What is a QMS or Quality Management System?

QMS stands for Quality Management System.  

A quality management system is a particular type of management system, one that is concerned with managing the quality of services or products in an organisation.  And yes, this definition can be a bit circular!

Let's start with a management system. A 'management' system is a type of system used in organisations, whether commercial businesses or charities/nonprofits to organise and run themselves, so that they do what they want to do and achieve their goals.  A management system is a kind of framework of policies and procedures.  Sometimes those are formally defined and written down, although often they just exist as a kind of collective tribal knowledge that 'everybody knows'.

Virtually every organisation has a 'management system'.  

That's so whether they know what the term means or not, from a local fish and chips shop through to a multinational global enterprise. Management systems vary enormously in complexity and size, as well as efficiency and effectiveness.  

Have you ever gone into a shop to buy fish and chips and spent ages waiting for someone to take your order or ground your teeth as they served someone else before you? Or made a phone call to a business and asked a question, but found no one who could apparently answer it?  That's a business with a poor management system.  On the other hand, think of the last time you were in a busy restaurant, with every table packed, and yet your drinks and meals arrived within a reasonable time, exactly what you ordered and provided by people with a pleasant and professional manner. That's a business with a good management system.

Now, there are various kinds of management system:  for example, the financial management system manages the finances, pays creditors and staff, and makes sure the tax office gets its due. The safety management system of course has its focus on safety, making sure its employees, customers and contractors are safe, and that legal requirements for safety are met.

The quality management system is concerned with everything that comprises or affects that most critical element of all:  ensuring the quality of its services or products. Because without services or products of good quality, you can be as safe as you like or have wonderfully managed books... but it's most unlikely that you'll stay in business.  (Also true of a company with a poor financial management system!)

You may not think you have either a management system or a quality management system now, but unless you are a brand new business, you almost certainly do.

Do you have an existing business (or organisation)?  Have you been operating for at least a year or two?  Are you doing well/succeeding, whether that means growing, getting more business, getting more customers (or keeping those you have) or making more or better products? Then you already have some kind of quality management system.  It may not be as good as you would like, and it almost certainly is not up to the level required by ISO 9001, but you do already have some kind of quality management system.

Unless that is, you go into work every day and start entirely from scratch, making things up as you go along?  (And if you do that, you've got bigger problems than needing to know what a QMS is.) 

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