K. R. Singhal
Let us begin with the concept of quality policy in QMS. The quality policy of an organization shapes approach of the organization to its customers. A quality policy establishes: (i) a commitment to quality, (ii) a commitment to continual improvement of the quality management system, (iii) the context for quality objectives, and (iv) how the organization’s objectives relate to customers’ requirements.
A quality policy of an organization must meet the following minimum criteria:
(a) It should be linked to overall organizational goals,
(b) It should be relevant to the needs and expectations of the customers of the organization.
Accordingly, the quality policy of an organization must provide a framework for establishing and reviewing organization’s quality objectives.
A quality policy should also include explicit commitments to customer satisfaction and continual improvement. Quality policy of an organization should have a clear statement of outcomes. The policy should have understood by the staff of the organization.
Product quality depends both on perceived customer satisfaction and on well motivated staff. Here it should be noted that the term ‘customer satisfaction’ could refer to both types of customers: (a) internal customers (staff of the organization), and (b) external customers (who buy product from the organization by paying the value).
There may be a situation that your organization may not have a quality policy, then you should try to develop a quality policy for your organization. It is often useful to first develop the overall organization’s policy, including policies for marketing, sales, production, finance etc. This exercise could make the quality policy easier to prepare. Organization’s commitment to quality should describe organization’s overall vision of what quality means to organization’s business and its customers. Clause 4.2.1 of ISO 9001:2008 Standard requires organization to document quality policy statement.
Clause 5.3 of ISO 9001:2008 Standard frames requirements with regard to quality policy, which include to ensure that quality policy is (i) appropriate to the purpose of the organization, (ii) includes a commitment to comply with requirements and continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system, (iii) provides a framework for establishing and reviewing quality objectives, (iv) is communicated and understood within the organization, and (v) is reviewed for continuing suitability.
Tony Johnston (AJ Quality Management Consulting, Ireland) describes his three fold approach to writing a quality policy – (i) Write quality policy in a language that anyone can understand, (ii) Quality policy should be relative to the organization and believe by its employees when they read it, and (iii) It should make reference to the eight quality management principles, namely customer focus, leadership (management commitment), process approach, continual improvement, factual approach to decision making, mutually beneficial supplier relationship, system approach to management, and involvement of people. The quality policy should be endorsed by the managing director and it should be reviewed at least annually for suitability and updated if necessary.
While the John’s approach is good for writing quality policy and in addition to his approach if a reference for establishing and reviewing quality objectives is given in the quality policy, then it will be better.
If your organization has a quality policy, then you should evaluate your quality policy. Evaluate, whether your quality policy clearly linked to your overall organizational goals. If quality policy of your organization is not linked to your organizational goals, then you need to re-examine your policy and goals. Also find out answers to following questions:
- Does the quality policy include commitment to customer satisfaction?
- Does the quality policy include commitment to continual improvement?
- Does the quality policy include aspects of service quality that are to be emphasized?
- Does the quality policy include benefits for customers (quality outcomes)?
- Is the quality policy focused on maximizing customer satisfaction with the services received?
- Is the quality policy focused on maximizing customer satisfaction with the service received?
- Is the quality policy focused on maximizing staff morale in providing client services?
On the basis of answers to above questions, you may wish to revise the quality policy of your organization.
An illustration of a Quality Policy
…. (name of the organization) …. is committed in achieving customer satisfaction by providing … (the quality characteristics of product provided by the organization) …. For our customers, in context of continual improvement, so that our customers will … (outcomes in relation to customers’ needs / expectations to be met) ….
Another illustration of Quality Policy
We, … (name of the organization) …, manufactures … (name of the products) …. We manufacture and market these products both for domestic and abroad markets. Our purpose is to produce products to satisfy needs of our customers. We continually improve our products and services to satisfy needs of our customers better. Our quality management system is designed to ensure the maintenance of the product quality through evaluation, inspection and verification processes at all stages of production.
We are committed to comply with customer as well as legal requirements and also committed to continually improve the effectiveness of our quality management system. Our organization has decided to achieve quality objectives as set in the documented statement of quality objectives. The top management of our organization in the meeting of board of directors, at least once in every six months, reviews the quality management system of our organization.
ISO 9001:2008 QMS Standard requires that organization develop measurable quality objectives, consistent with the quality policy of the organization. Internal and external auditors review quality objectives at each audit to see if they are being met. For planning of the quality management system, it is necessary to establish measurable quality objectives. Requirements with respect to quality objectives are mentioned in clause 5.4.1 of ISO 9001:2008 Standard.
The top management of the organization needs to establish quality objectives. Top management of the organization must ensure that quality objectives (including those needed to meet requirements for the product) are established at relevant functions and levels within the organization. The quality objectives must be measurable and consistent with the quality policy of the organization. Clause 7.1 (a) of ISO 9001:2008 QMS Standard lays down that in planning product realization, the organization must determine quality objectives and requirements for the product. It is evident from this clause that the ISO 9001:2008 Standard now calls for objectives not only for the quality management system but also for the product.
