An effective quality management system is about defining standards to meet your customers’ expectations, establishing reliable methods for meeting, or exceeding those standards, and putting systems and documentation in place to ensure consistency and sustainability in the quality of the products and services you deliver to your customers.
QMS software provides a framework for all of that. It makes it possible to collect data, automate processes, and manage information thoroughly and effectively. The right QMS software can mean the difference between passing a quality audit with flying colors versus falling short of the expected standards. It provides visibility to important quality metrics, and it ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. Here are some important ways that a good QMS software system can support your organization in achieving quality excellence.
#1: It Supports Data-Driven Decisions
How is data collected, collated, and analyzed in your organization? In many companies, unfortunately, the answer is “not very well.” This stems from some of the fundamental problems associated with older quality management systems, ad hoc processes, or manual approaches to collecting and collating data.
In many companies, data collection practices have developed over time. As new insights into a manufacturing process emerge, for example, quality teams may determine that it makes sense to measure some attribute of the product that has never been scrutinized in the past. That decision drives a new data collection process, and the path of least resistance often leads to the creation of paper-based forms that hang on a clipboard somewhere in the production or testing workspace.
That data must ultimately end up in a digital format such as a database or spreadsheet. That means it must be manually keyed into a computer. Unfortunately, there are a lot of opportunities for this process to go awry. Papers inevitably get misplaced, data entry errors occur, or sometimes the handwriting is just too difficult to read.
Even so, let’s imagine for a moment that all our paper-based data ends up being perfectly transcribed into a spreadsheet, where a Microsoft Excel power-user can create some great-looking charts and graphs. Unfortunately, that information is still disconnected from all of the other data in your quality and production systems.
An effective QMS system supports data-driven systems by automating the data collection process, making it digital, and putting it on mobile devices where it can flow directly to a centralized quality database. When data is stored centrally, it can be analyzed and understood holistically. Executives have real-time visibility to important quality metrics. Visibility translates to better control and more effective business decisions.
#2: It’s Highly Adaptable
QMS systems should fit like a custom-tailored suit, – not like a straight jacket. Unfortunately, most software systems are designed to be prescriptive. In other words, they make certain assumptions about the way your organization should do business. Although that may work to some extent, it has some very negative implications with respect to organizational agility and flexibility.
Software should not dictate the way your company must do business. On the contrary, it should be easily adaptable to fit your needs. Although many software vendors will boast that their products can be modified, – that involves custom programming in most cases, which is expensive and generally takes time.
Highly adaptable software, in contrast, is configurable. It allows a system administrator to modify screens, rename fields, and define custom workflows quickly and easily, without extensive training or highly specialized expertise.
Remember our earlier example in which a paper-based system was implemented to measure a new product attribute, simply because it was the easiest way to solve the problem? The easiest way of doing something is rarely the most effective way. Highly adaptable software allows quality managers to tailor the software to meet their exact requirements, delivering outcomes that are both effective and easy to implement.
#3: It Fosters a Sense of Team Ownership
When QMS systems are disjointed, cumbersome, and time-consuming to use, – they can often engender a sense of frustration and resistance to established quality processes. This tends to add fuel to the complainers and naysayers that serve as a drag on team morale and quality excellence.
In contrast, when systems are easy to use, and when they are designed with the needs of employees in mind, it can turn that momentum in a positive direction. If executive management is truly committed to quality, they’ll see to it that employees have the tools they need to get the job done, quickly and efficiently.
An effective culture of quality is built upon a shared commitment to excellence. When your team has access to the right tools, they can fully embrace quality as a shared responsibility.
#4: It Automates Workflows
In today’s workplace, most employees are struggling to do more than ever before. Looking after the details can be quite a challenge, and it is not uncommon for details to fall through the cracks.
Automated workflows ensure that everyone needs to be informed about a particular work item is notified when changes occur. The person (or people) responsible for the next step in the process can be automatically notified and will receive reminders to ensure the necessary work is performed in a timely manner.
When an employee is sick or goes on vacation, tasks can be automatically routed to a secondary responsible party, further ensuring that work is performed on schedule.
#5: It Can be Extended
Earlier, we mentioned the value of configurability. Extending the software carries that principle even further by enabling users to build entirely new applications from scratch, using the same design tools, workflows, and database that the rest of the QMS system is built upon. Many of Intellect’s customers discover that they can use our products to extend the reach of their quality systems to areas of operations that have historically not been associated with quality management per se. One customer, for example, is using Intellect to track the receiving process for incoming equipment in need of service.
How does this contribute to quality excellence? First, it creates additional links between quality management and some of the tangential business processes in the company. That provides new opportunities for analyzing data holistically, understanding the business, and seeking ways to further the process of continuous improvement.
#6: It Supports Successful Audits
Internal and external audits are important tools in the overall quality management process. Internal audits serve as a valuable means of checking for accuracy and consistency. They often identify issues early, so that corrective action can be taken proactively.
External audits, likewise, serve a very important function, validating the organization’s compliance with standards and fulfilling the company’s obligations to prove itself to customers, regulators, and other third parties who have a compelling interest in product quality and safety.
An effective QMS software system ensures that documentation is current and complete. It helps to demonstrate that processes are being followed. It provides quick access to any data that an auditor may need, instilling confidence and vastly increasing the likelihood of a “no findings” outcome.
If your organization striving to build an outstanding culture of quality, the team at Intellect would love to speak with you. Contact us today to discuss your quality initiatives, and to arrange a demo of Intellect QMS.
Now that you've learned about QMS characteristics for maintaining quality, learn How QMS and EHS Software Improve Organisational Sustainability.