Having clear business goals and processes is key to the success of any business. With efficiency, agility and innovation identified as top priorities for Irish companies, it can pay for Irish businesses to focus on the evolution of their quality management systems (QMS).
A quality management system is a group of efficient business processes and procedures designed to ensure that the quality of an organisation’s products or services matches or exceeds customer expectations.
Continuous improvement is at the heart of ISO 9001 and a QMS. Procedures and practices must be routinely monitored, reviewed, assessed and updated to maintain an effective QMS.
Implementing a robust, effective QMS can be done by following the eight principles of ISO 9001 and becoming ISO 9001 certified.
As of 2021, over 2,000 ISO 9001 certificates have been awarded in Ireland.
What is ISO 9001?
ISO 9001 is the international standard for organisations implementing and operating a quality management system.
ISO 9001 helps organisations looking to improve their performance, both internally and externally, by providing a framework of principles to follow.
Besides improving the quality of the work and output, ISO 9001 also helps organisations improve their overall business relationships, increase their competitive edge, and demonstrate to customers, stakeholders and investors their commitment to quality.
The 8 principles of ISO 9001 and quality management
The 8 principles of ISO 9001 are:
1. Customer focus and satisfaction
This principle covers both customer needs and customer service.
The first and most important principle stresses that an organisation needs to understand its customers and their needs and wants. A better understanding of customer needs, such as through feedback mechanisms through focus groups, surveys and reviews, can ensure that products and services continue to be tailored to their requirements.
A deeper insight into customers can identify new commercial opportunities to develop solutions to address any gaps in the market. This approach can boost customer loyalty, improve retention, reduce waste and increase overall customer satisfaction.
This principle centres on the direction of an organisation, its goals and objectives, the leadership qualities of directors and managers, and how actively employees are involved in this process.
Organisations with effective leadership and clear direction play a pivotal role in how well products and services are delivered.
Good leadership that emphasises quality sets clear expectations and fosters a quality-centric culture can set the pace as a business looks to exceed customer expectations.
With clear and effective leadership, an organisation can reap many benefits, such as improved output, increased employee productivity and customer engagement.
Effective leadership is anchored in personal responsibility, with directors, managers and supervisors modelling good behaviours such as attention to detail, responding to feedback, and adhering to quality standards.
3. People Involvement
Ensuring employees are fully engaged with the overall direction of an organisation, are clear on objectives, and operate within a culture of personal responsibility can support a drive to increase standards, listen to customers, and put customer service at the forefront of a business’s mission.
Effective quality processes are only possible with an engaged workforce, reducing costs through less waste, continuous improvement through learning and development, and consistency through clearly communicated practices and operations.
Involve workers through staff feedback sessions, employee surveys, regular 1-2-1s and performance reviews. Set common objectives and provide learning and development, such as ISO training, to support employee skills and knowledge growth.
4. Process approach
A process approach has two priorities – efficiency and effectiveness.
Consistency is also essential, as is understanding that good processes can result in higher quality output, less waste and more productivity. Consistency is often a by-product of successfully implemented quality management processes.
Ensure quality management processes are clearly defined and communicated, routinely monitored and reviewed, and updated and amended as needed.
Regularly auditing your quality management processes supports continual improvement and ensures that your organisation focuses on the effective and efficient delivery of high-quality products and services.
5. Systematic approaches to management
Quality management isn’t limited to a series of individual processes. By focusing on critical processes and aligning them to additional processes across an organisation, a quality management system can unify and optimise operations – driving efficiency gains.
An organisation following this principle would focus on ensuring its key processes are aligned with other processes, creating cohesive, efficient management systems.
6. Continual improvement
An active objective of any organisation implementing a quality management system or seeking ISO 9001 should be a continual improvement.
There are always ways to improve or modify operations to become more efficient and effective. Reviewing systems, seeking employee feedback, and checking customer quality expectations can ensure your QMS is continually improving.
The benefits of continuous improvement are numerous – increased creativity, better performance, higher levels of output and efficiency, strengthening the ability to embrace new opportunities and ideas, and organisational flexibility.
7. Evidence-based decision-making
Business decisions based on data and analysis, rather than guesswork, can be more effective.
While data collection, collation and insights require time and effort within a business, the result is a key plank in effective decision-making. Understanding how customers feel and use your products through to how much waste is produced through the manufacturing process, for example, can help you focus resources more effectively.
Evidence-based decision-making also makes it easier to track progress against objectives such as achieving service-level agreement (SLA).
8. Mutually-beneficial supplier relations
The last of the 8 principles of ISO 9001 relates to supply chains.
This principle stresses that the relationship between an organisation and its suppliers is interdependent, meaning a solid relationship is key to enhancing productivity and seamless working practices.
As a result, an organisation and its suppliers can benefit from optimised costs and resources, positive long-term relationships, and flexibility as markets and customer needs go through periods of change.
By following the 8 principles of ISO 9001 and becoming ISO 9001 certified, organisations of any size can consistently improve their output and customer experiences while boosting productivity and reducing waste and costs.
Find out more about the other benefits your organisation can realise by becoming ISO 9001 certified.