Now questions arise:
- How to set or develop quality objectives?
- How to monitor quality objectives?
Developing Quality Objectives
Developing quality objectives provides the organization with the opportunity to identify areas of inefficiency. The organization can address such areas to improve customer satisfaction. The Management Representative of the organization should frame a committee (with the approval of the top management) for developing quality objectives. This committee should have members from all departments of the organization. The committee members should have conceptual knowledge on ISO 9001:2008 QMS Standard and also on eight quality management principles.
Members of the committee should be advised to frame quality objectives for their respective departments. Management Representative should act as a convener and call a meeting to finalize the quality objectives. Quality objectives finalized in such meeting should be sent to the top management for considering the same in the management review meeting and finalizing them as organization’s quality objectives.
For developing measurable quality objectives for your organization, you may use a worksheet. Worksheet for creating quality objectives may be as under:
- List specific measurable activities that would improve customer satisfaction. Example – Responding to customer’s complaint on the day of its receipt, replying to letters within three days of receipt.
- List specific measurable activities that would improve staff morale. Example – Monthly staff feedback on their performance.
- List specific measurable activities that would improve staff efficiency. Example – Providing computer training to staff.
From the answers that you would have listed for above questions, you may select quality objectives clearly linked to the quality policy of the organization and for each quality objective, you should specify:
- What is to be done?
- How often the organization will achieve the level of performance?
- The date by which the organization will achieve that level of performance.
On careful study of clause 7.1 (a) of ISO 9001:2008 Standard, you will find that the standard calls for quality objectives not only for the quality management system but also for the product. Quality objectives need to be realistic and related to achievable outcomes, such as:
- Meeting agreed customer requirements for delivery or other product characteristics within a certain percentage of time.
- Meeting regulatory and other requirements for product and services.
- Meeting the planned schedule for achieving the quality objectives targets.
- Identifying opportunities for improvement.
- Minimizing the cost of poor quality, rework or scrap.
- Identifying new opportunities.
The Standard also requires that relevant objectives be established at appropriate parts of the organization. For example – Process performance targets, continual improvement targets be established at human resources, production, sales departments.
When setting up quality objectives, look for activities or indicators that employees can relate to and that can be measured. A few examples may be:
- Reducing the production time
- Achieving no failures or defects in production
- Achieving cost reduction
- Improving productivity
- Increasing market share
It is very important point that people in the organization must be aware of how they contribute to the achievement of the quality objectives. Therefore, employees in the organization must know and understand the specific quality objectives that have been set up for their functions and level and how they can achieve them. For awareness of quality objectives, specific training sessions or campaigns may be organized.
At the service delivery, customer interface or at the production line, quality objectives should be very simple and direct.
Think carefully about the quality objectives set by you for the organization and the timeframe you intend to allow for them to be achieved. Keep in mind that quality objectives must be measurable. The organization should be able to check that the organization is achieving the objective and, if not, what the organization is going to do about the quality management system.
Monitoring Quality Objectives
It is the intention of the ISO 9001:2008 QMS Standard that the organization is producing quality product. Monitoring and measurement activities are planned and carried out to carefully improve. Question arises – how to monitor quality objectives? If we carefully read clause 5.6.1 of ISO 9001:2008 QMS Standard, we will come to know that it is the responsibility of the top management to ensure continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness of the QMS and to review the organization’s quality management system at planned intervals. Review must include assessing opportunities for improvement and need for changes to the quality management system, including the quality policy and quality objectives.
Quality objectives may be monitored from the input information received from the following:
- Internal and external audits
- Customer feedback
- Process performance reports
- Product conformity reports
A Management Representative (MR) acts a link person between the top management and the organization. His role is very important for maintaining and improving the quality management system in the organization. It is the duty of the Management Representative to report to the top management on the performance of the quality management system and any need for improvement. Accordingly, he should monitor quality objectives from the input information received from various corners.
It is also important to tell employees in the organization regularly how well specified quality objectives are being met and where improvements are required. Quality objectives must be reviewed and revised from time to time as part of the continual improvement process.
Courtesy Source References
- ISO 9001:2008 QMS Standard
- ISO 9004:2000
- ISO 9001 for small businesses – What to do (Joint publication from International Organization for Standardization and International Trade Centre UNCTAD / WTO)
- ISO 9001:2000 – A workbook for service organizations (Joint publication from International Organization for Standardization and International Trade Centre UNCTAD / WTO)
- ISO 9001 Fitness Checker – A practical, easy to use checklist designed to help SMEs assess their readiness for ISO 9001 certification
- Implementing ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management System – A Reference Guide, Dr. Divya Singhal and K. R. Singhal (Publication from PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi)
- Comments from Mr. Tony Johnston (Ireland)
Author’s profile may be seen at http://www.linkedin.com/in/krsinghal
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