Organisations are having to jump through an increasing amount of hoops in order to pre-qualify for tender opportunities. Whilst this can seem like added bureaucracy, the public sector is under pressure to demonstrate they are spending tax payers money wisely. With supply chain issues hitting the headlines (the horse meat scandal, for example), the private sector is also starting to expect more from their once trust trusted suppliers.
The new ‘hoops’ to jump through range from demonstrating what steps your organisation takes to be sustainable, to your policy on diversity. This is all part of a movement towards greater Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), driven by governments’ recognising the benefits behind organisations considering their wider impact.
However, despite these new expectations, a stalwart demand is evidence of quality, with buyers wanting to be sure that you are running a robust, efficient business unlikely to make mistakes. Understandably, they want to get some reassurance that you can deliver a good service, on time and on budget. As such, it is common within tender documentation to be requested to give evidence of a ‘Quality Management System’, or ‘QMS’ for short.
What exactly is a Quality Management System?
Many organisations already have a Quality Policy in place, perhaps gathering dust somewhere! Whilst that may briefly outline the organisation’s aspirations to be dedicated to provide a quality service, a Quality Management System (QMS) is much more in-depth than this.
“We have been able to make changes to the way we run our company thanks to implementing the standard.” – Charlotte Downs, Fastco Fasteners & Fixings Ltd
A QMS is a reflection of what your organisation does, how it is done and how it is managed. The intent is that a QMS allows you to identify, measure, control and improve your core processes for the benefit of your customers, delivering confidence in your ability to consistently meet their expectations.
Of course, a QMS’ raison d’être isn’t to fulfil a tender requirement; when executed properly, it helps organisations to streamline their processes, helping to reduce errors, resulting re-work and the costs associated.
ISO 9001: the ready-made solution
Without buy-in and ongoing actions, as previously mentioned, policies and such like can go unloved. Buying authorities are well aware of this, which is why the ISO 9001 standard is often mentioned alongside questions regarding quality management.
What may look like an unusual acronym is the name of the world’s most established quality management standard, providing a structure for creating a QMS. Created by the International Standardization Organization, ISO 9001’s roots can be traced back to WW2 and has been continually revised since through worldwide input.
The standard is popular for three reasons – credibility, its generic nature (suitable for all organisations) and the fact that it has been proven to improve quality when implemented. Credibility is further enhanced when obtaining certification for the standard, where an independent Certification Body assesses the organisation against the requirements of the standard. As such, this takes away the burdensome task for buying authorities to check each and every potential supplier.
Importantly, ISO 9001 takes away the head-scratching result of being expected to put in a QMS without any guidance. ISO 9001 sets out defined requirements so any organisation can put together a QMS that works. Working with a Certification Body also ensures nothing slips, whilst giving your clients the added reassurance that you can give more than your word; you’ve been checked by a third-party body.