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Quality Manual

What is a Quality Manual?

A quality manual is the main, top-level document of a quality management system.  It is similar to a constitution of a country or a manifesto of a party.  This type of document establishes the policy level position of a government, party or in the case of a quality manual, a company.  There are two published definitions of what a quality manual for an ISO 9001 system should be:

ISO 10013, Guidelines for Developing Quality Manuals, element 4.2, gives detailed suggestions for creating a quality manual.  It defines a quality manual, among other requirements, as a document that should “…consist of, or refer to, the documented quality system procedures intended for … planning and administration of activities which impact on quality…” ISO 9001:2000, element 4.2.2 describes a quality manual as a document containing:

- the scope of the quality management system, including details of and justification for any exclusions;

- the documented procedures or reference to them

- a description and interaction between the processes of the QMS.

If we follow the requirement 4.2.2.a of ISO 9001:2000 Standard, we simply need to commit in the quality manual to all applicable requirements of the standard.  If we agree on this approach, the task of creating a quality manual becomes very simple: just transform the standard from a set of requirements into your company’s commitment to satisfy those requirements with the appropriate level of details.  It also may be a good idea to include in your quality manual a table of contents and company information.

Another important function of a quality manual, very often overlooked, is as a marketing tool.  Well written and professionally published, a quality manual may become a powerful marketing instrument.  It can communicate to your potential customers, suppliers and subcontractors that your company is not only a quality-conscious organization, but that it also knows how to document and communicate its commitment to quality.  I always wonder what companies achieve by stamping their quality manuals in bold capitol red letters “CONFIDENTIAL”.  As far as I’m concerned, a quality manual is a company’s resume for quality, and if you hide your resume, there is a very good chance that you will never get a job!  All Quality Works customers are encouraged to make their quality manuals public!

Once I browsed a trade show in Hong Kong.  One of the displays attracted my attention with impeccable composition and very professional color coordination.  As I approached the booth, I saw a Chinese woman talking to a group of visitors. While enjoying the artistic displays, I noticed a thin book on the counter, which was written in Chinese.  The cover contained a few artistically arranged Chinese characters and the logo of one of the largest registrars.  I leafed through the book wondering what business this company was in – lighting fixtures as it appeared from the displays, or perhaps publishing books in Chinese for the registrar?

Meanwhile, the woman finished the conversation with her visitors and approached me.  We introduced ourselves and she enthusiastically started to tell me about her company.  When I asked her what her company had to do with publishing, referring to the book, she replied with a proud smile: “This is our quality manual!” She said the company put a lot of effort into it.  But, she continued, “It’s paid for itself many times over by generating business for us.”  Someday I’d like to frame that manual and put it on the wall – it’s a beautiful piece of art!  To see an example of a quality policy that meets requirements of ISO 9001:2008 Standard, click here.

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