and amend them as required (otherwise known as the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle in the jargon of management systems).

To go back to the site closure example, producing parts at an alternative facility might result in a risk to quality, as workers are less familiar with the parts. A control would be to reinforce quality inspections. The effectiveness of this approach can be measured over time by looking at records of rejects.

Organizational knowledge, performance evaluation and the link to continuous improvement

Organizational knowledge is the sum of the knowledge and best practices contained in an organization that can drive business value. It recognizes that people on the ground are often best placed to find good ways to improve the processes they use every day.

This idea is true for ISO 9001, it is also true for industry-specific quality standards such as IATF 16949, ISO/TS 22163 or AS/EN 9100.

A well-designed QMS helps you capture that organizational knowledge, including when you make changes to your organization and processes. This is crucial when you are going through a period of rapid change: it’s vital to get feedback on what’s not working, and benefit from the experience of your people to make further improvements to your system.

While your annual certification audit is a time to evaluate if the changes you have made are really working and correct any non-conformities, your performance evaluation should be continuous. It involves monitoring and measuring a wide range of factors: external and internal issues, your quality processes, conformity of products and services, customer perceptions and more.

The value of quality management

Quality in its widest sense, then, goes far beyond managing product defects. It is a tool for effective business management. It helps anticipate the risks and opportunities linked to business decisions, assess the effectiveness of controls put in place to counter those risks, and provides a framework to gather knowledge on best practices.

In doing so, it fosters continual improvement across the organization – which is no mean feat in today’s troubled times.

Maintaining certification of your quality management system is both an insurance and an investment in your business’ future. Bureau Veritas, the leading provider of training and certification for quality management systems, is able to ensure that all clients remain certified throughout the COVID-19 crisis thanks to our remote audit offer. We are accredited to perform remote audits for a wide range of standards: please contact your local Bureau Veritas office for more details.