The process approach is one of the seven quality management principles upon which the ISO 9000 series of quality management system (QMS) standards is based. Process approach involves:
- Understanding and consistency in meeting requirements
- Consideration of processes in terms of added value
- Achievement of effective process performance
- Improvement of processes based on evaluation of data and information
Process approach directly links process inputs that come from suppliers to the outputs of the process that go to customers. Inputs to a process are generally outputs of other processes. Processes in an organization are planned and carried out under controlled conditions to add value and improve.
Process approach organizes and manages work horizontally the way work activities create customer value, rather than being isolated in a ‘silo mode’.
Once the processes needed for the QMS and their sequences and interactions have been identified, formulate the approach for the performance of these processes.
Step one: Establish the responsibilities for managing the process – process ownership
Step two: Define the process for better understanding and develop the ability to pilot the process through education, training, experience, technology, design.
Step three: Identify customer requirements – measurable to the extent possible
Step four: Establish measures of process performance by translate customer needs and requirements into measures
Step five: Compare process performance with customer requirements – aim for improvements
Step six: Identify process improvement opportunities – gap analysis, prioritizing, process effectiveness / efficiency, plan, do, check, act (PDCA) cycle
Step seven: Improve process performance – quality improvement projects / teams
Support for the system approach
The process approach being an important part of the system approach to management, assumes the understanding and managing interrelated processes as a system to contribute to an organization's effectiveness and efficiency in achieving objectives.
Using the process approach, a QMS comprises the following under headings of interrelated processes, based on ISO 9001:
- Context of the organization, needs and expectations of stakeholders, QMS scope
- Leadership, customer focus, policy, organization structure
- Planning, risks / opportunities, managing changes
- Support processes, resources, competence, awareness, communication, documented information
- Operational processes, planning / control, design, supply chain, production / delivery, product release, non-conformance
- Performance evaluation, monitoring / measurement / analysis, internal audit, management review
- Improvement, corrective actions, continual improvement
Each process can be managed and improved using process management and improvement methodology, and, managing the interrelated processes as a system introduces additional improvement opportunities.
Policy and objectives deployment, integration of QMS into the business processes too, are executed using the process approach.
The multiple levels at which continual improvement occurs make organizational QMS based on the process approach a powerful way to manage organizations toward achieving performance excellence.
The process approach is a primary need of an organization, regardless of size, type of activities, location, technology, degree of complexity, global / regional operations etc. It is an integral part of successful quality management system establishment and business sustenance.