A quality management system (QMS) is a system that documents the policies, processes, and procedures that are necessary for an organization to create and deliver its products or services to its customers, thereby increasing customer satisfaction from product quality.

In short, a QMS helps a company meet its regulatory requirements and customer requirements, and make continuous improvements to its operations. 

Successful quality control managers use their quality management systems to enhance their companies’ manufacturing processes and business processes in the name of continual improvement. 

One of the most recognized and broadly implemented international QMS standards is ISO 9001, which details the requirements for a quality management system that organizations can use to create their own programs. The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) first published ISO 9001 in 1987.

There are also other ISO standards related to quality management systems, including the rest of the ISO 9000 series of quality management standards, along with ISO 13485 that specifies the requirements for medical device manufacturers, the ISO 4000 series for environmental management systems, and ISO 19011 that provides guidelines for auditing management systems.

To provide customers with independent validation that its quality management system conforms to a particular ISO standard, such as ISO 9001, a company could opt to achieve ISO certification

ISO certification is a seal of approval from an accredited certification body that an organization complies with a specific ISO standard. As part of the certification process, ISO standards require a company to first conduct an internal audit to ensure that it meets the standards before the certification body conducts an external ISO audit

However, many organizations opt to focus on becoming ISO compliant rather than ISO certified. ISO compliance means adhering to the requirements of ISO standards without the formalized certification and recertification processes. 

The key to successfully implementing an effective QMS is providing the individuals responsible for executing the quality system with understandable and workable instructions that include the actions necessary to achieve the established quality goals. 

The American Society for Quality dives deeper into the elements of quality management processes.

Implementing a QMS affects a company’s total performance. An effective quality management system enables an organization to meet regulatory and customer requirements, as well as prevent errors, save money, and continually improve its offerings.