Quality management system

Quality management system
Primary topic
Related topics
Methods and techniques

Quality management system is a system composed of principles, procedures, methods, tools, job descriptions, people and relations between them, that are aimed at achieving quality objectives. That is the most general definition that can be applied to every quality management system (QMS). The most of specific definitions require e.g. process approach or customer focus (Wikipedia), which is correct only to some, most popular, quality management systems, like based on ISO 9001.

Overview of quality management systems definitions

The approach to quality management systems has changed over time. Therefore also definitions had to change. Nowadays there are 4 main categories of QMS definitions:

According to those definitions, the quality management system is:

Orientation on enterprise results

  • Approach to improving effectiveness and flexibility of organization as a whole (J.S. Oakland).
  • A set of coordinated activities that aim at enforcement or at least stabilization of companies market position (A. Iwasiewicz)

Orientation on enterprise operation

  • Management system to direct and control an organization with regard to quality. Where management system is system to establish policy and objectives and to achieve those objectives (ISO 9001:2006)
  • A system of planned and coordinated actions that aim at fulfillment of customer requirements while maintaining the costs level (J. Kisielnicki).

Orientation on organizational culture

  • Quality management system is not only methods, procedures, certificates, but also widely understood organizational culture. Key success indicators in that area are: employee's competences, teamwork, application of quality methods and techniques (J. Luczak).

Orientation on customer

  • Managing whole company in that way, that it excels others in all dimensions of products that are important for customer (R.B. Chase, N.J. Aquilano)
  • Reduction of gap between customer's expectations and perceived by him quality of the service (A. Parasuraman, V.A. Zeithaml, L.L. Berry).

Approaches to quality management systems

Approach to quality management systems was developed in two main schools (Kroslid 1999):

  • deterministic,
  • continuous improvement.

Deterministic school of QMS

The deterministic school was believed that there is one best way of implementing quality into the enterprise. Therefore it is necessary to develop standards, procedures, should be implemented by top level managers, who know what is best. That approach was typical to ISO 9001 standards (especially before 2000 issue) or Six sigma.

As the management science progressed, it became obvious that every company is different and therefore it is impossible to create "one type fits all" QMS. The ISO 9001:2000 and next issues made requirements more flexible. Six sigma evolved into Lean-Six sigma.

Continuous improvement school of QMS

The continuous approach school was founded on diversity approach. Each quality management system could work differently as long as it delivered high quality products and services. It became popular first in Japan and than as Total Quality Management and later Lean management was popularized in the whole world. The CI approach was opened to trial and error, which eventually lead to development of new, effective quality methods and techniques.

As the experience has grown, some principles describing best practices were created. Some method have got more popular than others. In that way, step by step, CI school became more formalized and more... deterministic.

Both schools are much closer to each other than 20 years earlier, however differences in approach are still visible e.g. in ISO and TQM based systems. Most of companies implement some methods of both schools, as it is the most effective and flexible way to achieve high quality products.

Available quality management systems

What is Quality Management System (by tcmc Quality Management Services)

The most popular quality management systems are:

Quality management systems based on quality awards are (mostly similar to TQM):

  • EFQM model
  • Malcolm Baldridge Award model
  • Deming Award model

Other quality management systems are:

  • AQAP - QMS for suppliers of the defence industry
  • ISO 13485 - QMS for medical devices
  • ISO 29990 - QMS for learning service providers
  • ISO/TS 16949 - QMS for automotive
  • VDA 6.1 - QMS for automotive
  • AS 9100 - QMS for aviation


  • Chase R.B., Aquilano N.J., Production and operations management, wyd. 6, Irwin, Home-wood 1992
  • Kroslid, D. (1999). In search of quality management. Rethinking and reinterpreting. Doctoral Dissertation, Linköping, Sweden, Division of Quality Technology and Management. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Linköping University
  • Parasuraman A., Zeithaml V.A., Berry L.L., Servqual: A Multiple-Item Scale for Measuring Consumer Perceptions of Service Quality, „Journal of Retailing” 1988, Vol. 64, No. 1
  • ISO 9001:2015 QMS standard
  • Gołaś, H., & Mazur, A. (2008). Macroergonomic aspects of a quality management system. Foundations of Control and Management Sciences, 161-170.
  • Van den Heuvel, J., Koning, L., Bogers, A. J., Berg, M., & van Dijen, M. E. (2005). An ISO 9001 quality management system in a hospital: bureaucracy or just benefits?. International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, 18(5), 361-369.

Author: Slawomir Wawak