• A Quality Management System isn't just for Christmas

    on 14 December 2016


    iStock 177120277

    A quality management system (QMS) is a set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and execution of the core business of an organisation, usually in the form of documented records.

    Creating, keeping and managing effective records, often to agreed compliance standards e.g. ISO 9001 etc. can be complex, time consuming and costly. Many large commercial organisations use expensive purpose built and complex software solutions to help them manage these documents. Now there are a number of smaller, more cost effective and versatile online integrated tool solutions available, that are simpler and easier to use.

    Here are some practical suggestions to manage your QMS securely and safely, without making it too onerous.

    1. Planning

    The first step in any effective document management system is deciding what, when and how you plan to store those documents. The decisions you take now, will make the difference between being able to access the documents when you need them, and losing a crucial document in the future.

    Once you start storing your QMS documents electronically, it can be difficult to impose things like access, version control etc. later. Some of the documents you need to think about include quality policy, quality manual, procedures, work instructions, quality plans, and other records.

    • Check what the compliance requirements are – this might seem obvious, but is often forgotten
    • Decide what documents you need and in what format – do you need original documents, PDFs etc.
    • Create a simple file structure that balances between being easy to understand yet still allows for logical file management.

    2. Create an audit trail

    Even if you are not required to have an audit trail for compliance purposes, it is accepted as good practice. A good audit trail is important both for internal management confidence in your quality system and for any compliance requirements. A good online solution should, if well implemented, automatically create an audit trail.

    3. Change Management

    It is highly likely that your documents will change over time, as quality legislation and standards change. One of the great strengths of online, integrated tool solutions is that they make this easy to manage through automated version control, automated approval and recorded comments. This is essential in making sure anyone reading the documents knows they are reading the latest approved versions.

    4. Access management

    Think about who needs to have access to your quality system documents. Consider whether you might need to offer levels of permissions to access content and decide whether you need users to edit or only view content.

    • Keep your QMS simple, then people are much more likely to follow it.
    • Make guidelines available so that everyone can refer back to them.
    • All official documents should be in the shared folders, and non-official documents should be promptly deleted.

    5. Task Management

    Within any QMS, you will need to manage tasks such that you have confidence that each key stage of your quality processes has been completed correctly. Being able to generate these automatically will save you time. You don’t need a full-blown project management suite for this, as a simple task management system is more than sufficient. Look for a solution that has a task management system that tells you when each task is complete, and that is flexible enough to allow you to define the tasks that are particular to your own in-house QMS processes.

    6. Internal compliance

    A QMS is only worth implementing if everyone knows that it is there and they have read and understood it. Your solution needs to allow you to communicate easily to everyone who needs to know about new or updated documents in any particular area. You will also need an automated check if they have read it, and response that they have also understood it. You can also collect responses that indicate more specifically whether the document has been understood, or whether further changes are needed to improve clarity.

    7. Keep it simple

    If you want people to follow your quality standards, the system you use needs to be simple and easy to use. To ensure that people maintain adherence to your quality standards – keep it simple! Not every situation needs a complex tool that requires hours of set-up time. Often, all you need is an easy to use tool with the basics delivered with just the options you need - a tool that enables you hit the ground running.


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    Posted by Jacqui Hogan