As far back as early cavemen, we have seen the fundamentals of quality come into play, it just wasn’t called ISO9001. 

The principles of quality management ensured weapons were improved, hunting efforts evolved and eating habits were efficient. In this case, the family was the client and improvements in quality led to more food, warmer beds and avoiding death at the same time. 

Working as Corrective and Preventative Actions, learnings were documented on walls as hand paintings, so future generations could improve and survive. Have the principles really changed much since then?

The primary difference in modern Quality Management has been through the evolution of more defined systems and deeper processes aligned with fixed accreditation standards.  Where old quality metrics like, “How are my numbers looking?” are being replaced with defined management goals and external measurement techniques with a broad range of business objectives at the core:

  • To be profitable, stable, sustainable and innovative.
  • To eliminate waste of time, money, materials, resources and effort while increasing productivity.
  • To make incremental improvements to systems, processes and activities before problems arise - rather than correcting them after the event.
  • To create a harmonious and dynamic organisation where every employee participates and is valued.

We have evolved significantly since cave times, but any business seeking to grow and succeed needs to consider Quality Management as a primary requirement. The difference between cave times and now is that the dinosaur has been replaced by the corporation, where the teeth are pointy but come in the form of ISO9001 audits.

Quality is being driven from the top down, as the supply chain managers seek to influence and improve commercial outcomes. Without dismissing safety and environmental outcomes, customers across the market are pushing to ensure that business is conducted efficiently and for less cost. In addition to these stakeholder benefits, a number of studies have identified significant financial benefits for organisations certified to quality standards. For example, a 2011 survey from the British Assessment Bureau showed 44% of certified clients had won new business and increased revenue.

There are many ways an organisation can strive for quality improvement; from international standards like:

  • ISO9001
  • Lean Management
  • Six Sigma
  • PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)
  • Industry based accreditation schemes like the CCF IMS

What Quality Management level your company selects will be driven by the operational needs of your industry or business.

Facilities Maintenance as an industry has seen the advantages of this approach and the expectation to carry and maintain a Triple Certification (ISO9001-Quality, AS4801-Safety, ISO14001-Environment) is ever increasing.

After walking the halls at the recent Total Facilities tradeshow event on the 24th-25th March 2015 it was pleasing to see a number of small operators with the Triple certification proudly displayed on their banners. And given it is hard work and cultural change to achieve three ticks, these operators obviously recognised the value. In asking the industry about the push for going down the Quality Management route, the feedback was predominantly the same:

  1. We have to to win and maintain business
  2. Quality creates a more efficient, effective operation
  3. Through measurement we can increases customer satisfaction and retention
  4. Good systems enhance marketing and increase profit
  5. Having process improves employee motivation, awareness, and morale
  6. Continual improvement reduces waste and increases productivity

So why would a technologist write about quality management? Over the years I’ve learnt that every time a company purchases, leases or builds a new system their primary goal is to improve business outcomes. Generally this is achieved in business silos. Quality Management, on the other hand, organically aims to increase business efficiency holistically across the operation. 
As technology improves, it’s clear the parallels between quality and technology are fusing. Such that technology extends the likelihood of automation practices, which have traditionally been difficult to manage within a Quality Management System. Technology enhances many quality elements a paper shuffle can’t such as:

  • Non-Conformances Corrective and Preventive Actions
  • Compliance, Audit and Risk Management
  • Corporate Risk Appetite, Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point Management

At its core, quality management is about record keeping, document management and structured improvement of non conformance events within business. It’s about management-led improvement supported by 3rd party testing and audit. Thanks to modern technology, technological advancements in mobile devices and improvements to mobile networks, we have reached a clear tipping point where quality systems can take advantage of technology at every layer of the quality process within business.

SME companies who originally believed that Quality Management was too hard can now use technology to simplify the process.  This comes as the intersection of technology and quality management software has prompted the emergence of a new software category: Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS). 

EQMS software breaks down functional silos created by traditionally implemented standalone and targeted solutions. Supporting the proliferation and accessibility of information across supply chain activities and service delivery, it provides a holistic viewpoint for managing the quality of processes and customer service.

This would not be possible in my opinion if the smartphone revolution had not provided the tools to cost effectively deploy software to the field. Mobile is a big part of the technology mix for Quality Automation.

Its fair to assume that technology will reduce the time to become quality assured, it will remove the obstacles of being quality assured and will evolve rapidly within business to remove further waste and identify areas for improvement. The evidence is emerging that quality and technology will go hand in hand, but the empirical data needs validation given that we are at the initial stage of the mobile revolution.

For FM companies starting out on the quality journey or expanding existing systems, technology may be the key. Those companies ingrained with paper and running accredited quality frameworks today may find the jump more challenging. However, it’s evident that the use of effective technology may reduce the work effort and provide lucrative returns.

As the SME market realises the potential to gain competitive advantages to evolve with technology, I believe that a segmentation will take place and many more will take the leap of faith in this direction. I know from experience that the clients will be extremely happy as the quality bar improves. This should immediately change the supply side capability within the market and may see a shift in the supply chain participants. Remember how trendy it was in the 80’s and 90’s to be quality certified? And that was when paper-based systems were the only tools of the trade!

So with the massive shift in technology there might  be new reason for a resurgence of Quality Management?

Glossary of Terms

ISO9001 - provides a framework for quality which introduced through the International Organisation for Standardisation in 1987 to certify the systems and processes of companies.

AS4801 - provides methods for implementing an occupational health and safety management system, where the terms 'hazard/risk assessment' and 'control of hazards/risks' are used extensively.

ISO140001 - was introduced in 1996 to promote more effective and efficient environmental management in organisations and to provide cost effective, system-based tools to measure and report

TQM - Defines an approach to quality where the sum of the activities drives a Total Quality Management outcome for the business and is a method used in Europe.

IMS - The Integrated Management System provided by the Civil Contractors Federation which provides a minimum standard for working within the Civil Industry. It is designed to deliver similar outcomes to ISO9001, but with a different auditing requirement.

LEAN - A methodology for removing waste from a business to improve company performance both financial and operational. The removal of non value added tasks or work effort.

NCR - A non-conformance report documents the details of a non-conformance identified in a quality audit or other process review. The objective of the report is to make an unambiguous, defensible, clear and concise definition of the problem so that corrective action can and will be initiated by management.

RCA - A Root Cause Analysis is an approach to determining the specific reason something has happened and is a good way to determine the approach to Corrective Actions required after a Non Conformance has been raised in business.

CAPA - Corrective Action / Preventative Action is the way a company should respond to Non Conformances to ensure those Non Conformances are not repeated.

BPM - Business Process Mapping provides a simple to understand picture of the operation of a company using process maps and procedure/work instructions in a clear way, such that any person in the business can identify where they sit in the business. 

ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning was originally the domain for large companies to implement a one stop technology solution to run everything from finance to manufacturing. There are many terms associated with ERP, but the main idea is that a company has one system to run their business.

EQMS - is a platform for cross-functional communication and collaboration that centralises, standardises, and streamlines quality management data from across the value chain. Can be associated to MQMS (Mobile Quality Management System).

ROI - Return on Investment is a calculation of the benefit of buying something. In the case of technology it is usually associated with the money saved within the business because of the introduction of the technology.

QHSE - An acronym which can be ordered according to the user. Fundamentally QHSE relates to the Quality, Health, Safety and Environment, which make up the major components of a Quality framework.