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Matthew Littlefield

Quality Insider

What Is Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS)?

EQMS manages processes and facilitates communication and collaboration

Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 16:36

Although best practices and management systems behind quality management have remained consistent for decades, the systems and solutions used to ensure the production and delivery of high-quality products and processes have changed drastically. Systems that once seemed ideal have become obsolete and unable to address the rising complexities of today’s markets.

Companies initially developed spreadsheet management systems to manually monitor and analyze quality data. As technology developed there was a movement toward either implementing point quality solutions, many of them home-grown, or quality-specific modules in enterprise resource planning systems to manage quality. In both cases, most companies failed to meet the business and technical requirements of global manufacturing companies.

As a result, many organizations now have a disjointed and broad set of systems that don’t easily communicate with one another. Improvements within these systems are localized, lacking the visibility needed to truly manage quality. To fulfill this condition, a new software category emerged—enterprise quality management software (EQMS).

How to define enterprise quality management software

EQMS is an emerging enterprise software category that manages content and business processes for quality and compliance across the value chain. It can be viewed as a quality management platform with an integrated IT architecture and data model that facilitates cross-functional communication and collaboration.

EQMS’s general technology capabilities

The solutions market for EQMS varies by functionality, industry, technology delivery platforms, company sizes served, and numerous other characteristics. There are, however, a set of typical capabilities that most vendors offer or are heavily investing in. These include:
• A modern web-services-based technology platform
• A business process management (BPM) approach to deploying functionality. Applications are built on the platform with integration between applications.
• Preconfigured interoperability with other enterprise applications like enterprise resource planning, product life-cycle management, manufacturing operations management, and supply chain management
• Graphical user interface is web-based, role-based, avoids forms, and focuses on workflow execution

Functionalities provided by EQMS

An EQMS can be used for many reasons, including the management of compliance, facilitating the investigation of adverse events and the proceeding corrective actions, managing risk, and among many other reasons, integrating complaint management into the quality management process. A more extensive list of these functionalities is provided below:
• Nonconformances and corrective and preventive action (NC/CAPA)
• Compliance management
• Supplier quality management
• Risk management
• Statistical process control
• Failure mode and effects analysis
• Complaint handling
• Advanced product quality planning
• Environment, health, and safety
• Audit management
• Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP)
• Change management
• Reporting
• Document control
• Calibration management
• Employee training
• Production part approval process

Closed-loop business processes enabled by EQMS

Modern IT architecture offered by an EQMS enables organizations to close the loop on quality management. EQMS’s functionalities help to integrate quality management into end-to-end business processes, from product ideation through distribution and service. A more specific description of EQMS’s closed-loop capabilities is provided below:

Internal quality processes (engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, service)
• Real-time visibility of quality metrics in engineering, manufacturing, and customer service
• Formal NC/CAPA processes established across company
• Cross-functional teams in place to manage quality across design, manufacturing, and suppliers

External quality processes (suppliers)
• Real-time visibility of quality metrics in supplier performance
• Supplier scorecards established to measure and monitor performance
• Supplier quality data collected automatically through web-based portal
• Statistical analysis used to monitor and analyze real-time supplier quality data
• Standardized escalation processes exist for supplier quality and noncompliance events
• Suppliers are included in design for quality initiatives

Compliance and risk
• Compliance processes are easily understood and documented
• Formal audit management processes established to understand current compliance status and identify area for improvement
• Formal risk management framework established
• Ability to identify risk factors across operations, quantify, visualize, prioritize, and mitigate risk factors across operations

Goals of a typical EQMS implementation

With the amount of resources needed, implementing an EQMS can be a daunting undertaking. However, with the proper planning, it can be incredibly beneficial to an operation. The list of goals that typically accompany an EQMS implementation includes:
• Standardize processes and metrics.
• Integrating the quality system from suppliers through customers
• Create one global web-based quality system
• Listen to the voice of customer
• Empower people with data
• Drive performance improvement
• Have a single source of truth
• Enable data sharing and continuous improvement
• Provide real-time business data to all stakeholders
• Support the “one company” philosophy
• Be flexible enough to support changing business needs

The future of quality management software

EQMS will continue to surface as the leading solution for managing quality. Through our experiences and the creation of the industry’s first solution selection guide for EQMS, we’ve had the opportunity to fully analyze the market. The convergence of disparate, specialized solutions will undoubtedly continue, with out-of-the-box solutions getting stronger and stronger. We’re also seeing a lot of opportunity and investments being made in business intelligence, mobility, user experience, graphical user interfaces, cloud computing, and the development of app-based programs.

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About The Author

Matthew Littlefield’s picture

Matthew Littlefield

Matthew Littlefield is president and principal analyst for LNS Research based in Brookline, Massachusetts. LNS Research provides executives a platform for accessing unbiased research and benchmark data to improve business performance. Littlefield writes for the LNS Research blog where he covers topics including enterprise quality management software, manufacturing operations management, asset performance management, sustainability, and industrial automation 2.0.