6 Reasons Why Quality Professionals Support Integrated Management Systems

On February 8, 2017, I delivered a presentation to 138 attendees on Integrated Management Systems (IMS) at the monthly ASQ Toronto section meeting. To learn more about IMS, read The Case for EHSQ Integrated Management Systems. The audience consisted of a broad range of experts including CQEs, CQAs, CQIAs, CSSGB, CSSBB, management consultants, auditors, among others.

As part of the introduction, I asked the audience how many people have either heard about or were already familiar with Integrated Management Systems and I’d say about 40% of the audience raised their hands – which is a good sign! I was actually only expecting about 10 to 20 people to raise their hands. This definitely demonstrates that Integrated Management Systems is of interest to quality management professionals.  The concept of an IMS becomes even more important because of the harmonization of standards due to the recent changes in ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and eventually ISO 45001.

Take a Customer First Perspective

We started by discussing the importance of considering the customer’s perspective because at the end of the day it’s all about them. If the decisions and actions we take at the executive, manager, supervisor, and employee levels do not somehow benefit the end customer in terms of improved delivery time, service quality, and/or reduced prices, then whatever initiative we take on – IMS or otherwise, won’t matter. This same thinking should apply when considering Integrated Management Systems.

The opportunities for IMS to address unnecessary duplication and inefficiencies, as well as break down silos and garner support from multiple business units and departments were apparent throughout the discussion. Together we examined strategies and opportunities for leveraging ‘systems thinking’ across EHSQ business units to be more efficient. There were a lot of nods and people smiling in the room when I was walking down memory lane talking about examples of issues we were addressing where Quality professionals would say “That’s for the Safety team to investigate” or “That’s not a safety issue, it’s a quality issue!”. A lot of us that were in attendance heard this before and were nodding in agreement with a few smirks as well. This spurred deeper conversations into customer satisfaction and how it is essential to build your IMS strategy around the client’s needs to ensure your quality initiatives provide positive and meaningful change to customer experiences.

Here are the 6 key takeaways from the discussion with the audience following the presentation:

  • Getting buy-in from multiple departments for IMS could help get the financial support to invest in new tools and systems. A critical point that a number of attendees commented on was about getting buy-in and support for initiatives requiring capital investment that affect the siloed QMS, SMS, and EMS of today. With an IMS, this could help garner support from multiple key stakeholders across departments and global business units that will ultimately benefit the entire business rather than an individual department. Quality, Safety, and the Environment is everyone’s responsibility, not just a department and taking an IMS approach could help to get buy-in especially in multinational corporations.
  • Adoption of IMS depends on organizational culture and the maturity of existing management systems. There was also some discussion about what type of organizations are ready to adopt an IMS. The comment related to whether organizations that manufactured products with robust Quality Management Systems in place would be better suited to adopt Integrated Management Systems than other types of organizations. We talked about how some organizations manufacturing products will tend to put more emphasis on their QMS management systems than other areas and might be hesitant to adopting an IMS approach. We also discussed how service-centered organizations like construction companies, healthcare facilities, utilities, and others will place more emphasis on their EHS management systems as they tend to be more focused on ensuring worker and public safety in those situations and invest more there. The discussion helped to highlight a challenge that organizations face because each organization already has a culture that tends to place more emphasis on a particular management system depending on what products and services they deliver to their end customers.
  • Quality professionals want to learn more about the tangible benefits of IMS. Another member mentioned that he specifically wanted to attend the presentation to learn more about the advantages that IMS can provide his organization. He was specifically interested in getting a better understanding of how IMS can help improve efficiency, reduce costs, break down silos, and move towards a single business management system which has historically been a challenge.
  • IMS offers the opportunity to build a uniform organizational culture. One consultant in the audience mentioned that he has been implementing IMS for a number of clients (over 20) and found that this is something that resonates for them because of the benefits relating to reduction of duplicate of processes, tools, and the opportunity to leverage the IMS to help transform the organizational culture.
  • Independent policies are still required if an IMS is implemented in an organization. There was an interesting question about whether an IMS policy could be created that replaces the Quality Policy, Environmental Policy, and Safety Policy required in ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and eventually ISO 45001 once published. Based on the current requirements of the standards, the individual policies are still required. But it raised a good point that there may be potential to consolidate the policies into a single IMS policy type document if an IMS standard ever gets published by ISO. The independent policies should remain – however these documents can all be managed using a single document management system rather than 3 separate tools/methods under the individual management systems.
  • Clarifying the boundaries of the Safety Management System and scope of the IMS are important. There was also discussion about being clear about what type of SMS we are talking about in the context of an IMS. Whether it’s occupational safety, process safety, or product safety as they are different from one another as it was becoming a little blurry during our discussion. The focus of ISO 45001 and the IMS should be on occupational health and safety.

It was interesting to see the level of engagement from the audience on this topic. It was an affirmation that IMS is on the rise and it’s only a matter of time before this approach becomes the norm for modern businesses. The first step, is to get away from the old paper-based, manual intensive methods that organizations employ. Switching to software technology solutions like those offered by Intelex for Health & Safety, Quality, and Environment enable this transition to happen more quickly.

Want to learn more about ISO 9001:2015?  Check out our on-demand webinar with Peter Merrill called ISO 9001:2015: An Implementation Perspective.

2 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why Quality Professionals Support Integrated Management Systems

  1. Great article. I am looking for more detail on the point about maintaining separate policies. Our IMS (QMS and EMS) has maintained a single policy for the past 4 years without issue. Is your point more related to the integration of the health and safety components?

    • Thanks Kelly! This was more about the need to have specific policies created as per policy requirements in clause 5.2 of ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and DIS/ISO 45001. As long as the individual requirements of 5.2 for the Quality policy, Environmental policy, and Occupational Health & Safety policy are addressed, this could potentially be addressed in a single IMS policy document. However, I would expect that an IMS policy document would have separate sub-sections for the Quality policy, Environmental policy, and OH&S policy within this IMS document. If you could share how you were able to combine the quality policy and environmental policy as part of a single IMS policy, that would be a good data point to have for me and others as well. If you could include a link to direct us to your organization’s IMS policy that would be helpful.

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