Enterprise technology has made its way into all operational areas within a business. In fact, it’s rare to find an organization today that does not have a dedicated enterprise software solution to provide some level of support. Two types of enterprise software solutions that have become commonplace in many organizations are Quality Management Systems (QMS) and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) systems.
From a process perspective, these two systems—once disparate and siloed point solutions— have very similar processes and can be consolidated into a “single source of truth.” This integration can have a powerful effect on an organization, providing a level of visibility that combines two critical areas into a single enterprise system.
This article will review some of the characteristics that are driving the integration of the QMS and EHS, look into the best practices of consolidating these two systems and describe how it provides value to the business.
The Value of a QEHS
Quality and EHS organizations are constantly growing and progressing in order to keep up with a rapid product lifecycle. Recently, it has become evident that these two types of organizations would benefit from their convergence. Merging the Quality and EHS systems into one solution, or QEHS, is an effective way to provide the highest level of visibility and functionality across an entire platform. A QEHS incorporates elements of both systems and processes to streamline operations and maximize return on investment.
The ISO standards that govern the various initiatives have numerous common elements. Best-in-class solutions recognize this overlap in functions, and are able to create a single, holistic system that not only provides depth in the specialized functions, but also is equipped with a wide breadth of cross-functional functions that serve the needs of both Quality and EHS.
Some of these cross-functional integrated processes include:
Audits and Surveys: Audits and Surveys increase efficiency within an organization. By automating the process of auditing and customer satisfaction in both systems, additional features including a question library and ready-to-use checklists become available for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards. Allowing for automatic distribution in the act of monitoring policies and processes is helpful in distributing change before it is too late.
Corrective and Preventive Action: The Corrective Action module is useful in tracking discrepancies efficiently. For each system, relevant data is automatically inherited. For EHS industries this is particularly useful as it includes incidents and audits and for the QMS includes nonconforming materials and calibration and maintenance. The QEHS is able to effectively track the cost and cause of both systems and their common deviations, while providing change through risk control.
Risk Assessment: Whether a QMS organization or EHS organization, managing risk is a great priority. Risk assessment in the QEHS calculates risk throughout various points of a process and is able to classify risk mitigation and event history. The QEHS integrates with Corrective Action to filter noncritical events from critical events, helping to ensure that the most critical threats are handled respectively.
Document Control: Document Control manages the lifecycle of all documents. It’s a centralized repository that is responsible for all data and its list of files that have been distributed electronically. This function integrates with QMS functions, such as complaint handling and material returns as well as EHS functions like material safety data sheet (MSDS) and emergency preparedness. Document control ensures that proper documentation is always recorded within each process.
Employee Training: Employee Training solutions provide a simple way to schedule and record training for both EHS and QMS centric organizations. Training is able to automatically distribute testing, manage the scores and store each in the individual’s proper employee folder. Employee training is known as the groundwork of an organization. When things are running smoothly, it is often because of a highly trained staff.
Meetings: Management review meetings are essential to companies that are entitled to meet various quality, FDA or EHS standard requirements. During such meetings, systems are investigated, evaluated and maintained in order to properly manage processes and gain insight into how issues overlap and how various standards mesh together through the QEHS.
Change Management: Cross functional change management is able to provide for a change summary that describes necessary change. A key component of the QEHS and its change management function is its ability to integrate with the QMS’s supplier rating and inspection functions. Change management is important as it ensures that proper suppliers are providing visibility into supplier qualification. Similarly, risk assessment is able to provide visibility into the impact of change by analyzing the risk in EHS processes like Job Safety Analysis (JSA), and Aspects, Objectives and Targets.
Incidents: As part of the continual improvement process, recording incidents is important. This is in an effort to prevent the chance of an event’s recurrence and conduct change. The QEHS’s Incidents function can be used to set up records of all incidents and to collect the required information to conduct investigations, including a risk analysis. In addition, Incidents data is automatically inherited into the corrective action, which in turn helps prevent recurrence of incidents.
Enterprise Reporting: Within any business system, data analysis helps to measure results and manage change within the organization. Quality and EHS are no different—without a core business intelligence and reporting function, understanding the various trends and data points regarding the events within these systems can inhibit change. Furthermore, integration of Quality and EHS into a holistic QEHS system can uncover a whole new layer of data analysis, one that takes into account not only the Quality of a product or process, but the Environmental, Health and Safety impacts that lie with it.
Integrating a Quality and EHS system provides a total Compliance Management system that efficiently manages the variety of Quality, Environmental and Health and Safety processes present in most organizations.
As IT continues to practice value engineering, integration and consolidation will take place in the systems that provide the most overall value. Quality and Environmental Health and Safety processes share common elements that often work more effectively in unison—integrating the two will provide a harmonious system for the organization by ensuring compliance with both Quality and Environmental Health and Safety initiatives. The value generated by integrating the elements of each system into one robust solution provides cost-savings across the organization, reduced overhead and fosters efficiency and better decision-making