What is the job of the quality management representative?
There is no longer a specific requirement in ISO 9001 to assign a management representative for the Quality Management System, so why is it still important for top management to assign one? Is it just so that the certification body has one name they can call if they need to? Or is it for customers to have a name to call if they have a complaint? Further, why does should the management representative be a member of the management team? To better understand the answers to these questions, it is best to start with looking at the duties of the management representative, sometimes called the “management rep,” which were described in detail in the previous ISO 9001:2008 standard.
Responsibilities of the management representative
As mentioned above, a management representative is not mandatory according ISO 9001:2015, but because those activities are still required, this role can still be very valuable in the implementation and maintenance of the Quality Management System. For that reason, we are going to analyze the main responsibilities of the management representative as stated in ISO 9001:2008.
ISO 9001:2008 was very clear that part of the responsibilities of top management was to appoint a member of management to take on the three responsibilities and authorities as listed in the standard, and highlighted below (even if they had other job responsibilities in the company). Along with the three responsibilities, there was an additional note that could lead to additional responsibilities as well. While this role was often taken on by the quality manager, it was not a requirement, so any member of management could be assigned to these responsibilities.
The creators of the standard had good reasons for assigning these responsibilities to a member of management. Just as it is critical for the success of the QMS that management buy into the implementation of the system, it is equally critical that management also maintain control over the top-level monitoring and measurement of the system.
Here are the three responsibilities (and one note) that the ISO 9001:2008 standard set out for the management representative. For more information on additional responsibilities often taken on by the management rep, please see Additional responsibilities of quality management representatives.
QMS process maintenance. The management representative ensures that the QMS processes are established, implemented, and maintained. This may involve review and planning of internal audits, discussion with process owners, or even review of the processes in person to ensure they are properly maintained. If this were not the responsibility of the management rep, then it would be a responsibility distributed among the process owners, and when this happens no one really has the responsibility at all. By having a focal point for the overall processes, the management rep can not only ensure that each process is functioning, but that the interaction of the processes is maintained. By doing this, the interactions can then start to be optimized, because it is not always the case that optimization in one process is the best thing for the overall system.
Reporting on QMS performance. The management representative has a second responsibility to report to top management on how well, or poorly, the QMS is performing. Identifying any needs for improvement to top management is also part of this responsibility. As has already been said, top management needs to be fully supportive of the Quality Management System implementation if it is going to provide true benefit to the company. In order for this to function, there needs to be a point of focus for top management to use when reviewing the resource needs of the QMS, and how best to support the improvement needed. Being the voice of the QMS for top management can be the critical factor in a QMS providing return on investment for the company, or not.
The management rep will gather this sort of information from the monitoring and measurement activities in the organization (see Monitoring and Measurement: The basis for evidence-based decisions), as well as the results of the internal audits, and when the company uses a management review meeting, this is the sort of information that is presented. (See How to make Management Review more useful in the QMS.)
Promote customer requirements. The last responsibility is to ensure that people are aware of customer requirements throughout the organization. Since one of the main thrusts of an ISO 9001 Quality Management System is customer satisfaction, it is vital that all employees understand what the customer needs, and how they are able to affect how well the company satisfies these needs. Customer focus is one of the main Seven Quality Management Principles behind ISO 9001 requirements, and as such needs to have an advocate in the company.
By being the “voice of the customer” in the organization, the quality management representative can make great strides in how satisfied customers are. If the company implemented a quality management system to improve customer satisfaction, it only makes sense that someone is responsible to promote the customer needs in the company, and the management rep is the leader of this initiative.
External liaison. The quality management representative becomes the one name that the certification body can call, or the customer can contact with complaints. It is often these optional responsibilities that are seen as the main role of the management rep, but in fact these could be done by one of many other people without affecting the effectiveness and success of the QMS.
Utilize your quality management representative
As I hope you can see, utilizing your quality management rep as the leader of the QMS can be the best way to ensure that the Quality Management System is effective, efficient, and improves over time. In order for this to work well it is important to choose the best person for this job, just like any other management position in the company, because choosing the wrong person could mean that your QMS implementation is at best sub-optimal, and at worst a complete failure and waste of resources.
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