Quality Management Systems: The Process and the Reality
Long before Quality Management Systems (QMS) became the definitive term, those of us in this realm over the last 30 years went through the study of W. Edwards Deming and his comprehensive view for quality, and especially continuous improvement over the entire enterprise. This ultimately led to the more formalized quality techniques developed and implemented over decades, promulgated by Joseph Juran and his “Juran trilogy” of quality planning, quality control and quality improvement. We are now at the stage where “acceptance tester” has transformed to “quality engineer”, and not from just a simple name change. This transformation embraces the need for actual quality assurance, not as an afterthought but as built-in component to the overall project, application, etc.
Many years ago, the Zenith Television company had a slogan “The Quality Goes In, Before the Name Goes On.”TM This quaint slogan from the 1960’s now exemplifies the results of a proper QMS. With more than 1000 National and International Associations and Societies developing, testing, benchmarking and publishing standards for everything from Engineering to Sustainability and the process of adhering to, complying with, and seeking recognition of Certification to those standards, QMS has not only enabled but broadened pursuit of this endeavor.
Regardless of industry, QMS has been embraced and modified to tailor it to the specific areas, tools, applications, processes, etc., that require quality delivery. Quality Management helps ensure market share goals, regulatory compliance, customer satisfaction and production targets are met or exceeded.
This is the grand view of QMS, but practitioners will tell you there is a lot more to QMS than what my simple descriptions above relay.
“Quality” is no longer an advertising term; it has become an expected and integral part of everything today’s consumer expects, from buying a newly-constructed home to a Bluetooth speaker. The permutations of ensuring the product meets the design requirements, functions as promised and delivers the expected customer experience is paramount. The same holds true for software applications and processes. The business “consumer” is equally driven to expect and purchase quality.
Scalable and process-driven models drive performance, but one must take caution to ensure the successful execution of the process is not the end-goal; but rather delivering a quality product
QMS has made broadstrides across the realms of industry despite or in most cases, with the aid of, regulatory, governmental or professional oversight. While the tendency is to view governmental or regulatory oversight and professional influence as additional work, the reality is this influence or requirement has delivered focus and driven more positive quality control results, regardless of industry. Further, governmental or regulatory authority or professional oversight serves as a backstop and benchmark for certification efforts.
Much like any process, the rapid advancement and custom-tailoring may sometimes water down the overall effect. The QMS may be bastardized to where the focus is on checking off steps (in anticipation of possible certification) rather than focusing on whether the step contributed to the process and hence the quality of the article being delivered. Scalable and process-driven models drive performance, but one must take caution to ensure the successful execution of the process is not the end-goal; but rather delivering a quality product. Joseph Juran, the evangelist for quality management practices was concerned with this possibility and advocated for management training in quality processes are part of the overall practice.
As noted, any process that is tailored to fit the individual process, application or industry, a lot can get lost in translation. What doesn’t get lost is cost. Cost is a significant concern however understanding the different costs is crucial. The cost of quality or more specifically, poor quality, is borne throughout the process and Juran was critical in his advocacy for quality management training to control or curtail poor quality. This important step is often cast aside to focus of the up-front cost of quality management training, overlooking how the success of the latter greatly offsets or reduces the cost of the former.
The expanded focus on quality via use of Quality Management Systems and the additional goal of enabling certification or processes that produce quality, to a national or internationally-recognized standard is not only crucial to the ultimate end-product, whatever it may be, but serves as a bellwether for an organization’s success in the marketplace and amongst its peers in its industry.