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Quality management system – what is it and why does it matter?


You don’t even know how hard it was for me to decide on the first article for you! Many people already have a great knowledge of what quality and quality management system (QMS) is. At the same time, there are also many people who would like to learn about quality. A common element for all of these people is that their lack of understanding and impact on the management of the organization will not benefit anyone. That’s why we’ll start from the beginning…

Quality as
“right to value”

The question of what quality is was taken from philosophical grounds already in antiquity. Plato described it as a degree of excellence, i.e. meeting the requirements. Aristotle, on the other hand, referred to a universal cognitive category that distinguishes objects from each other or determines their similarity[1].

Did you know that there is such a field of knowledge as qualithology?

Quality is the subject of qualithology  which is “an interdisciplinary field of knowledge, dealing with all issues of quality”[2] and in literature it is described in multi-attribute way.

Referring to its various attributes, the quality gurus[3] who have made the greatest contribution to the development of quality management science define it like this:

  • J.M. Juran “the extent to which a particular product meets the needs of a particular buyer (market quality)”[4],
  • W.E. Deming “expected degree of homogeneity and reliability at the lowest possible cost and adapted to market requirements”[5],
  • Q. Crosby “compliance”[6],
  • A.V. Feigenbaum “the general characteristics of the product or service in the spheres of marketing, design, production and service, thanks to which the products and services used meet the customer’s expectations”[7],
  • K. Ishikawa defines quality as “compliance with user requirements”[8].

Moreover from the above definitions it follows that quality is divided into the following categories: production-related, product-related, user-related, value creation.

Quality is an intangible feature that accompanies any product or service. Means the “right to value” for the buyer and supplier in each economic exchange situation.[9]

It is also worth referring to the definition in ISO 9000:2015. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines quality as “the extent to which a set of inherent properties of an object meets the requirements”.[10] On the other hand, a requirement must be understood as ‘a need or expectation which has been established, customary or compulsory’.[11]

Examples of such quality requirements are:

  • customer’s requirements for the product or service (including delivery and use) e.g. on-time delivery, reliability,
  • requirements for meeting the requirements of international standards e.g. ISO 9001,
  • legal requirements e.g. European Union law,
  • industry requirements e.g. compliance with the requirements contained in additional VDA or AIAG automotive manuals.

Quality culture

A quality-based organization creates its own quality culture that determines the actions and processes that give value and the behavior and attitudes of its participants. However, this culture is created by the involvement of top management through its contribution to promoting a quality-based approach.

If the values inscribed in quality management become part of the organizational culture, quality will become a natural part of everyday work.

Quality management is a continuous process that never ends. The quality culture will change and strengthen with the maturation/development phase of the organisation and the response to the environment.

Quality management system

In the terminology standard ISO 9000:2015, quality management means quality as object to management.[12]

Quality management distinguishes four key elements, including:

  • quality planning – aimed at setting quality objectives and identifying the necessary operational processes and related resources in order to achieve quality objectives (the process of setting quality standards relevant to the project and deciding how to meet them),
  • quality assurance – aimed at ensuring confidence that the quality requirements are met (actions necessary to ensure sufficient reliability that the service or product meets certain requirements),
  • quality control – focused on meeting quality requirements (continuous efforts to maintain reliability in achieving results),
  • quality improvement – aimed at increasing the capacity to meet quality requirements (intended change to achieve even better results).

They are part of the Deming PDCA (Plan – Do – Check – Act) cycle, the idea of which is continuous improvement through the following actions:

  • Plan – plan your activities,
  • Do – carry out your activities,
  • Check – make sure that your actions are producing results,
  • Act – if your actions have yielded results, standardize your actions and improve them.ngi
Deming cycle PDCA

With the involvement of all subsystems of the company, problems related to non-compliance with quality can be solved using quality management. The requirements of ISO 9001:2015 for quality management systems are helpful here. (Other standards relating to quality management systems – in particular industry standards such as IATF – have been deliberately omitted from this article.)

The first edition of ISO 9001 (then ISO 9000 series) appeared in 1987. It promoted more documented procedures. It was only its subsequent releases (2000, 2009 and 2015) that dramatically improved the perception of the quality management system, introducing and strengthening the quality management principles derived from the Total Quality Management (TQM) philosophy into their quality management system requirements. Their knowledge is crucial for planning the QMS:

7 principles of quality management

  1. customer orientation – the primary goal of quality management is to meet the customer’s requirements and make efforts to exceed their expectations,
  2. leadership – leaders at all levels establish the unity of purpose and direction of action and create the conditions in which people are committed to achieving the quality objectives of the organization,
  3. engagement of people – competent, equipped with powers and engaged people at all levels in the organization are the basis for increasing the organization’s ability to create and deliver values,
  4. process approach – consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when actions are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system,
  5. improvement – a successful organisation is constantly focused on improving,
  6. fact based decision making – it is more likely that decisions taken on the basis of analysis and evaluation of data and information will provide the desired results,
  7. relationship management – in order to achieve lasting success, organizations manage their relationships with stakeholders, such as suppliers.
7 principles of quality management

The standard-complying organisation is required to identify processes in the quality management system, together with the sequence and interdependencies (process approach).

