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What Are The Top Quality Objectives?

24 May 2016
Andrew Holt, Technical Content Executive at the CQI, looks at how ISO 9001:2015 sets out the development and communication of the quality policy and what this means for quality professionals.

ISO 9001:2015 standards mandate quality objectives. However, determining exactly what these requirements mean for businesses and how to write quality objectives that meet these requirements can become challenging.

We're here to walk you through the relevant sections of ISO 9001 related to quality objectives and what it means for your business. Use this guide to determine how to best write and communicate your quality objectives according to ISO regulations.

What Are Quality Objectives?

Quality objectives are measurable quality control methods established by companies according to ISO 9001:2015 standards. You'll set and use these objectives to turn the goals from your quality policy into quantifiable plans of action. Companies should first set their quality objectives when planning a quality management system and update them as needed during scheduled reviews.

Your company might set quality objectives concerning factors like delivery improvement, process efficiency or product quality goals. Some examples of the most common quality objectives include:

  • Defects: Send out fewer than X percent of products with a defect.
  • Performance: Increase product performance to X hours of use.
  • Efficiency: Improve operational efficiency by X percent.
  • Safety: Have zero safety incidents in the workplace or zero product recalls.
  • Delivery: Achieve X percent of on-time deliveries.
  • Customer service: Maintain a customer satisfaction rate of X percent.

You'll need to document your goals in some form, although ISO 9001 doesn't say precisely how you should outline them. You could choose to state your quality objectives in your business plans, annual budget or another regular statement.

Several sections of ISO 9001:2015 lay out the specific terms of business' quality policies and objectives. The following are the top sub-clauses detailing quality objective requirements.

5.2.1 Establishing An Organization's Quality Policy

Sub-clause 5.2.1 of ISO 9001:2015 sets out the requirements of top management in respect of the organization’s quality policy.

Top management must establish a quality policy that is appropriate to the purpose and context of the organization and crucially, it must support its strategic direction.

It must additionally provide a framework for the setting and review of quality objectives, and include commitments to satisfy any applicable requirements and to continually improve the quality management system.

It is the responsibility of top management to implement and maintain the quality policy.

Implications Of Sub-Clause 5.2.1 For Quality Professionals

ISO 9001:2008 requires top management to “establish” the quality policy (5.1), and to “ensure” that it is reviewed for continuing suitability. It requires top management to “establish, implement and maintain” a quality policy.

ISO 9001:2015 requires that the quality policy is also appropriate to the context of the organization, not just its purpose.

This will require the review and possible update of the organization’s quality policy if there is any change in the context of the organization or the relevant requirements of the relevant interested parties.

Another reinforcement of the concept that the QMS is not just an add-on to business is a crucial requirement that the quality policy is in tune with the organization’s strategic direction. Any change in strategic direction will now require a rethink of the quality policy.

The policy must include a commitment to continually improve the QMS and provide a framework for setting and reviewing quality objectives.

5.2.2 Communicating The Quality Policy

Sub-clause 5.2.2 sets out specific requirements in respect of the organization’s quality policy communication.

As in the 2008 edition, the policy must be available as documented information. It must be communicated, understood and applied inside the organization and must be available to relevant interested parties as appropriate.

Implications Of Sub-Clause 5.2.2 For Quality Professionals

As an item of documented information, the quality policy can now be held in any manner that meets the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.5.

Quality professionals should note that there is now an explicit requirement for the quality policy to be applied throughout the organization.

How this is done is up to the organization, but linking to quality objectives, process design, acceptance criteria, monitoring and measurement data and management review should be considered.

The new requirement for the quality policy to be available to relevant interested parties, as appropriate, means that the organization will need to consider how this is done – which could include a website, social media or literature.

6.2 Quality Objectives And Planning To Achieve Them

Sub-clause 6.2.1 is an enhancement and extension of ISO 9001:2008 requirements. It requires an organization to set quality objectives for relevant functions, levels and processes within its quality management system. It is for the organization itself to decide which functions, levels and processes are relevant.

The quality objectives must be consistent with the organization’s quality policy and be relevant to the conformity of products and services, and the enhancement of customer satisfaction.

Quality objectives must be measurable, take into account applicable requirements, and be monitored in order to determine whether they are being met. They must also be monitored, communicated across the organization and be updated as and when the need arises.

An important change from 2008 is the deletion of the qualifier that quality objectives are “within the organization”. This recognizes that externally provided processes, products and services may also need quality objectives assigned.

Information on the quality objectives needs to be maintained by the organization as documented information.

Implications Of Sub-Clause 6.2 For Quality Professionals

This is an extension of ISO 9001:2008 sub-clause 5.4.1 "Quality objectives."

The requirement for quality objectives to be measurable and consistent with the organization’s quality policy is carried across, as is the requirement for objectives to be set for relevant functions and levels.

New for ISO 9001:2015 are requirements to set quality objectives for relevant processes and to monitor progress against the achievement of objectives.

Also new is the need for the quality objectives to be relevant to product and service conformity as well as the enhancement of customer satisfaction.

Under ISO 9001:2015 there are explicit requirements for people doing work under the organization’s control to be aware of the organization’s quality policy, any quality objectives that are relevant to them, how they are contributing to the effectiveness of the QMS and what the implications are of them not conforming to QMS requirements.

How To Write Quality Objectives

Your company should base its quality objectives on specific processes or results you'd like to monitor and improve. Use the SMART acronym to guide your writing and create reasonable, achievable goals:

  • Specific: Make sure your quality objectives detail precisely what you want to accomplish, who is affected and which business processes are involved in the change.
  • Measurable: You should be able to measure your objectives. Word each goal in terms of percentages, dollar amounts or other quantifiable results.
  • Achievable: While your goals should push you toward greater success, they should also be realistic. Ask yourself how you can accomplish this goal.
  • Relevant: Don't just create random goals to satisfy ISO requirements. Set beneficial objectives that matter to you, your company and your bottom line.
  • Time-bound: For your goal to be useful, you must have a timeline to base it on. Plan to achieve your objective in the next quarter or year, and ask yourself what you can do each day to reach it within this period.

Join An ISO 9001:2015 Webinar

Forming an effective quality management plan to achieve ISO 9001 certification can be difficult for companies of any size or industry. Rather than trying to comply on your own, turn to the experts at NQA. We offer certification, support and ongoing training to businesses around the world. We'll be happy to help you set and achieve your quality goals.

If you have any questions about quality policy and objectives, join our webinars with live Q&A. In each webinar, Andrew Holt, Technical Content Executive at the CQI, looks at how ISO 9001:2015 sets out the development and communication of the quality policy and what this means for quality professionals.

For more information about our services, contact us online or at (800) 649-5289 or get a free quote for certification.

Reviewed by: Judith Hargreaves, NQA Regional Assessor