Quality Management Software: Everything You Need to Know

By ETQ on August 4, 2022

A recent study found that for every dollar you invest in quality management software, you can expect an additional $6 in revenue, a $16 reduction in costs, and $3 in profits. That’s the kind of ROI that adds up very quickly – but if you’re new to the idea of quality management software, that might sound too good to be true. This guide takes you through the basics of quality management, and the role software plays and dives into the long list of benefits a QMS provides.

What is Quality Management Software?

Quality management is a broad, complex subject. It extends far beyond end-product quality and involves areas such as training, supply chain management, and, vitally, governmental compliance. That’s why most businesses implement quality management software (QMS) to oversee quality processes. This software is aligned with the business’s strategies and goals to ensure it maintains the quality level the business desires.

Understanding the Quality Management Process

It can be difficult to know where to start with a new QMS, simply because the system can do so much – but the whole point of a QMS is that it takes the hard work off your hands. Perhaps you think your business isn’t ready for a QMS, but the cost of low quality is a steep one and getting steeper all the time. Not making changes to the way you approach quality leads to:

  • A loss of competitive advantage
  • High risk of repeating failures 
  • Hours and hours of wasted time
  • Risk of human error due to manual data entry
  • Inconsistent documentation and training
  • Lack of ability to predict and prevent quality-related problems
  • Not enough visibility into supplier performance

 

The key is understanding quality management, as this helps with the process of implementing it. For organizations with a strong culture of quality, this is straightforward enough – and that should be the case for any business within the manufacturing or other regulated industry. Quality, compliance, and risk should always be at the core of these organizations, making a QMS a vital tool.

One benefit of a QMS is its ability to streamline and improve document control. Tasks that were previously very time-consuming and at constant risk of error are automatic. This includes:

  • Data entry
  • Data analysis
  • Risk prediction
  • Corrective action

 

A single error caused by having multiple slightly different versions of a document could cost your organization millions of dollars, whereas, with a QMS, the correct information is safely contained and updated automatically, accessible to anyone who needs it so there’s only one true source. Storing data this way also ensures compliance and gives you control over manuals, procedures, specifications, and beyond, while improving collaboration and maintaining constant audit readiness.

Many dread corrective actions in the quality management process because of the strict nature of reporting and how time-consuming it can be without a QMS. If you use spreadsheets and a shared hard drive to manually record corrective action, traceability and control are compromised. Inaccurate or missing records are a constant potential threat, making it very difficult to improve efficiency and compliance or proactively stop future issues. Not to mention the fact that keeping corrective action records manually can lead to additional compliance issues.

A QMS allows you to automate corrective action data, including:

  • Filtering by risk in order to properly prioritize
  • Customizing action plans
  • Conducting root cause analysis
  • Creating end-to-end traceability
  • Making educated predictions for the future

 

As with document management, all information is centralized with one true version of everything. The automation a QMS provides also extends beyond manufacturing and compliance processes, and into employee management. Automation of employee information ensures their information is kept safe and any training they undertake is always up-to-date. In manufacturing, as with other industries, there are many occasions where acquiring certain types of training is a necessity to maintain compliance; with a QMS, employee training levels can be discovered at a glance. This means teams are always updated and documentation remains accurate in real-time.

Why Quality Management is Important

A comprehensive QMS is able to take the reins of quality management to constantly compile and analyze information, making the whole process as painless as possible. Research shows that there’s a major disconnect between where many organizations think they are with their quality management, and where they actually are. Quality management software fills that gulf as it’s specifically designed to align a business’s activities with its ambitions and with regulations.

What You Can Do with Technology-Enabled QMS Software

The main goal of quality management software is to have a clear, positive impact on a business. The systems involved are generally flexible and are easy to integrate into existing systems and applications. They should streamline processes, reduce the cost of poor quality, improve compliance, provide greater visibility into the business, and unlock continuous improvement. Here’s what, specifically, you can do with technology-enabled quality management:

Streamline QM Workflows for Better Productivity

Streamlining quality management workflows saves time, thus saving money and allowing employees to get on with more important tasks. 

Notable workflows that can be improved through quality management software include:

  • Document management: Replacing paper documentation and manual document management with automatic data capture and digital document management saves massive amounts of time and makes it extremely easy to revisit the documents and data in the future – even across departments and locations.
  • Automated event monitoring: An event is triggered when a specific condition is met in IT. Monitoring these events means data is being consistently gathered, improving a business’s view of the inner workings of the business, and contributing to continuous improvement. 
  • External supplier workflows: Centralization of key supplier workflows – including audits, CAPAs, document management, risk management, and certifications – ensures this information is accessible and compliant, allowing full visibility of the supplier relationship.

