Every business strives to meet quality standards. If quality slips, there can be a range of consequences, from customer dissatisfaction and product recalls to business interruption and legal liabilities.
With upgrades to processes, the introduction of new suppliers, new equipment or the integration of technology into your operations, risks to quality are always popping up. The best way to minimize risks and deliver a consistently high-quality product is to develop and implement a quality management plan.
A quality management plan documents all the information regarding a company’s quality policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities.
There are two main elements:
- Quality assurance: the process that ensures the preferred level of quality is fulfilled in the product or service at each phase of the process
- Quality control: the process that ensures the product quality matches the requisite standard
While the former is proactive and focuses on preventing defects, the latter is reactive and concentrates on identifying defects.
“Quality is important in every aspect of life. For example, we all go to the doctor to take preventative health measures or receive treatment if there is a problem,” says Michael Reich, Manager of Technical Risks & Solutions at Sovereign Insurance. “Businesses also need checkups, in the form of ongoing quality testing, checklists and inspections. If there’s a product failure or a spike in customer complaints about quality, how did that product leave the plant? Where and why did the system fail? You have to look at every aspect of your business, put the right standards and controls in place, and put it all on paper. Organizations that do so will reap the benefits.”
According to Michael Reich, there are three main benefits of developing and implementing a quality management plan:
- Customer Satisfaction: By standardizing the steps necessary to make a consistent, high-quality product, a quality management system benefits both the company and the customers who buy and use the product. Customers will see the difference in the products the company offers and in the customer service it provides. In turn, satisfied customers reward the company with repeat business, long-term loyalty and sincere referrals.
- Waste Reduction: Even though it may take significant resources to design and use, a successful quality management plan cuts costs. If procedures are followed to create a consistent, effective product, money will be saved by eliminating waste and cutting out the need for refunds and damage control.
- Fewer Legal Liabilities: Quality management processes help companies avoid situations that cause harm to customers and lead to expensive liability claims and lawsuits. Not only is proactively protecting customers the ethical thing to do, ensuring customer safety also saves companies money and averts damage to its reputation.
While every business will have its own unique quality management plan, the main components generally include:
- Company Policy & Organization: describes your organizational structure and your policy on quality assurance and control. It also includes product descriptions and customer profiles.
- Engineering & Design: includes a hazard analysis for your products and identifies safety requirements and compliance procedures.
- Purchasing: describes your main vendors and subcontractors, as well as purchasing procedures and practices.
- Manufacturing Process: includes the origin of raw materials, critical component suppliers, supply chain traceability, manufacturing environment and controls, and inspection and testing procedures.
- Product Management: outlines your safety/quality policy, sales force training and education, complaint-handling process, warrantees and guarantees, and legal review process.
Quality Control: covers your overall quality policy, including roles and responsibilities, inspection and testing, third-party certification and auditing, management leadership and document control.
- Marketing: describes how your product is represented and promoted in the marketplace, and includes sales training for staff to ensure they describe products correctly, understand safety issues and report problems.
- Completed Operations: identifies any work done outside of the plant, including product installation, maintenance and repairs.
Whichever elements are the right fit for your business, just remember that the objectives of your quality management plan are to ensure that:
- Quality standards are met at every stage
- The right procedures are implemented and continuously improved
- Problems are promptly identified and corrected
Creating a quality management plan requires considerable thought and resources, but it’s well worth the effort.