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ISO 9001::ISO 9004 Quality Management Principles

Updated on August 30, 2013
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I am a trainer and consultant in lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

Quality Management System Principles

The ISO9001 and ISO9004 quality management principles are all based around the teachings of the various quality management gurus such as Deming, Juran, Taguchi, Ishikawa, and Cosby. They each developed their own specific approach to tackling management and quality issues within companies to drive continuous improvement, each approach being slightly different and needing to be tailored to suit the specific cultures of any company in which it was applied. ISO have taken these ideas and turned them into a set of generic principles, vital to the implementation of continual improvement in any company. This toolbox of quality management principles are inextricably linked to each other and should be viewed as such.

ISO 9001 Customer Focus

Customer Focus ISO 9001
Customer Focus ISO 9001 | Source

Quality Management Principle; Customer Focus

“Organisations depend on their customers and therefore should understand current and future customer needs, should meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations.”(ISO 9004)

In today’s truly global market place competition is very fierce, and our customer’s expectations are constantly evolving, therefore it is essential for organisations to have a complete understanding of their customers’ needs, both existing and future customers.

If you do not fully understand the needs of your potential customers then you are unlikely to ever win their business, especially as you will be competing against other suppliers who may have already got their foot through the door with a better understanding of their needs.

However, do not ignore your current customers when trying to win the business of new ones, it costs around six times as much to win new business as it does to maintain your current business, so losing customers due to taking your eye off the ball is a very expensive business.

To survive in business it is clear that you must provide your current and future customers with what they want, therefore you must understand their current needs and have a process in place to help you predict and even influence their future needs. Your ISO 9001 Quality Management System must be focused on meeting the needs of your customers.

ISO 9001 Quality Management Principles; Leadership

“Leaders establish unity of purpose and direction of the organisation. They should create and maintain the internal environment in which people can become fully involved in achieving the organisation’s objectives.”(ISO 9004)

For your management system to be effective and company objectives to be met then you will have to ensure that effective leadership is displayed at all levels within your organisation. Employees will have to see their supervisors and managers as their mentors and leaders, those managers to see their managers as their mentors and leaders all the way to the top of the management tree.

It must be clear from the top to the very bottom that everyone is committed to the company’s policies and objectives and that these principles do not get put to one side when things get a little difficult!

Quality Audit ISO 9001

ISO 9004 Quality Management Principles; Involvement of People

“People at all levels are the essence of an organisation and their full involvement enables their abilities to be used for the organisation’s benefit.”(ISO 9004)

People are the most important asset that a company has, they will perform at their best if they feel that they have a part to play in the decisions that affect their work. If they are treated as cogs in the corporate machine than that is how they will behave, only just doing what they need to do to pick up their wage at the end of each month.

By keeping them informed and involved they will become part of the corporate “family” and be more inclined to do their best for the company. Involvement in problem solving teams, kaizen events and the like will ensure that they are fully involved in changes and improvements and they will have designed them so the resistance should be far less.

ISO 9001 Process Approach

Process Approach ISO 9001
Process Approach ISO 9001 | Source

Quality Management Principles; Process approach

“A desired result is achieved more efficiently when activities and related resources are managed as a process.”(ISO 9004)

A process is an activity or sequence of activities that transforms a set of inputs into a set of outputs, these can be services or products. The process approach is about reducing the variability of these processes and ensuring that they are focused on the customer. Far too often processes within some companies are more focused on meeting their own internal bureaucracy rather than focused on the customers’ needs.

The process approach is about aligning these processes to meet the customers’ needs in as efficient a manner as possible. Maintaining control over them and continually improving them.

Quality Management Principles

ISO 9001 Quality Management Principles; System Approach to Management

“Identifying, understanding and managing interrelated processes as a system contributes to the organisation’s effectiveness and efficiency in achieving its objectives.”(ISO 9004)

Organisations have to get rid of the “over the wall” mentality that exists in so many well established companies. They are often more concerned about departmental structure and their position within the company and rarely realize that their process is part of the overall system.

All of the processes within a company fit together as an overall system, the systems approach is about ensuring that everyone understands the overall system, not just their small part of it. What are the key processes and support processes within your business and how well do they link together?

ISO 9001 Supplier Relationships

ISO 9004 Quality Management Principles; Mutually beneficial supplier relationships

“An organisation and its suppliers are interdependent and a mutually beneficial relationship enhances the ability of both to create value.”(ISO 9004)

Some organisations have very complex supply chains such as the automotive industry, it is important that these organisations learn to work together with their suppliers for mutual benefit. Consider the relationship between Ford and its suppliers and Toyota and their suppliers;

Ford has for many years taken the higher ground and tried to enforce cost down after cost down on its suppliers to try to reduce costs, this has gone on to the point where many of the suppliers can no longer make a profit from the work and would rather no longer supply at all, they also are unable to invest in new equipment and have had to cut back in other areas of their businesses such as design and development to achieve the savings required by Ford.

Toyota however has a far better relationship with their suppliers, they work hand in hand with them to try to design new products and processes and pay a fair price for quality products, these suppliers are loyal to Toyota and work hard to help Toyota to achieve their goals.

If a customer – supplier relationship is not mutually beneficial then in the end all will suffer, just like the different processes within your organisations systems have to be aligned, your suppliers must also be aligned with your overall business aims.

ISO 9001 Quality Management Principles; Continual Improvement

“Continual improvement of the organisation’s overall performance should be a permanent objective of the organisation."(ISO 9004)

In today’s global economy you have to fight to keep your position in the market, your competitors are always trying to find a way to be cheaper, quicker or better. You therefore have to stay ahead of them if you want to keep your position, fall behind and they will take your customers from you.

Continual improvement is one of the most important factors in staying in business, all of the other principles will help you to achieve continuous quality improvement in everything that you do.

ISO 9004 Quality Management Principles; Factual Approach to Decision Making

“Effective decisions are based on the analysis of data and information.”(ISO 9004)

You need to have the facts if you are going to make the right decision, how many times have you seen people jump to conclusions and take action without getting the true facts of a situation. It is often very simple to get the relevant required information but people still resist doing so! You must use the facts, combined with experience and a little intuition this is the best way to make decisions!

Sources of additional help in understanding Quality Management Principles

The following are some useful links that will help you gain additional information regarding the ISO 9001 and ISO9004 standards;

International Organization for Standardization; The ISO home page if you would like upto date information and news regarding new releases of quality standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 9004.

Lloyds Register Quality Assurance; Lloyds Register Quality Assurance is the oldest of the certification bodies and can offer training and help with ISO 9004 and ISO 9001 including the Quality Management Principles.

British Standards Institute; British Standards Institute having played a major part in the development of these international standards is also a certification body and can provide training regarding the ISO 9004 Quality Management Principles.

The American Standards Organization; (ANSI) American Standards Organization offers services similar to BSI and LRQA.

International Register of Certified Auditors (IRCA); International Register of Certified Auditors can help you to discover if your trainers and auditors are registered and qualified to deliver the training and advice they are offering.

UKAS; United Kingdom Accreditation Service are the body that approve the certification and training bodies. If they are not registered then don't use them!

Chartered Quality Institute (CQI); The Chartered Quality Institute (Formerly the Institute of Quality Assurance) has much advice and help in all quality focused areas of business development.

American Society for Quality (ASQ); The American society for quality can provide support and help in the same way that the CQI in London can.

The above links can help with ISO 9000 Standards, ISO 9001, ISO 9004, Quality management principles, Certification, auditing, Training, quality management systems, continuous quality improvement, etc.


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      iso 9000 

      7 years ago

      Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment.

      iso 9000


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