Automate Risk Management

Research shows that a concerningly low number of business leaders have plans to invest in risk, but risks are everywhere – from the design phase to post-market. Automating risk management through quality management software stops headaches and helps identify and stop issues before they can happen in the future.

  • Process-Enforcement: Ensure processes are followed at all times to ensure quality levels are met. When a problem occurs, your QMS software makes it straightforward to identify where processes were not followed.
  • Compliance: When the quality management software knows what regulations it must comply with, it can automatically manage any non-compliance risks and highlight where regulations are not being met. 
  • Root-Cause Analysis: This is the process of identifying the underlying cause of a problem using detailed analysis. Having this automated means issued can be flagged before a problem can form.
  • Training Compliance & Documentation: A quality management system ensures the necessary training is complied with and up-to-date and that the associated documentation is automatically created and stored.

Gain Control with Enterprise Visibility

Enterprise visibility means having insight into the threats and risks associated with any business. Harnessing this power through quality management software means risks can be prevented, offering you real control. 

This visibility offers many benefits to an organization, including:

  • Automated Reporting: This automates threat reporting, meaning the appropriate people are alerted as soon as an event occurs, and that information is stored for analysis and continuous improvement. Users can also automate other reports based on the level of visibility they need into the different areas of the business.
  • Breakdown Barriers in Communication: Information can easily get lost due to human error and lack of communication, but enterprise-wide visibility means the data is always right in front of you.
  • Continuous Improvement Engine > Manage Customer Complaints through Informing R&D: Customer complaints can be very easily dealt with and fixed in the future thanks to the continuous improvement engine, which directly feeds changes that need to be made to R&D.

What to Look for in Quality Management Systems Software

Remember, not all technology is created equal. The best quality management software solution is capable of handling your current needs – while also adapting to your future needs. 

Put simply, the way to determine whether a system is right for you is by:

  • Thoroughly assessing the current situation
  • Determining your business’s needs
  • Evaluating all the options
  • Taking the plunge and completing the investment

 

Evaluating the right QMS for you takes time, and each business has its own needs, but some elements are essential for everyone. These include:

  • Customization: Customizing a system around your needs is a vital part of creating a future-proofed system that scales with your organization.
  • Training and support: Make sure you choose a software system from a partner that offers training and ongoing support where necessary.
  • Key features like reporting, integrations, tools, and compliance: Without these, you’re not actually managing the quality of your business. Be sure to choose a QMS that contains all the features your organization needs.
  • Scalability: A strong, optimally configured QMS saves time and money – automatically helping a business to scale – and should grow and develop with your business and encourage that scalability. 

Go Beyond Cost-Driven Quality Management to Adaptive, Data-Driven Performance

There are many variables in business, and nobody can plan for every eventuality without considerable help. Quality management software controls these variables – including employees and their training, the entire supply chain, compliance, efficiency, and risk – all while boosting efficiency and productivity to provide an incredible return on investment. 

That’s how quality management delivers operational excellence. Operational excellence is about swift and effective problem-solving, expertise, and continuous improvement. Quality management software solves problems before they can even happen, thanks to how the four main components are aligned to your business – and, as we discussed earlier, the process becomes more and more effective with each quality management cycle. 

Major organizations worldwide are discovering and leveraging quality management software every day, and discovering how powerful the consistency and ongoing improvements are. GE Transportation (acquired by Wabtec in 2019) found, back in 2010, that it was experiencing serious quality problems wherein locomotives were reaching customers with failures. This issue cost the business $100 million each year, and the problem was that it didn’t know what the issue was or how to prevent it. So, the business implemented ETQ’s Reliance QMS and swiftly cut its quality costs by 35% while automating  – and ultimately solving – its quality processes.

Elsewhere, pharma giant Johnson & Johnson desperately needed more business agility and compliance across its worldwide operations. ETQ was able to offer the business what it needed: a single, broadly capable, and flexible QMS. Now its processes are standardized and harmonized, and the QMS continues bringing previously-unseen benefits to the business.

Quality management software takes the vast and arduous task of quality management out of human hands and into the care of a customizable, automated system aligned with your business’s goals. It truly is a must for future-proofing your organization. To see how ETQ’s QMS works, request a demo today.