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What is Quality Management? A Complete Guide

What is Quality Management

The importance of quality cannot be overstated when it comes to businesses, their success and their longevity. When there is quality, it translates to value for customers, streamlined processes, and continual growth.

We often hear the term “quality control” in the context of how a business produces goods or services to the satisfaction of its customers consistently. However, there’s a larger concept at play, which covers quality control and other quality-related strategies. It’s called quality management.

So, what is quality management?

If you’re a project manager or aspiring to be one, you’ll want to understand how quality management works. This article comprehensively examines what it is, how it works, the methods, and everything you need to know about quality management.

We’ll also discuss how you can better understand quality and other project management concepts through a Lean Six Sigma course.

Quality Management: Definition & Examples

So, what is quality management?

In short, it involves management tasks and roles focused on defining and executing quality policies through strategies like quality planning, assurance, and control.

Let’s understand this through an example.

Consider running a bakery on your street. Sales are good, but you notice some areas for enhancement. The nearby shop has fresher flour, and your oven isn’t heating evenly. You decide to upgrade. You monitor the results and plan further refinements.

In essence, this illustrates quality management (QM). It’s the act of assessing and refining quality throughout an organization. It is the act of combining quality assurance (QA) with process enhancement.

QM sets objectives, identifies shortcomings, and makes necessary adjustments. In short, it’s the strategy to improve operations and bridge experience gaps.

Also Read: What Is Lean Management, and Why Is It Worth Mastering?

History of Quality Management in a Nutshell

Quality Management started with Walter Shewhart at Bell Laboratories in the early 20th century. He introduced statistical quality control (SQC), focusing on process improvement over the end product.

During World War II, the U.S. applied SQC for military production. However, post-war civilian manufacturers lagged in adopting these improvements. Then, engineers Deming and Juran traveled to war-torn Japan. Their approach emphasized ‘Total Quality,’ a holistic approach to improvement. Their efforts transformed Japan into a manufacturing titan.

By the 1980s, recognizing Japan’s success and shortcomings, the U.S. adopted Total Quality Management (TQM). 1987, the ISO 9000 standard was introduced, becoming a global quality benchmark.

As the 21st century rolled in, with globalization and technology at the forefront, approaches like Motorola’s Six Sigma emerged, emphasizing near-perfect outputs.

Today, quality management isn’t limited to manufacturing; it’s a universal pursuit, spanning sectors from healthcare to cutting-edge technologies like Blockchain.

What is Quality Management: Four Stages

The four Quality Management (QM) stages are often described as part of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle or Shewhart Cycle.

Here’s a brief overview:

Plan

This is the initial stage where you identify an opportunity and plan for change. This involves setting objectives, defining processes to meet the objectives, and determining the resources needed.

Do

In this stage, you implement the plan on a small scale, ideally in a controlled environment. This is where the changes are tested, and data is collected for the next step.

Check

Here, you assess your test results, comparing them against the expected outcomes to determine any differences. You’ll analyze the data collected during the “Do” phase to understand whether the change has led to improvements.

Act

You take corrective action Based on the “Check” phase results. If the implemented change leads to the desired improvement, you can scale up the implementation. If not, you must revisit the “Plan” phase to identify new or refined solutions.

This cycle keeps repeating, always aiming to make things better. When one cycle finishes, it helps set up the next, ensuring we’re always checking and improving our methods for the best results.

Also Read: What Is Process Mapping & How to Create It?

Most Popular Quality Management Methods

Four essential quality management methods stand out. Each offers unique benefits and challenges; the best fit depends on a company’s structure, needs, and goals.

Standardized Systems

Set by the government, these standards, like ISO certifications, are mandatory for certain products (e.g., baby car seats). Some firms adopt these standards voluntarily to enhance their reputation or align with their vision.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

This aims to boost quality throughout a company. It assesses the firm’s overarching quality goals and then evaluates every process and factor affecting quality for improvement.

Six Sigma

A detailed, data-centered approach, Six Sigma focuses on defining, measuring, analyzing, enhancing, and maintaining quality. Predominantly used by large manufacturers, it necessitates thorough training. For deeper insights, consider enrolling in a boot camp.

Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)

As the name suggests, the enhancement never stops. Recognizing perfection is a journey, CQI prioritizes people over processes, using the Plan, Do, Check, Act framework to improve quality.

What are the Main Quality Management Principles?

Quality management revolves around several guiding principles. Adopted by the International Standard for Quality Management, these principles enable organizations to refine their processes for optimal results:

Prioritizing Customers

Every organization’s main goal should be to understand and surpass the needs and expectations of its customers. By recognizing and fulfilling both current and future customer needs, businesses ensure customer loyalty, leading to increased revenue. Effective and efficient processes enhance quality, satisfying more customers.

