This article focuses on the principles on which an electrical contracting firm’s quality management system (QMS) should be based. QMSs are the focus of the 2000 edition of the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000 series of quality standards. The series assists organizations in the development, documentation and implementation of effective qms. An effective QMS will increase quality, productivity and safety and should result in increased customer satisfaction,employee morale and profits.

ISO 9000 quality management standards

The ISO 9000 series of quality standards provide guidance for the development and implementation of QMS in any industry. In the United States, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has adopted these standards through the American Society of Quality (ASQ) as the ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9000-2000 series of standards for quality management systems. The 2000 edition is the current edition.

The three standards that make up the 2000 edition of the ANSI/ISO/ASQ family of quality standards are as follows:

ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9000-2000 Quality Management Systems—Fundamentals and Vocabulary

ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9001-2000 Quality Management Systems—Requirements

ANSI/ISO/ASQ Q9004-2000 Quality Management Systems—Guidelines for Performance Improvements

The Q9002 and Q9003 standards were discontinued in the 2000 edition and all QMS requirements are contained in Q9001. The electrical contracting firm using Q9001 to develop a QMS using the 2000 edition excludes those requirements that do not pertain to the services it offers. Under the 1994 edition, companies doing design/build would have used Q9001 and those doing traditional design/bid/build work would have used Q9002. Q9000 describes the fundamentals of QMSs and defines terms used throughout the standards. This standard provides the foundation for understanding and applying both Q9001 and Q9004 requirements.

The Q9001’s purpose is to specify QMS requirements where an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to meet customer needs, expectations and regulatory requirements. This standard deals with the effectiveness and continuous improvement of the firm’s QMS. Of the three standards, Q9001 is the only one that is used for registration.

Q9004 provides guidelines to help evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the firm’s QMS and it is designed to help the firm improve its performance and customer satisfaction. Q9004 is about continuous process improvement and builds on Q9001 requirements.

Quality management systems

QMS is defined in Q9000 as a “management system that directs and controls an organization with regard to quality.” The firm’s QMS focuses on ensuring that the services it provides consistently meets customer needs and expectations. The QMS is the foundation for all of the firm’s quality activities including quality control (QC), quality assurance (QA) and continuous process improvement, which is also known as total quality management (TQM).

All successful companies have a QMS, which often is not documented but is embedded within the company’s culture.

Documenting the QMS will clarify upper management’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction throughout the organization, reduce ambiguity regarding work processes, assimilate new employees into the firm more quickly and provide a factual and rational basis for continuous improvement. It will also show customers how the company will ensure that their needs and requirements will be met the first time and every time.

Q9001 provides the requirements for a QMS. One of Q9001’s objectives is to provide the basis for the company to have its QMS registered. This requires having an accredited auditor review the company’s documented QMS for compliance with Q9001 requirements and visit the firm to ensure that the organization and its work processes conform to the documented QMS. After the firm’s QMS is registered, auditors must visit it regularly to ensure that its documented QMS is still valid and being followed in its day-to-day operations to keep its Q9001 registration in force.

Electrical contracting firms become Q9001 registered for a variety of reasons; however, registration is not necessary to reap the benefits of an effective QMS. It can use the Q9000 family of quality standards as a blueprint for developing its own documented QMS. In fact, just using the principles on which the Q9000 standards are based would provide a solid foundation for a QMS tailored specifically to your firm’s needs.

Quality management principles

Q9000 lists eight quality management principles (QMPs) that are the basis of the Q9000 family of quality standards.

QMP No. 1: Customer focus. To be successful, the electrical contracting firm must have customer focus. This means that the compsny must understand its customer needs and requirements today while anticipating its future needs and requirements. It must constantly strive to satisfy its customers and the QMS will provide the mechanism for accomplishing this.

QMP No. 2: Leadership. The firm’s upper management must provide leadership. This means setting the organization’s direction with regard to quality and establishing the firm’s quality policy and objectives. Leadership ensures that everyone within the organization understands its direction with regard to quality and aligns his or her efforts with that direction.

QMP No. 3: Involvement of people. Everyone throughout the organization must understand his or her contribution to customer satisfaction and be actively involved in the QMSs. Quality is not just about the work in place at the customer’s facility or construction site. Quality is also about the support processes that occur off site and without which the electrician and technician could not perform his or her job on site. Similarly, quality is about all the processes that touch the customer or contribute to his or her satisfaction, which include how the receptionist calls to the accuracy of the invoice he or she receives for completed work.

QMP No. 4: Process approach. The firm is a collection of related processes that should complement one another and result in customer needs and expectations being met as well as employee satisfaction and a fair return for the firm’s owners. Processes take inputs, add value and provide outputs. The construction process takes labor, materials and equipment and, using the selected construction means and methods, produces work in place. Similarly, purchasing takes information provided in the plans and specifications and turns that into a request for quotation from suppliers and eventually a purchase order for needed materials and equipment. The QMS must be process oriented.

QMP No. 5: System approach to management. The company must understand how the business and construction processes are interrelated to ensure that the processes are coordinated and are aimed at achieving the company’s quality objectives. A systems approach to the management firm will contribute its effectiveness and efficiency.

QMP No. 6: Continuous improvement. Continuous improvement means that the company is always seeking better ways to meet customer needs and expectations. Continuous improvement of business and construction processes will lead to sustained competitive advantage.

QMP No. 7: Factual approach to decision making. Management by fact means gathering data, analyzing it and using the information gained to make decisions. The firm must identify the information it needs to properly evaluate its processes, understand and anticipate customer needs, gauge customer satisfaction and then develop the data gathering and analysis tools to provide this information.

QMP No. 8: Mutual beneficial supplier relationships. The company cannot exist without its suppliers. Traditionally, suppliers are only considered to be the manufacturers and distributors that provide the materials and equipment needed to complete the project. The company has other suppliers as well. Most important is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that supplies the qualified personnel to do the installation and testing of the power, communications and control systems. The firm must establish mutually beneficial supplier relationships that benefit everyone and lead to customer satisfaction.

Obtaining the Q9000 standards

The Q9000 family of quality standards can be obtained by contacting the American Society for Quality, P.O. Box 3005, Milwaukee, Wis. 53201-3005; Tel: 800.248.1946, Fax: 414.272.1734, e-mail: asq@asq.org, Web site: www.asq.org. EC

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

This article is based on the research project entitled ISO 9000 Evaluation & Update that is being sponsored by the Electrical Contracting Foundation, Inc. The author would like to thank the foundation for its continuing support.

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering at The University of Kansas. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 or tglavinich@ku.edu.