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Mark Ames, Reg Blake, Michael J. Caruso, Phil Heinle

Mark Ames, Reg Blake, Michael J. Caruso, Phil Heinle’s default image


Why Management System Standards Add Value, Part 1

It’s official: Companies get more revenue from using standards than they cost to implement

Published: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - 11:15

More than ever, businesses need ways to improve their operations to better gain, serve, and retain customers while reducing costs and improving margins. Implementing management systems and attaining third-party accredited certification can help businesses achieve success on all of these fronts. For many years, various media have discussed anecdotal information concerning the value of third-party accredited certification to management systems. Sound, documented evidence from academic studies now confirms the value of third-party accredited certification of management systems. In part one of this two-part article, we will summarize the history of management systems. In part two, we'll take a closer look at the evidence supporting their value.

The most noteworthy studies about management system standards in the last 20 years have dealt with the two most popular standards: ISO 9001 (quality management systems) and ISO 14001 (environmental management systems). In this article, we will focus not only on the value of these and other management systems, but also, in particular, on the value of accredited management systems certification. Most articles on this topic have been positive, but not many have been based on hard data. We’ve now reached the time to clearly communicate the data associated with the benefits of adopting management system standards.

Here are a few conclusions of recent studies (additional benefits and the specific data that supports these conclusions will be presented later in this article):
• Management systems standards return a bottom-line financial value larger than any investment or time incurred.
• Adopters of management system standards have higher rates of corporate survival than nonadopters.
• Adopters of management system standards have higher sales than nonadopters.
• Small businesses achieve proportionally more benefits than larger organizations.


How management system standards evolved

The creation and first use of management systems happened long before most people realize. In 1798, Eli Whitney signed a contract with the U.S. federal government to build 10,000 muskets. Whitney stated an intention of making the muskets with interchangeable parts—thus allowing a broken musket to be cannibalized to provide repair parts for another.

Whitney faced more than his share of problems in fulfilling this contract, especially when it came to managing changes (in products, documents, and processes, among others). When a defect was found or an improvement suggested that a change was needed, it was often difficult to manage and deploy, so Whitney came up with a set of rules to control these changes.

In addition, workers often had a preference for fixing an individual problem, rather than identifying and resolving its cause. Whitney resolved these and many other obstacles by developing a set of management practices that, when successfully implemented, prevented problems from occurring in the first place. These include:
• When a change is made, the organization must update and approve documents and then redistribute them to all users.
• When a problem occurs, the organization must identify the cause as the first step in resolution.


Whitney continued his work on the musket project between 1798 and 1810, during which time he developed many additional management practices that, over time, helped him prevent problems before they had an impact on his business and his customers.

During the next century, management practices expanded in scope and detail and were used increasingly by a variety of organizations. By the time Henry Ford began to mass-produce automobiles in 1913, management practices had grown to include components such as making sure employees are capable of a task before assigning it to them; purchasing from suppliers capable of meeting requirements, not just the ones with the lowest prices; and taking the needs of multiple business areas (e.g., production, purchasing, shipping) into consideration during product design.

World War II drove the next major additions to commonly accepted management practices. During the intense production demands, military procurement personnel realized that the suppliers whose top managers directly and actively engaged in running their operations produced the best results. As a result, management practices associated with the roles of top management joined the list of existing management practices, including periodic review of processes and expectations, enforcement of responsibilities and accountability, establishment and regular communication of plans and policies, and requirement and support of consistent internal communication.

The need for transparency also arose from the urgent production demands of World War II. Customers (in WWII, often the military) needed to “see” what was going on inside supplier organizations so that they could have confidence in results. Because of this, transparency became an important management practice and came to include evidence of effective internal communication and task completion; documented procedures and instructions; and policies, manuals, and vision statements.

The transparency that resulted from these management practices provided value in three ways. It allowed customers and potential customers to see what was happening so that they had the confidence to make purchasing decisions; it allowed organizations to see and confirm that what they intended to be done was actually being done; and it allowed people to see and clearly know what was expected of them and what they needed to do.

Points to consider:
• Management practices are those activities used to anticipate, prevent, and resolve known problems. In the past, these practices were sometimes called “best practices.”
• Management practices were developed specifically to provide benefits to users.
• Management practices are compelling protocols for ensuring results.
• Once implemented, management practices help increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs.
• Management practices evolved into management systems.
• The list of management practices that has evolved during the last 50 years represents the collective wisdom of experts from around the world.
• The authors of current management systems standards have made great efforts to ensure that management systems are sufficiently flexible so that they add value to any organization, of any size or complexity, performing any task in any industry at any geographic location. These standards accommodate the need for both flexibility and discipline and consistency where needed.


Modern management systems

The management practices that emerged with Eli Whitney in 1798 evolved into what we today call management systems. The first internationally accepted version of a management system was adopted by the International Organization of Standardization in 1987 and published as ISO 9001—“Quality management systems—Requirements.” Following the introduction of ISO 9001, people realized that similar management practices could be developed and adopted for managing results in environment, food safety, health and safety, and many other areas where preventive practices were important in ensuring outcomes.

Points to consider:
• Management systems have been created that cover topics beyond the traditional management systems described in ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
• Today, management systems help ensure results in many new areas, including the Private Sector Preparedness (PS Prep) advocated by the Department of Homeland Security and the newly released ISO 50001 standard covering energy management systems.


About The Author

Mark Ames, Reg Blake, Michael J. Caruso, Phil Heinle’s default image

Mark Ames, Reg Blake, Michael J. Caruso, Phil Heinle

Mark Ames is president of AQS Management Systems Inc.
Reg Blake is vice president of corporate development and regulatory affairs for BSI Group America Inc.
Michael J. Caruso is vice president of certification for UL DQS Inc.
Phil Heinle is the owner of Quality Consulting.