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Mehul Shah

Quality Insider

EQMS Software: Do Your Research

Even vendors outside the quality field have something to offer

Published: Monday, March 18, 2013 - 12:09

Q uality management has gone through considerable change in a relatively short period. The transition from paper and manual processes to point solutions was revolutionary in and of itself. Using software to automate processes that were once done by hand has increased efficiency, reduced operational risk, and improved the quality of products and processes. More recently, though, companies have shifted toward the holistic management of quality under one unified information management system.

An emerging software category, enterprise quality management software (EQMS), facilitates cross-functional communication and collaboration across the value chain by centralizing, streamlining, and standardizing quality data from traditionally disconnected business processes. Advancements in this space have been rapid, and vendors from beyond the quality arena have invested in quality management functionalities. As a consequence, there are many options for companies interested in an implementation, from tangential solutions with EQMS functionalities to pure-play EQMS.

Below, I'll discuss the different types of implementations available to users, providing some insight on each and recommending potential vendors to look into.

Enterprise quality management software

EQMS delivers the capability to manage the quality of products and processes across the value chain from a single location. By integrating EQMS functionalities such as corrective and preventive action (CAPA), risk, auditing, and supplier quality with supply-chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), project life-cycle management (PLM), and more, executives can have an unparalleled viewpoint of global quality.

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With the maturity of the pure-play market and vendor experience with enterprisewide rollouts, there are several strong options to consider when selecting an EQMS. Some of these include Sparta Systems, EtQ, IQS, and IBS. There are also vendors in this category that have developed software on Microsoft SharePoint, including QUMAS and NextDocs. While these vendors started with smaller, sitewide implementations, this space has matured and now offers enterprisewide solutions with robust compliance and document management capabilities.

PLM-based quality management software

PLM-based quality software has helped many engineering-intensive organizations improve the quality of products and processes. Although these solutions alone are not as robust as those offered in the pure-play EQMS market, companies see value in having a single solution to manage engineering and quality processes. It is also typical for PLM solutions to be costly, which tends to take away from the quality management software budget. However, more vendors in this space are now investing in quality-specific functionalities such as CAPA, and we expect these solutions to get more robust in the future.

Because a full EQMS implementation may be infeasible for engineering-intensive companies, many PLM vendors have developed EQMS functionalities. There are big brand names in this category. Companies such as Siemens, PTC Oracle, Omnify, Dassault, and others have a solid presence in the PLM space and have also developed quality management solutions that extend from engineering to quality functions.

ERP-based quality management software

Companies have spent more money and resources in implementing ERP solutions than any other solution available in the market. ERP is generally the IT backbone of organizations, carrying out many functions under a single system. With that said, it has only been a natural progression for ERP vendors to develop and invest in quality management functionalities. A recent example of this is QAD's acquisition of CEBOS.

The most significant advantage of leveraging quality management functionalities in ERP is in having a single enterprise solution for managing cross-functional processes. Similar to the PLM space, though, pricing can be an issue, and ERP quality management solutions are not necessarily as robust as the portfolio of functionalities offered by a pure-play EQMS vendor. However, advancements are definitely being made. The benefit of investing in ERP-based quality solutions is not having to manage multiple point solutions for different processes across the organization. Vendors to look into include Plex Systems, Oracle, QAD, and SAP.

MES-based quality management software

Manufacturing execution system (MES) software is common on the shop floor of many manufacturing-intensive organizations. It helps to manage the day-to-day operations and also provides a layer of intelligence for analyzing performance. Increasingly today, MES vendors are building quality management capabilities into solutions. These may include statistical  process control (SPC), traceability into supplier quality, and other areas.

In recent years, through acquisition and organic development, the level of quality management functionality that's seen in MES software has improved. Vendors in this space to consider are Apriso, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, Invensys, and Camstar, among many more. Finally there are the vendors that specifically focus on SPC and can complement investments in other enterprise applications. Some of these leading vendors including DataNet Quality Systems (WinSPC), Zontec, Hertzler Systems, and InfinityQS.

Do your research

For companies with a wide range of quality management needs, there are almost too many options available. It's often a balance between current capabilities and budget that plays the largest role in determining which quality management software implementation route to follow.

Although the decision often is derived through consensus of a cross-functional team, the process typically begins with some personal research. The LNS Research EQMS Solution Selection Guide has now helped hundreds of executives with their EQMS journey.


About The Author

Mehul Shah’s picture

Mehul Shah

Mehul Shah is a senior associate at LNS Research, developer of solutions for industrial operations management. Shah builds solutions that will help executives leverage results from research. Shah has experience in managing quantitative and quality research projects and has provided practical insights to senior executives to improve operational and financial performance. He is a recognized speaker on various topics including sustainability, asset management, and quality management.