The QMS as an Essential Worker During the Pandemic and Beyond

Nina McIntyre ETQ CMO
By Nina McIntyre on November 15, 2021

Our CTO, Morgan Palmer, recently wrote an article for Quality Magazine pointing out the beneficial role of quality management systems (QMS) in helping companies stay afloat during this time of massive change.  With labor shortages, new processes, such as remote audit management, required of remote and hybrid workers, the pressure to source components and improve supply chain quality has become more important than ever. And, thanks to the agility and process control afforded by a robust QMS, it’s possible for every essential worker. One line he wrote really struck me:

Quietly, the QMS took its place as one of the essential workers during COVID-19.”

What exactly is an essential worker? According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “essential workers are those who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continue critical infrastructure operations.” The critical role of nurses, first responders or grocery store clerks has been recognized and appreciated during the pandemic, and I believe this will have lasting consequences.

For example, in a nationally representative survey conducted by EdWeek’s Research Center, of 1,060 educators, “55 percent of teachers said they have seen more students express interest in health-care careers since the start of the pandemic.” I think we’ve all been grateful for our colleagues and factory workers who continued to produce essential products like PPE during the pandemic, life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical devices, as well as farmers and food manufacturers.

Just as “essential” careers are getting a new level of respect and popularity because their value has been recognized, so too has the role of the QMS in helping to sustain safe business infrastructure continuity. In fact, here at ETQ we are seeing a significant uptick in interest from first-time QMS buyers who have reached the breaking point with manual quality management processes.

The QMS’s ability to ensure production quality against a backdrop of reduced workers and disrupted supply chains, or automate quality and safety audit documentation to remain compliant with industry standards, may have thrust the EQMS to the stage, but now that its abilities have been seen, there’s no stopping its acceleration. As we enter the next level of “business normal,” with more workers returning to the workplace, many remaining remote and others operating in a hybrid model, complexity and the need for even greater quality control and consistent training will continue to grow. As a result, we can expect new QMS mandates from organizations new to the QMS world ,as well as continued expansion among QMS and EHS early adopters.

The Cloud Drives Continued Growth

Regardless of where companies may be on the QMS adoption journey, as Morgan illustrated in his article, as we head out of the pandemic, manufacturers are realizing that there’s even more that can be done to boost quality automation, and much of that is being driven by the growing reliance on the cloud. According to Gartner,

“global spending on public cloud services will be up 18.4 percent in 2021 and hit  $304.9bn, fueled by the uptick in demand for off-premise services.”

Companies are increasingly seeking cloud-native quality management systems that can future-proof their investments. They’re demanding highly configurable, scalable, secure and easily upgradable systems that will adapt to their evolving needs. And, they’re requiring that their solutions can be easily integrated with ERPs, quality control systems and emerging new applications. Systems also should securely bring suppliers into the QMS for easier and more efficient collaboration and integration into quality workstreams.

Every essential worker will continue to hold the world’s respect long after COVID-19 and rightly so.  While automated quality management systems can never be on equal footing with the critical role of healthcare workers or first responders, their role in keeping businesses up and running, manufacturing lines operational and products available can’t be underestimated. The QMS software showed its true colors during the pandemic and in the challenging times we are in today. It’s earned its role as a strategic business tool that is protecting a company’s core asset – its quality.