What is an IMS?

An Integrated Management System (IMS) combines all the components of an organisation into one coherent response to the full purpose and mission of the organisation.

There exists a multitude of recognised management systems standards and regulations, addressing different subject areas and components of an organisation. The objectives in one subject area will mostly complement other objectives of the organisation, such as those relating to quality, financial results, the environment and occupational health and safety. The different management standards therefore tend to all have a degree of overlap and repetition.

Commonly integrated ISO management system standards

Implementing standards in isolation of each other, in a bolted together approach, results in duplication inefficiencies and potentially creates needlessly conflicting approaches. When you want to optimally address all standards at once and overall best plan the organisation’s resources allocation, then you need to align all the different subject areas and components to the common organisational purpose.

The notion of an all-encompassing integrated standard is too big and complex to contemplate. The standards must remain as separate entities, in a modular form. Instead, it is the implementation response to the chosen collection of separate standards that effectively ‘integrates’ them into one system. Integration comes about by introducing a combined practice, in place of multiple separate practices.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) have prescribed a universal High Level Structure (HLS) and core language to be shared across all its future management systems standards. The HLS is an enabler of integration and has been implemented in its ISO 9001:2015, for example. Our site provides a complete example of a HLS and process-based integrated management system.

Any area or component of an organisation that influences its outcome or result should belong in the IMS. This means all formal activities for managing quality, environment, energy, data security, safety, finance etc. Processes and their documentation should combine into a single coherent system. For example, the quality audit process, environmental audit process and safety audit process are combined into a single audit process that simultaneously verifies quality, environmental and safety activities.

Integrated management is a concept wherein functional responsibilities are dispersed – but not segregated. In an IMS, the responsibilities for managing quality, for example, is integrated across all functions within the organisation, in effect acting as one coherent single quality management function.

The QFD approach for designing products and services integrates with the ISO 9001 approach in two ways. Firstly, ISO 9001 describes best practices in operational delivery processes. It thereby provides some of the input requirements into the QFD Phase 3 and 4 plans. Secondly, the QFD approach is itself part of a sub-system, and process, within the QMS ‘operation’ element.

Design and Operations processes integrated within the ISO High Level Structure (HLS) model. The system may also integrate other management system standards. [Note: In the ISO 9001 HLS model, ‘Design’ is actually defined as a sub-process under ‘Operations’. Design is separated out here for illustration purposes, but the model remains true to ISO 9001]

Note the single process model has ‘performance check points’. Defining such a check point may help prevent a deviance from the original intent and, thereby, protect against the realisation of a failure. However, if this control is over-rigidly defined then it may simultaneously prevent an opportunity for improving the process, by not allowing or by demotivating a potentially useful deviation by a new value-enhancing idea. Often it is better to build in assurance against the deviation into the preceding inter-linking process – i.e. simply check the process inputs and/or outputs, to avoid restricting any new opportunities being taken. The number of check points shown in our ‘single process model’ here are simply to illustrate what may be. It is preferable for a process be so well developed and implemented that its performance does not depend on any checks at all. Only use a check point if there is a real lack of confidence in the activity or where we must produce and record a measure, for use in the ongoing performance evaluation or for, say, legal evidence/traceability reason.

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