Monday 29 August 2016

Quality management system: why are there so many systems and ISO 9001 certifications and so few quality products and services?

You could recall your bitter experience, when you were made accountable for some challenging project, without authority to use the critical resources, available within the organization. There are situations when top management thinks that this project is a regulatory requirement, a necessary evil, which can in no way contribute to the bottom line. Sometimes top management as well as the senior staff members feel that Quality management system is forced on them by outsiders, and its outcome (success or failure) wont impact the organization. Some such issues may result in partial or complete failure of the QMS, resulting in poor quality of products and services.

Often a Government agency or a major client of yours insists on your implementing QMS, and getting it certified to ISO 9001 certification requirements. Third party audit as per ISO 9001 is able to reduce second party auditing costs.  Many of the certified vendors however, forget about QMS, once the certification is successful. They revisit it, only when the surveillance audit becomes due. QMS fails to make an impact on the business processes, as it is not used in planning the business operations of the company.

There are no doubt so many standards for the QMS, and there are regulatory requirements which add to burden of documentation and record keeping. International Standards Organization (ISO) is trying to adopt common structure for all of its standards, to reduce the duplication of documentation.

Quality management system partly successful

In some sectors of the economy however, QMS appears to be marginally successful in driving the realization of   better quality of products and services. Automobile part manufacturers, for example, who got their QMS certified, have been able to fulfil the requirements of some global customers. Second party audits by clients too have played a significant role, in maintaining product conformity.

Common causes of failure

There are some common reasons for the failure of Quality management systems. These are as follows:

1. Attitude of helplessness and indifference:

Lack of involvement of people results in an enforced system. People feel helpless and indifferent about new procedures and methods to be adopted for the success of the QMS processes. If people are involved in writing procedures, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about implementing the same.

2. Alignment of strategy and planning

Lack of alignment of business strategy, strategic plans and critical processes (process criteria) can result in a system that may not be successful in achieving results. Sustained efforts are needed in aligning and integrating the processes and their criteria, to drive improvement of quality for products and services. Planning must take into account the risks involved, due to unplanned changes in resources as well as the customer requirements.

3. Visibility of improvements

While improvement may be just trickling in, communication and visibility may be lacking in most cases. Excessive expectation can also harm the chances of success. We must show patience in looking for improvements. 

4. Visible leadership and support

Owners and top managers must be optimistic and willing to spare their time and energy to demonstrate visible commitment and support for ensuring success of the quality management system. They must motivate the process owners and employees to succeed in improving quality of products and services. Recognition of improvement effort too is important for driving the successful implementation of the system.

5 constraints of skills and other resources

Skill gap is an important bottleneck in many organizations that aspire to deliver world class products and services. Right HR policies and conducive working environment can ensure that right talent can be acquired. Performance management systems and people development plans must ensure that people keep upgrading critical skills and work in teams to ensure success for the organization through quality product and service offerings.

Management must invest in appropriate technology to be able to meet the changing   expectations of customers. Funds needed for QMS development and people development need to be made available.
Expertise in development of appropriate QMS is sometimes a constraint.  Selecting a competent ISO 9001 Consultant can help you overcome this bottleneck.

6. Clarity of Relationships and communication

Lack of clarity of area of responsibilities and overlaps sometimes cause nonconformities resulting in poor output quality. Effective communication by the top management must ensure that roles and responsibilities and interrelation ships are clearly understood and process interfaces don’t become ‘no man’s land’. Customer requirements and regulators expectations must be very clearly understood by each of the employees, as well as the vendor’s process owners. Interdependence and interaction of different processes and criteria of the processes must be clearly communicated.

7. Not being driven by customer

When the quality improvement is not driven by customer, the probability of success appears to be low. Customer involvement in quality improvement through QMS is a crucial requirement for visible quality improvement. When the voice of the customer is captured and used for improvement in product and service features, then the improvement efforts get aligned to customer requirements.

8. Audit which doesn’t look at the big picture

Auditors are trained to look at individual clauses of ISO 9001, but they fail to look at the big picture of quality of goods and services delivered by the company. Issues related to integration of network of processes and optimum balancing between customer expectations and needs of other interested parties such as shareholders and vendors can’t be easily audited. Auditor’s expertise in the business process and technology adopted by the company can sometimes add value to auditing process.

1 comment:

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