All systems start with a policy.  A policy is a statement of intent, or if you like, a promise.

When writing a policy, first ask the person at the top why they want a Quality System. The answer to this question gives the policy direction.

For example, if the answer is’ “The customers want it”, then the quality system is essentially a marketing tool. The motor industry is a good example of this motivation. In this case ask the top 20% of customers what they want, step 2, before writing a policy.  Please see the flowchart below.

If the answer to the question, “Why do you want a Quality System?” is answered in terms of losses due to poor quality, or loss of market share, or excessive warranty claims, then the system will be essentially inward looking. It will be more in line with productivity improvement and can be quantified in terms of money.  For example the aim of the company could be, “The ABC widget making company aims to be the best (or cheapest, or best value for money or top) supplier of widgets in the town (country, world). The ABC Company plans to make widgets until widgets are obsolete and then to make their replacement. You could aim to be the best airline caterer or the most reliable ground handler. Phrase the aim in terms that the customer can relate to.

Define Quality in the policy as “Meeting the customer requirements” and the way of meeting these requirements as “meeting the specification.” In step two, on the flow chart below, we will discuss how we discover the customer’s real requirements and how we translate these requirements into specifications that production and the service department can meet.

Crosby, in his book “Quality is Free” states that there are four absolutes of Quality. Roughly these are:

  • The definition of Quality is “Conformance to requirements.”
  • The standard of Quality is “Zero defects.”
  • The measure of Quality is the “Price of non-conformance.”
  • The method of quality is “Prevention.”

Work these into the policy, in your own terms, if possible.

These “absolutes” need a bit of explanation:

  • Crosby actually says that the definition of Quality is, “meeting the specification” but that assumes that the customer requirements have been accurately translated into specifications. “Meeting the specification” is the requirement, as far as the production or service personnel are concerned. Ground Handlers have the customer specification in the contract with the customer.
  • The standard is Zero Defects, not the target. No one sets out to make defects, so the standard is zero. We measure progress compared to zero and celebrate when we get closer to zero today than we did yesterday.  Zero Defects can mean: no scrap food, no late departures or no breakdowns.
  • We measure quality by the Price of Non-Conformance. The Cost of Quality is actually the Cost of Conformance plus the Cost of Non-Conformance but especially in the first few years, the Cost of Non-Conformance is so much higher than the Cost of Conformance that it is not worth calculating the Cost of Conformance. We use the word, “Price” instead of “Cost” to remind ourselves that we are dealing with money that can be saved!
  • We will anticipate defects (step three on the flowchart below) and “Fire Proof” against them. When defects occur, we will take action to stop them happening again. The last five steps, on the flowchart, describe this process. (Incidentally, the external auditors for the Quality system ISO 9001 only consider preventing anticipated defects to be preventative action. Once the defect occurs, they consider preventing it in future to be part of corrective action.)

I would add “Continuous Improvement” as a fifth absolute. Systems that do not improve will stagnate and be overtaken by improving competitors. Continuous improvement is a requirement of ISO 9001 (see the quote from ISO 9001 below), ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.

In my opinion, the policy should be between one and two A4 pages in length in 12 point Arial. If your company uses a standard font, use that.

If you are complying with an external standard, for example the Quality Standard ISO 9001, the environmental standard ISO 14001 or the Health and Safety standard OHSAS 18001, you will need a policy for each, framed in terms of that standard. Read the standard and check that you have covered all the compulsory policy requirements in that standard. For example, ISO 9001 states that, “Top management shall ensure that the quality policy:

  • Is appropriate to the purpose of the organization
  • Includes a commitment to comply with requirements and continually improve the effectiveness of the quality management system
  • Provides a framework for establishing and reviewing quality objectives
  • Is communicated and understood within the organization
  • Is reviewed for continuing suitability.”

These requirements can be worked into the policy or stated in a procedure for top management.

Future blogs will describe the Environmental and Health and Safety policies in more detail.

The Policy must be kept according to your company’s Document Control procedures.

A Quality Policy could look like this:

The ABC Widget Company Quality Policy

The ABC Widget Company makes precision widgets for use in high-speed equipment. The aim of the ABC Widget Company is to be the preferred supplier of precision widgets worldwide.

We will achieve this by:

  • Communicating with customers, suppliers, stakeholders and staff to meet and improve the quality of our processes and products.
  • Discovering our customer’s needs. We will partner with our customers to our mutual benefit.
  • Translating the customer’s requirements into precision drawings and specifications. We will manufacture to these specifications.
  • Seeking cooperation with suppliers to our mutual benefit. To this end, we will agree specifications and quality standards with suppliers and expect them to honour the agreements. We will seek long term relationships based on proven quality and supply.
  • Striving to meet all legal, contractual, warranty undertakings and voluntary system standards that we subscribe to.
  • Measuring and continually improving the quality of our processes and products.
  • Measuring the price of non-conformance in the accounts.
  • Setting objectives and targets at the senior management, systems review meeting, at least annually.
  • Training and developing our staff to ensure that the agreed objectives are met.
  • Making resources available to profitably meet the objectives and targets.
  • Ensuring that the Quality policy processes, objectives and targets are communicated and understood by all, within the company.
  • Preventing defects wherever possible and acting vigorously to correct defects that occur. Operating an effective customer complaints system.
  • Honouring our commitments, undertakings, warranties or guarantees to clients, customers, shareholders and staff.
  • Developing, maintaining and enhancing the quality management system.

The scope of this Quality Policy includes all design, development, manufacture and service supplied by the ABC Widget Company.

Signed this day, the 7th day of April 2012 on behalf of the staff and management team of the ABC Widget Company.

(Managing Director signs here)

Jack ‘O Lantern

Managing Director


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