By locating the resources needed in the processes, it is possible to manage them in such a way as to deliver value and achieve results for relevant stakeholders (customer orientation, relationship management). At the same time, QMS gives top management (leadership) the opportunity to optimise them in the short and long term as a consequence of the decisions taken. This is to continuously implement the actions necessary to achieve the desired results and to continuously improve (improvement).

QMS provides an opportunity to apply a natural approach to effective and effective management for the organisation by defining the methods of supervision and the means of assessing them (fact based decision making). It is also extremely important to involve employees at all levels in order to manage effectively and efficiently. As participants in the processes defined in the system, they contribute directly to the results achieved (engagement of people).

The standard therefore assists in the configuration of the mechanisms that are the building blocks of the quality management system.[13]

Why does a quality management system matter?

Firstly, in the sense of business excellence, quality allows you to maximize results in every aspect of your organization’s operations.14] Secondly, the literature most commonly describes financial benefits (including cost reduction), customer satisfaction, improved product and service quality, efficiency, supply efficiency, increased competitiveness and market share, and flexibility.

Companies have realised long time ago that in order to achieve a long-term advantage in the market, they need to improve in the area of quality. This awareness has led to the birth of a new and extremely important level of management that uses quality as part of its competitiveness to meet the needs of customers. Quality management system is therefore a mean for achieving the objectives.

Quality is now a key factor in improving competitiveness.[15]

In conclusion, the paradigm (a set of notions and theories that build the foundations of a given science) shift in any scientific discipline – here discipline: science of management and quality – marks the stages of important changes and is often caused by changing conditions such as globalisation, increasing competitive pressures or increasing customer demands.

Thus, understanding how and why paradigm shifts have occurred is a prerequisite for discovering major/new trends and changing the way organizations are managed. By including activities in the quality management system, the organization gives itself the opportunity to gain such awareness. Consequently, given the competitive situation on the market, it is important that the organisation is among those that are the first to move in a new direction, as opposed to those waiting to copy the leaders’ solutions and lag behind.

Hope you found this article interesting. If you wish to receive my articles sign up to the newsletter!

If I can help you with quality management issues, please contact me. You may also join me in my private group on Facebook: ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 QualityWise Group.

Thank you for your presence.

Agata Lewkowska Ph.D.

Ps. Do not ignore the terminology standard  ISO 9000:2015. It is here you will find a basis for understanding concepts related to quality or quality management system. 

For people who want to know more:

Knowledge must have a solid foundation in order to avoid information noise. Therefore, the article was based on the following literature:

[1] Hamrol A., Quality management with examples, PWN, Warsaw 2005, p.17

[2]Kolman R.,Kwalitologia, Placet Publishing Agency, Warsaw 2009, p.48

[3]According to the authors of A.R. Martinez – Lorente, F.Dewhurst, B.G. Dale is one of the quality gurus to include J.M. Jurana, W.E. Deminga, Ph. Crosby, A.V. Feigenbaum and K. Ishikawa. [in]: Martinez-Lorente A.R., Dewhurst F., Dale B.G.,Total Quality Management: origins and evolution of term, The TQM Magazine, 1998, Vol.10, No.5, p.38

[4]Juran J.M., Godfrey A.B.,Juran’s Quality Handbook (5th Edition), McGraw-Hill, New York 1999, p.2.1

[5]Deming W.E.,Qulity, Productivity and Competition Position, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusett 1982

[6]Crosby Ph.,Running Things: the Art of Making Things Hasen, McGraw-Hill, New York 1986, p.99

[7]Beckford J.,Quality, A Critical Introduction, Routledge, 1998, p.8

[8]Ishikawa K., QC Circle Koryo: General Principles of the QC Circle.Tokyo: QC Circle Headquarters, Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers 1980

[9]Harry M., Schroeder R., Six sigma, use quality program to improve financial performance, Oficyna Economics, Kraków 2001 p. 19

[10]ISO 9000:2015, Quality Management Systems. Basics and terminology point.3.6.2

[11]ISO 9000:2015, Quality Management Systems. Basics and terminology point.3.6.4

[12] ISO 9000:2015, Quality Management Systems. Basics and terminology, point.3.3.4

[13]Lewkowska A., Quality and improvement of product implementation processes a key prerequisite for the management of the organization, [in:] Sikora T. (red), Quality Management – Improving the organization, Kraków 2010, Vol. 1, p. 132

[14]Wisniewska M., Muzolf A., Model of Excellence – Swissmed Excellence Model, Management and Finance, 2012, No. 3, Part 1, p.92

[15] Sampaio P., Saraiva P., Monteiro A., ISO 9001 certification pay-off: myth versus reality, International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management 2012, No. 29 (8), p. 906; Rusjan B., Alič M.,Capitalising on ISO 9001 benefits for strategic results, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management 2010, No. 27 (7), p. 756-778

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