What is ISO 9001? Quality Management Systems (QMS) explained

  • ISO 9001

Companies and organisations are now expected to prove competency across an increasing number of disciplines in order to win contracts in both the private and public sector. A quality management system (QMS) is one of the best ways of reassuring potential clients that you can meet their projects aims and objectives. Here we take a closer look at what a QMS is and how it could benefit your business.

What is a Quality Management System?

In the most simple terms, a quality management system such as ISO 9001 is a clearly defined set of business processes. Together with the relevant documentation, it defines your commitment to creating products and services in accordance with pre-defined standards. A good QMS should include detailed information about processes and responsibilities within an operational environment.

An effective QMS ensures that your business delivers to a consistently high standard, together with a plan to continually measure and improve every aspect of the business operations, within the appropriate regulatory framework.

What are the benefits of using a QMS?

Using a QMS can make your company very attractive to your potential customers. It confirms that the promises made by your sales and marketing function can be more than adequately fulfilled by your operational capacity. Other important benefits include:

1. Consistency

Companies that use a QMS have a very clearly defined process for manufacturing products or delivering services that allows them to cope with staff changes, breakdowns and even finding new outsource partners. Because documentation is a key factor in the QMS, the information is readily available to deal with changes. The company is no longer reliant on individual skill and knowledge.

2. Reduction in failures

A good QMS should have an inbuilt reviewing process. Should a problem occur in a process, or if a customer is not satisfied with a service, then the errors that have led to this failure can be identified and the causes examined. From the findings, the systems can be updated to prevent similar issues in the future.

3. Prequalification for new business

A QMS such as ISO 9001 demonstrates your competency to new businesses and markets. Many types of organisation, from those that work in the public sector through to international corporations, will take your QMS as a mark of trust. Make sure you get certification through the appropriate channels, such as a UKAS accredited provider to maximise this benefit.

4. Evidence-based change

Without clear results and statistics deciding what changes to make in a business is complete guesswork. A QMS will generate a real picture of operational weak points and frailties. It will provide the data that is required in order to reflect and inform meaningful change within the business.

5. Continual improvement

Going forward, a QMS will provide a business with a simple framework for implementing change within procedures, complete with a full documentation process that allows businesses to plot the evolution of different approaches. The continual refinement of the system allows organisations to pursue excellence at every level.

6. Customer satisfaction

Ultimately every business needs to serve the customer. It may be a maxim of business, but the customer is the most important entity in any relationship. By using a QMS you are making a statement about your reliability and ability to deliver on your contractual responsibilities to your customer.

Why should you choose ISO 9001 as your QMS?

ISO 9001 is internationally recognised and one of the most popular quality management systems. It is possible for a business to implement a QMS and for a disconnect between policy and procedure to still remain across the operational capacity. This is not the case with ISO 9001.

No other standard has the history of ISO 9001. The certification can be traced back to the World War II era, and has undergone continual revision on the world-wide stage. Created by the international standards agency it has become the world’s best-known quality management system.

There are three reasons why the ISO 9001 standard has developed this reputation for delivering real results:

1. Credibility

The independent certification process that requires a third party to assess the organisation against the required standards, ensuring that a high level of quality assurance is consistently achieved.

2. Universality

Because the standard can be applied across a wide variety of business sectors, it has been applied to vast numbers of companies. With such a wide reach it has become the simple way for procurement teams to rate companies.

3. Success

When ISO 9001 is implemented in a business it creates results, drives efficiency and gives business a framework for continual improvement. Its reputation is based on a consistently high level of return on investment, making it an extremely attractive proposition for business.

And of course, ISO 9001 is a pre-built QMS that reduces the load on high-level directors and authorities within the business. Rather than having to construct an entire approach from first principles, this standard allows businesses to simply make the decision and accelerate towards the end goal of certification and a better operational structure.

Where should you start?

One of the best places to discover more about how a QMS could benefit your business, with a particular focus on ISO 9001 is with us at the British Assessment Bureau. Our website provides a comprehensive overview of all the ISO standards and gives you a number of useful articles including a free beginners guide and an e-learning course that can be accessed through the ISO 9001 page.

Business is always becoming increasingly competitive. Even in the last 5 years the amount of companies in the UK has grown substantially, with record numbers of 660,000 new businesses starting up in 2017. It’s therefore vital to demonstrate clear differentiation against your rivals and adopting a QMS gives you this edge in a clear, discernible way that your customer can understand.

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Written by Mark Nutburn

CTO - technology professional with over 20 years of IT experience building bespoke CRM systems and designing customised software solutions. A key part of the management team at The British Assessment Bureau for many years and a part of AMTIVO’s management team.