Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges of any organization - is adequately preparing for the future. Knowing what lies ahead, even with the most thorough research and best available information, is hardly a science. The future will always remain a mystery. An organization can make plans or predictions to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, but how can an organization ensure that success happens more often than not?
Success is a concept that has been adapted to reflect the resiliency of companies, individuals, and processes. It is not as ironclad as most would hope, but for the majority of people, success has come by following proven protocols. Specifically speaking, manufacturing companies have learned the best path to success is by implementing Quality Management Systems (QMS).
What is a Quality Management System?
A QMS can be defined as a collection of business processes that are focused on mitigating risk, optimizing production, and meeting customer requirements on a consistent basis. The purpose of a quality management system is to ensure every time a process is performed, the same information, methods, skills, and controls are used and applied in a consistent manner. If there are process issues or opportunities, this is then fed into the quality management system to ensure continuous improvement. There are many different types of quality management systems available for manufacturers looking to create a plan to improve results, track progress, and increase quality. The type of QMS an organization needs varies depending on the industry and specific goals of the business. Regardless of their formats, all quality systems should have the following primary components:
Management and staff responsibility
Product (or service) realization
Measurement analysis & improvement
Where did it begin?
Quality Management Systems were designed for the purpose of creating an easier and more efficient operating process. It was during the start of the 20th century that the era of business and manufacturing expansion was at an all-time high ever since the omnipresent industrial revolution. This progressive reform of altering the way organizations operated on a daily basis quickly showed that a more methodical approach was the way to go.
Like any other great change, there were some downsides. Companies started to experience difficulties in following through with these lenient quality control standards. It became evident that there was a great need for more change and development. Change and development were brought forth during the 1940s by industry leaders and experts like Willaim Edwards Deming & Joseph Moses Juran. Deming and Juran orchestrated the idea that inspections be carried out by production personnel not only at the finished product but during the whole creation process, every vendor, every key piece to the product. This new “auditing” body was responsible for inspections during specific production intervals. This would change the focus from simply inspecting the end product to actually auditing and overseeing the whole production process. Early detection on the production line, quickly reduced end product problems and was now the key to success.
Larger US organizations were the only companies to implement these quality practices, some believe it to be true because of the resources and manpower they held, but experts say it is due to no government intervention. But nations like Japan knew that in order to keep up with the ongoing manufacturing reformation, they would need to implement stronger oversight and planning into their production lines. And so, Japan employed the assistance of quality management experts like Deming and Juran, but within the bounds of their own government. This government interference would soon push Japanese manufacturing and set new standards in quality system management. It was not until the 1980s that the U.S. was fully capable of competing with Japan's adaptation of the QMS. The U.S. Government's control on the standardization market shifted some of the responsibility from local regulatory groups to the government itself. The government now had control over multiple industry-wide standardization processes, such as aerospace and automotive. In order to exemplify compliance with the QMS process, the U.S. government created the Malcolm Baldridge award to incentivize organizations to implement better quality practices.
We can thank the past for the quality process and standards that we have today, as with anything it has come with some time and modification but is the ground to which millions of manufacturers today adhere too. One of the best-known modern quality standards is provided and regulated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Through the years ISO has developed standards for many different industries, but their most popular family of standards to date is Quality Management or the ISO 9000 family. Specifically, ISO 9001, sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to (although this is not a requirement). It can be used by any organization, large or small, regardless of its field of activity. In fact, there are over one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries certified to ISO 9001.
Standards such as ISO 9001, recognize that manufacturers are the leading industry across the globe. The manufacturing sector alone employed 14 million workers in 2019 or about 8.8 percent of total U.S. employment. Growth within these industries has directly contributed to the rise and fall of economic growth. In years where the employment pool for manufacturing declined so did the GDP. It is an industry that has found success through processes and repetition, like many other aspects of our life, which is the key to preparing for the future. ISO 9001 has recognized the importance of the manufacturing sector and enables organizations large or small to be able to compete by providing top-notch quality assurance. It has been found that organizations that are ISO 9001 certified are more likely to obtain government contracts and larger client portfolios.
If success within the manufacturing industry is found through the means of growth and expansion, by the assistance of continuous quality oversight, then that is what success is. These processes have grounded companies through challenging times and have proven to produce the best possible results. Referring back to the aforementioned reasoning on what brings success and how to have it happen more often than not is found by repeating proven processes and regulating all aspects of an organization. It has been done so through trial and error, but our manufacturing sector will only continue to expand, and with that so will the quality management systems.