Learning how Quality Management Systems (QMS) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can positively affect an organization assures consistency and accuracy. Let's take a look at each.
Quality Management System
In a service-based organization, a QMS is a way to identify, measure, control, and improve core business processes, or SOPs. A QMS can help to continually ensure a business is delivering valuable services to clients and that processes are documented and consistently executed upon. As part of a QMS, SOPs are well maintained and controlled to ensure relevance and accuracy - maintained and controlled SOPs are housed in a central location, reviewed regularly, are used to train staff, and audited at times to ensure adherence to the standard.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s)
Standardization of work processes, resulting in SOPs, creates consistency, expected outcomes of productivity and quality, and provides a service that clients value. The standardization of processes is done by the people who do the work − those who know, firsthand, all the aspects of the process, from beginning to end.
A mantra often used when discussing a QMS is “Say what you do and do what you say.” Developing SOPs is what is meant by “Say what you do.” Without standard work processes, outcomes vary. Typically, the same process, performed by different people, performed in diverse ways, results in outcome variation. Within that variation, there lies waste; wastes such as overproduction, searching, rework, and waiting. To improve a process, it must first be clearly defined, well understood, and be done the same way every time to ensure the same outcome (similar to a science experiment). The standard is the documentation of the best-known sequence of a process that currently exists.
Standard work is the basis of all improvement work. The standard forms the baseline measurement of whether or not the process is providing value to the customer. When processes are standardized, it is easier to identify when a problem arises or an error occurs, thus resulting in customer or employee dissatisfaction. Improvements can then be made to the standard when those problems are identified.
Standard work is not meant to be rigid or inflexible but rather a way to ensure expected outcomes, improve customer and employee satisfaction, and reduce waste.
Standard Work Purposes
- To make it easier to train and develop employees and to provide an objective way to evaluate performance,
- To make it easier to identify breakdowns in process(es),
- To stabilize the work environment which forms the baseline for improvement,
- To ensure customer satisfaction by providing valued services and products in the most cost effective and efficient way.
Standard Work Process
Writing standard work is done by following the cyclic process of “standardize, do, check, and adjust.”
- Identify customer(s), suppliers, inputs, and outputs to the process.
- Standardize by defining best known process sequences (first we do this, then this, then this...).
- Include what triggers the process and when the process is done.
- Identify outcome metrics. Ensure a clear understanding of what the expected outcome is.
- Train and implement the standard work; ensure all who do the process are using the standard work. Start with a pilot group if needed.
- What’s working, what’s not working, and what could be better with the standard work? Ask the users of the process to provide feedback.
- If the standard work is working; sustain and monitor control of the documentation through the QMS. If the standard work is not working; assess and adjust until a standard is in place.
All processes involve people; people who do the process, people affected by the process either upstream or downstream and people who impact the process. It takes team effort to write, implement, and maintain control of the standard work.
Key people to include or consult when writing and implementing standard work are:
- Value-adders: those who do the work are the value-adders; they know the process firsthand and are the ones to determine the best-known sequence.
- Customer: the people who receive the output from the process. They should provide feedback on how the standard work impacts the output.
- Suppliers: the people that provide input to the process. They should be included if input to the process creates waste (rework, waiting, overproduction in the process).
- Stakeholders: suppliers, customers, and any other people impacted, upstream or downstream, from the process
- QM Manager: helps facilitate the standardization of processes and maintains QMS system to ensure controlled documents (SOP’s) are maintained.
If you have questions related to this blog post or would like to speak to a Systems Engineering representative, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888.624.6737.
Christine Doucette joined Systems Engineering in 2017 and is the Quality Manager. Christine's role at SE is a positive commitment by the organization to provide the highest quality service and continuous process improvement in an ever-changing world.