Importance of Leadership

The success of any organization is directly linked to its leadership. Effective leaders foster unity, setting clear goals that engage employees and stakeholders. A positive organizational culture helps employees achieve their potential and work towards company goals. Engaging employees in goal-setting often leads to heightened productivity and commitment.

Engaging Employees

Active employee involvement is crucial. All staff should be empowered to contribute value regardless of their employment status or role. Constant skill improvement and consistent performance should be promoted. Empowerment, decision-making involvement, and recognition motivate employees, ensuring they feel valued and responsible for their contributions.

Adopting a Process-Centric Mindset

Organizational performance hinges on efficient and effective processes. Recognizing that superior processes lead to consistency, efficiency, and ongoing improvement is vital. Organizations thrive when they can effectively manage inputs and the processes that yield outputs.

Commitment to Ongoing Improvement

An enduring focus on improvement can transform organizations, enhancing flexibility, performance, and adaptability. A proactive stance on creating and evolving processes is crucial to stay competitive.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Grounding decisions in analyzed and validated data offers a clearer understanding of the market dynamics. Such a factual approach ensures businesses can execute strategies that yield desired outcomes while providing a basis for past decisions. It aids in understanding the interconnected nature of actions and their consequences.

Building Strong Relationships

Effective relationship management, especially with suppliers and stakeholders, is paramount. Recognizing that various parties can influence an organization’s trajectory ensures better supply chain management. By cultivating and maintaining these relationships, businesses enhance their chances of long-term success and collaboration.

Also Read: What Is Lean Six Sigma? A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Methodology

What is a Quality Management System (QMS)?

Let us look at how the principles of quality management are implemented through the QMS or Quality Management System.

A Quality Management System (QMS) ensures that products are made to meet quality standards. It monitors products from start to finish, ensuring they align with industry and regulatory norms.

QMS can be manual or software-driven and comprises two main parts: quality assurance and quality control.

While quality assurance focuses on inspecting processes during production, quality control evaluates the end products using customer feedback and on-site inspections. Quality assurance maintains consistent quality during production, and quality control verifies the final product’s quality.

The Importance of Quality Management Systems in Business

Why do businesses need QMS? Here is a breakdown of what it means to the business processes:

Product Oversight

The QMS constantly monitors products, beginning with acquiring raw materials and continuing to ship finished goods. It’s vigilant about tracking the quantity of products made and promptly identifying faulty ones.

Vendor Product Evaluation

This aspect of the QMS ensures that products sourced from vendors align with predetermined quality benchmarks. Vendor products can be quickly identified and returned if they fall short of these standards.

Scheduled Evaluations

Regular assessments are scheduled for staff, products, and equipment, ensuring ongoing quality compliance.

Error Tracking and Rectification

One vital feature of a QMS is its ability to spot and record current errors within the system. Beyond identifying them, it establishes strategies to both rectify present issues and devise mechanisms to prevent similar problems in the future.

Supplier Performance Assessment

A QMS employs key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate suppliers’ efficiency and reliability critically.

Policy and Procedure Updates

An effective QMS stays updated with any changes to company policies and procedures.

Moreover, it provides detailed and actionable reports on all facets of the quality management process.

Things to Remember When Choosing a Quality Management System

When choosing a QMS, numerous options can be overwhelming. Here’s a condensed guide to making an informed decision.

Industry Experience

It’s essential to check if the QMS provider has experience in your sector. They should have worked with similar businesses and be conversant with your specific quality requirements. Moreover, they should offer reliable references and display deep industry knowledge in software, installation, and training.

Functionality Needs

Determine if the software aligns with your business requirements. Key functionalities to consider include:

  • Meeting industry-specific quality compliance standards
  • Integration capabilities with other systems
  • Tracking non-conformities and offering a comprehensive audit trail
  • Features like Correct and Preventative Action (CAPA) management to address root causes
  • AQL and RQL sampling throughout processes
  • Efficient document control to log all quality endeavors
  • Display of KPIs for supplier performance evaluation
  • Flexibility to gather data from various sources, including mobile devices or the web

Visibility

Real-time visibility into quality events is crucial. A robust QMS provides insights across the enterprise, allowing proactive issue resolution. It should offer the ability to monitor vendors and employees for compliance and training needs.

Master Quality Management for Better Project Outcomes

Quality management is paramount in every industry. For project managers, it’s critical to ensure streamlined processes that lead to the desired level of quality and performance.

If you want formal training in quality management, enrolling in a professional Lean Six Sigma certification can be a great starting point.

You might also like to read:

Six Sigma Principles: A Comprehensive Guide to Implementing and Optimizing Your Processes

Six Sigma vs. Lean Six Sigma: Which Methodology Is Right for Your Business?

What is Lean Methodology?

Six Sigma in Healthcare: Concept, Benefits and Examples

The Top 24 Lean Six Sigma Interview Questions for 2023

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