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What is quality management?

Last updated

25 June 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

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Quality management or quality management system (QMS) refers to how an organization manages different activities and tasks. 

A QMS ensures an organization’s products and services meet customer expectations and delivers a good user experience.

The process includes: 

  • Setting quality goals that the customers and company agree on

  • Determining how to measure these goals

  • Taking the necessary steps to measure quality

  • Identifying any emerging quality problems

  • Making improvements

  • Reporting the overall level of quality achieved

Read on to learn more about quality management and how an organization can benefit from implementing a quality management system. 

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Quality improvement methods

Quality improvement is a crucial component of quality management. It’s a purposeful adjustment to increase the reliability or confidence of an outcome. 

It can be an improvement in process, people, or product. Regardless of the component, an organization can use different quality improvement methods, including: 

  • Zero Defect programs

  • Kaizen

  • Quality Circle

  • Six Sigma

  • Kansei engineering

  • Top-down approach

  • Bottom-up approach

  • Taguchi methods 

  • BPR

  • The Toyota Production System (TPS)

  • TRIZ

  • ISO

  • OQRM

Principles of quality management

These principles guide a quality management program:

Customer focus

A business is only as good as its ability to attract and satisfy customers. An organization must understand its current and future customers, their needs, and their expectations. 

If a business can spot and reel in new customer opportunities, it can increase its market share, revenue, and customer loyalty.


Any business needs strong and clear leadership. It should also have clear goals and ensure its workforce is actively engaged in accomplishing them. 

Leaders create a productive business environment and ensure that future hires maintain this atmosphere. 

Implementing the principle of leadership requires an established vision for the organization and the right leaders to promote it.

People involvement

This principle recognizes that all employees are crucial to the company’s success. The business should motivate, engage, and recognize its employees to encourage them to thrive. 

Ensure the employees understand the importance of their role and how it contributes to the wider company's objectives. Equally important is addressing any issues that may hinder them from fully performing their duties. 


If you’re in an industry that requires standards, they become a key player in your QMS. 

They determine whether you’ll be a reputable contender, and they can also render your company worthless if you don’t meet regulatory requirements.

ISO 9001:2015 is the most common quality management system standard in the world. Your industry may work with other regulations. For example, medical companies must follow US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Process approach

This principle aims to provide consistent, predictable results. The process approach recognizes that good processes: 

So, develop processes for all business areas, from HR to finance to sales and marketing. Appoint people to oversee the processes to ensure they are effective. 

Customers become more confident that a business can deliver when the service is consistent. 

Continual improvement

Any business must be able to continually improve. Otherwise, it risks clients and market share. 

Focus on channeling your systems towards establishing better and new ways to do things and improving your products or services. 

Find ways to proactively respond to market changes and customers' changing needs. 

Commitment to improvement allows a business to be the market leader. It sets the agenda instead of striving to catch up with competitors. 

Evidence-based decision making

This principle ensures reliance on objective data to reduce the uncertainty that often impacts decisions. Organizations must ensure decision-makers can access accurate, reliable data to drive their leadership. 

Relationship management

Relationship management involves creating mutually beneficial relations with stakeholders, such as regulators, banks, and suppliers, to add value to each party. 

Organizations should promote their relationship with suppliers to maximize their impact on the company's performance. 

When things are seamless and harmonious between two parties, they can react faster to customer demands and negotiate costs easily. 

What is a quality management system (QMS)?

A quality management system records the procedures, policies, processes, and responsibilities that ensure the delivery of high-quality products and services. 

A QMS helps an organization meet its regulatory and customer requirements while continually improving its operations and increasing customer satisfaction

A quality management system provides a framework to enhance collaboration, communication, and consistency across the organization. 

Benefits of quality management systems

Here's why organizations need a quality management system:


Deploying a quality management system requires organizations to define and outline the best practices for all business responsibilities. 

Standard operating procedures and an outlined series of checks reduces the risk of non-conformances and optimizes organizational efficiency. 

Consistency saves money by reducing costs and errors. It also reduces processing times and customer complaints. 

Establishing a quality management system enables businesses to quickly identify any defects or inconsistencies in their products and fix them. This ensures consistent product quality. 

Evidence-based change

Decision-making is a complex process in many organizations. It can involve multiple inputs from distinct data sources due to the complexity of processes. 

Quality management system encourages flexibility with data-driven decision-making based on real-time oversight of data and systems. 

Increased profitability

A quality management system provides a return on investment (ROI) by increasing profits and diminishing revenue waste. QMS offers: 

  • Internal benefits, such as increased efficiency

  • External benefits, such as increased sales

  • Signaling benefits, like new market access

These collectively contribute to increased profitability. 

The impact of lacking quality management

An organization needs quality management to gain all the benefits a QMS can offer. The impact of which includes:

Disengaged workforce

A disengaged workforce increases employee turnover. 

Employees feel that their ideas are not valued, morale plummets, and productivity decreases. As a result, workers leave the company in favor of a more satisfying job. 

This increases training costs and the chances of manufacturing defective products by inexperienced workers who take their position. 

Lack of document control

A company can only improve its activities with a formal starting point. 

Quality management outlines the requirements for the approval, development, and periodic evaluation of procedures that govern a company's activities. 

Without quality management, the employees operate as they see fit, without accountability or a recognized method of product control. 

If there’s a defect, the company cannot pinpoint the cause to correct it, causing excess costs and a loss of reputation.  

Limited potential

Top-tier organizations require their suppliers to have formalized quality management systems to do business with them. These businesses already have a form of quality management system. 

