What Is Continual Improvement in QMS 9001?
The term ‘continual improvement’, when used in the context of quality management systems (QMS), refers to an ongoing effort to improve QMS processes and procedures. This effort is aimed at achieving better results in terms of quality and performance.
The concept of continual improvement is often used in conjunction with the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. PDCA is a four-step process that helps organisations identify opportunities for improvement, implement changes, and assess the results.
Continual improvement can be applied to any aspect of an organisation's operations, including its QMS. To ensure that a QMS is always up-to-date and fit for purpose, it is essential to regularly review and revise it. This process of ongoing review and revision is known as ‘QMS continual improvement’.
The standard is developed and maintained by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).
The ISO 9001 standard is made up of several clauses that companies must adhere to be certified. The clauses are divided into two sections:
- The first section covers the requirements that organisations must meet to be certified.
- The second section guides how to implement the requirements.
The requirements of the ISO 9001 standard are designed to be generic and applicable to all organisations, regardless of size, type, or product. The standard intends to help organisations improve their quality management system and increase customer satisfaction. There are several benefits that companies can gain from implementing ISO 9001, such as:
- Improved efficiency and effectiveness
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Reduced costs
- Improved communication
- Enhanced reputation.
Four-step quality assurance method PDCA
To ensure that products and services meet the highest quality standards, many organisations implement quality management systems (QMS). QMS 9001 is a four-step quality assurance method that can be used to assess and improve quality management in organisations.
The PDCA method, also known as the Deming cycle, is a continuous improvement process that can be used to implement QMS 9001. The four steps in the PDCA cycle are:
- Plan: Define the goals and objectives of the quality assurance process.
- Do: Implement the quality assurance plan and collect data.
- Check: Analyse the data to identify any areas of improvement.
- Act: Take action to improve the quality management system.
The Importance of Continual Improvement in ISO Standards
ISO is committed to continual improvement in the development and delivery of our products and services. We continuously seek feedback from our customers and other stakeholders to ensure that our products and services meet their needs and exceed their expectations.
In addition, we regularly review our products and services to identify opportunities for improvement. We also invest in research and development to ensure that we remain at the forefront of innovation in the quality management field.
It is ISO’s policy to periodically review and update our standards in line with market needs and technological developments. We also revise our standards in response to feedback from our customers and other stakeholders.
So why is continual improvement important? There are many reasons, but some of the most important are:
- It helps us ensure that our products and services meet the needs of our customers and other stakeholders.
- It helps us identify and implement innovations that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our products and services.
- It helps us remain at the forefront of quality management practices.
- It helps us ensure that our standards are appropriate for the context in which they will be used.
The standards we develop are based on several quality factors, including:
- Relevance: The standard must be relevant to the context in which it will be used
- Clarity: The standard must be clear and easy to understand.
- Precision: The standard must be precise and unambiguous.
- Consistency: The standard must be consistent with other standards.
- Simplicity: The standard must be simple.
Continual Improvement Steps for Quality Management
Several steps are involved in quality management for continual improvement in QMS 9001. They are as follows:
- Planning: This is the first and most important step in continual improvement. It involves setting goals and objectives and designing a plan to achieve them.
- Implementing: This step involves putting the plan into action and making sure that it is being followed.
- Measuring: This step involves collecting data and measuring progress. This helps to identify areas of improvement.
- Analysing: This step involves analysing the data to identify trends and causes of problems.
- Improving: This step involves making changes to the process based on the findings from the previous steps.
- Monitoring: This step involves monitoring the process to ensure that the improvements are effective and sustainable.
- Evaluating: This step involves evaluating the process to ensure that it is meeting the goals and objectives.
- Communicating: This step involves communicating the results of the continual improvement process to all stakeholders.
- Sustaining: This step involves sustaining the improvements made through continual improvement.
The benefits of Continual Improvement Steps for Quality Management in QMS 9001
There are many benefits of continual improvement steps for quality management in QMS 9001. Some of the benefits are listed below:
- Helps to prevent quality problems: Continual improvement helps to identify and correct quality problems before they occur. This helps to prevent the occurrence of defects in the finished product.
- Helps to improve customer satisfaction: By preventing quality problems and constantly improving the quality of the product, continual improvement steps help to improve customer satisfaction.
- Helps to reduce costs: By preventing quality problems and improving the quality of the product, continual improvement steps help to reduce the overall cost of the product.
- Helps to improve employee morale: Employees who are constantly working towards improving the quality of the product are usually more motivated and have higher morale.
- Helps to improve the image of the company: A company that is constantly improving the quality of its products is usually seen in a positive light by its customers and the general public. This can help to improve the image of the company.