Implementing Quality Management Systems that Bring Real Improvements
Many quality professionals don’t feel that a process is complete until a signature has been inked on a paper form. They’re daunted by the very idea of implementing quality management systems (QMS) that are electronically based. What they may not be taking into account, though, is that a robust quality management software solution makes it possible for a company to enhance the efficiency of its quality systems while also ensuring that those systems are compliant, connected, and cost effective. Implementing quality management systems that automate quality processes allows companies to keep up with industry trends and gives them a proven means of achieving and maintaining regulatory compliance. The question, then, is how does a company go about implementing QMS software? Where do you start?
What to Do When Implementing Quality Management Systems
To ease some of the anxiety about implementing quality management systems, consider some of the key factors that need to be taken into account before taking the plunge and abandoning your antiquated paper-based QMS system:
- Establish the scope: Carefully defining your quality management criteria is the first step one has to take before implementing quality management systems. If you don’t analyze your needs and define your direction and criteria, you won’t know the type of electronic QMS system that best fits your needs.
- Determine your number one priority: Typically, a company will have one of three top priorities when implementing quality management systems: money, time, or process. If you can’t determine which priority is number one prior to implementing the quality management system, the conflict will inevitably result in failure in at least one department once implementation is complete. If the company is facing a deadline due to an audit finding, then time is the top priority. If internal inefficiencies and broken processes are continually the company’s biggest bugaboos, then process is the top priority. If you know you need a modern, automated quality management system but you only have a limited budget, then money is your chief concern. Whatever the priority may be, it needs to be defined prior to implementation.
- Review all the issues: If you aren’t able to clarify the “what” and the “why” of your implementation project, you will never be able to find a resolution. Defining and reviewing your requirements, constraints, and procedures will narrow your focus to just the core issues. Don’t take a single step toward implementing quality management systems until such issues have been reviewed.
- Plan with clarity: Ever hear the old adage “Measure twice, cut once”? The same concept applies when implementing quality management systems. You’ll just end up wasting money and resources if you don’t double check and clearly establish your focus and central problems. Take Company X, for instance. They thought an expensive QMS software solution that had all the best bells and whistles would resolve all their quality headaches. Unfortunately, they didn’t identify that the main problem wasn’t the quality management system they were using; rather, it was a broken quality process. As a result, the pricey new system didn’t solve the problem, it was merely incorporated into an already flawed process.
- Exploit the advantages of team decision making: If your decision making team takes the time to uncover all the expectations and possible contingencies, you won’t need to sugar coat the return on investment because all bases have been covered and all departments’ needs have been addressed.
- Don’t discount the value of good resources: Don’t leave internal subject matter experts (SMEs) out of the decision making process just because you’re worried about having too many cooks in the kitchen. On the flip side of that coin, however, you may think you have everything under control with internal resources, but don’t dismiss what an outside expert can bring to the table when considering implementing quality management systems.
- Get the proper consensus: If you always make sure you’ve taken the time to have all appropriate personnel review and define their actual needs, you’ll have ensured that the proper amount of resources have been assigned to your implementation project and things will only have to be done once because you’ve done them the right way.
- Don’t ignore collective experience: The key to success in any business is using the right person for the right job. Don’t ignore all the experience and expertise that industry SMEs can bring to the table.
- Never force a square peg in a round hole: The whole point of implementing quality management systems is to improve quality processes, so don’t try to force current inefficient processes into an improved electronic system. Instead, focus on adjusting processes, improving them to fit the new software system.
These are just a handful of tips to consider when implementing quality management systems. Whatever choices you ultimately make, always remember the bottom-line rationale of QMS implementation: with the set of QMS management tools that most appropriately meets organizational needs, a company can dramatically improve both product quality and speed to market. If the right preparations and precautions are taken before implementing a quality management system, it’s possible for companies to manufacture more products of a higher quality at a much lower cost.
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