With a well-executed quality management program, businesses will grant or allow your business to bid on a contract, unleashing its potential. 

Loss of market share

In a competitive business environment, consumers want products that continually improve in quality and meet their needs. 

If a company lacks quality management, its products or services will stagnate while competitors continue to improve their product’s function, quality, and use. 

Customers will look for companies that create similar products and respond to their needs, and your organization is likely to lose its market share.

QMS standards

Quality management standards refer to specifications, requirements, characteristics, or guidelines. The company’s products, processes, or services should consistently meet these to ensure products are fit for purpose, high-quality, and meet customer expectations

These standards are a critical element of quality management systems. 

Elements and requirements of a QMS

Although quality management systems should address a company's unique needs, several elements are common to all systems. They all work toward achieving customer and company requirements. 

Below are the requirements to keep in mind when implementing a new quality management system or fine-tuning an existing one:

Quality policy and objectives

When implementing a quality management system, an organization must draft a quality policy and the objectives aligned with it. 

A quality policy defines and represents an organization's overall mission, principles, and purpose, supporting its strategic direction. 

The brief statement outlines the organization's commitment to continuous improvement alongside meeting all regulatory and customer needs

Basically, it is the framework of the entire quality management system. 

Quality objectives are specific, measurable, and achievable goals. They stem directly from the quality policy and should contribute to improving customer satisfaction

These objectives commonly revolve around areas such as: 

  • Safety

  • Efficiency

  • Delivery

  • Product performance

  • Product non-conformities

Once established, the organization should clearly document and communicate the objectives throughout the company. Businesses should update quality objectives as their needs evolve. 

Quality manual

A quality manual is a documentation of the quality management system. It documents the scope of the organization's policies, objectives, processes, and expectations. 

It contains what the organizations need to comply with regulatory standards like FDA and ISO.

Data management

An organization's ability to use quality data is a critical upside of having a QMS.

Data is crucial for a company to track innovation and standardization. With data management, the organization can guarantee product quality and efficiency. 

Additionally, a lack of data management affects profitability and customer satisfaction. 

Internal processes

Resources include employees, technology, or machines. As these are limited, efficiency depends on managing them. 

One of the core objectives of a quality management system is to establish repeatable, replicable, and standardized processes.

Organizations should define and establish processes for resources to convert inputs into outputs. They should also identify and document metrics for measuring the performance of these processes to ensure quality products. 

Customer satisfaction with product quality

Total quality management (TQM) requires organizations to monitor customer satisfaction. This ensures they meet quality objectives and continue to innovate. 

Feedback allows organizations to determine whether employees adhere to standard operating procedures and processes. 

Organizations can receive feedback through surveys and ratings, analytical applications, and management evaluation of customer satisfaction. 

Net promoter score (NPS) is a common practice for determining how likely customers would be to recommend your company to others.

Continuous improvement

Continuous improvement refers to progressively enhancing processes, products, or services through sudden or small changes over time. 

A quality management system can help a company progress. 

An organization must have robust data to support any upgrades or adjustments in its standard operating procedures. It should also have a timeline and outcome of past changes, and a quality management system can make these things easier to access. 

Organizational structure and responsibilities

QMS offers a clear visual of the organization's structure. It defines the roles and responsibilities of the key resources. It also outlines an organization’s necessary infrastructure and resources to achieve its quality objectives. 

Implementing a QMS

Establishing an effective quality management system involves the following:

Design and build

The design phase involves developing the structure of the quality management system by: 

  • Creating the framework of the quality management system

  • Creating specific business processes to support it

  • Determining the training plan, resources, and timeframe needed for implementation

The building phase involves creating process maps and flow charts with comprehensive work instructions and checklists that define assembly and production procedures. 

Senior management oversees this stage to ensure the inclusion of customers and organizational needs.


The deployment stage involves subdividing each process into sub-processes. Each department should have access to materials and tools for all the applicable procedures. 

The organization should educate staff on documentation, training tools, and tracking metrics. 

Control and measure

A performance review strategy is necessary to properly control and measure the effectiveness of a quality management system. 

Begin with an internal audit to reveal the processes that align with the organization's quality policy and goals and the potential weaknesses of process controls.

After that, use a risk-based approach to determine any necessary improvements.

Review and improve

After running the quality management system for a period:

  1. Perform a management review to determine its effectiveness.

  2. Gather information from:

  3. Use the data from the review to create new best practices.

Quality management is a critical aspect of any business. It ensures an organization's stakeholders come together to improve processes, culture, products, and services.

In certain industries, it ensures compliance. It also guides a business into implementing short-term initiatives for long-term goals and customer satisfaction.

Customers are mainly concerned with the quality of the products or services they buy, so an organization should always ensure product consistency and quality.


What is the difference between quality management and quality control?

Quality management involves overseeing tasks and activities to ensure excellent products or services. 

Quality control refers to the progressive effort to maintain the integrity and reliability of a process in achieving an outcome. 

What is the difference between quality management and quality assurance?

Quality assurance and quality control both live within the quality management space. 

Quality assurance occurs before product delivery, whereas quality control is post-delivery. 

Quality management encompasses both and any other steps to ensure quality.

What is an example of quality management?

A model example of how an organization can deploy quality management is the Kanban system by Toyota. 

The company introduced the inventory control system into its production process to reduce excess inventory on the production line. 

The system helped Toyota align raw material orders from suppliers based on production schedules, increasing assembly line efficiency.

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