Measuring the effectiveness of your company's quality system is an essential part of your overall quality control program. Even if your quality management system isn't registered to one of the International Standards Organization's set of standards, ISO9001 being an example, your customers will very likely audit your system. For this reason, it's important that you have provisions to measure your system's effectiveness.
Create an organizational policy which states the company's intent with regard to measuring the effectiveness of the quality system. This should be a broad view of the overall quality system which touches on the areas you will monitor such as waste reduction, process improvements and error proofing. Ensure that your management review agenda accounts for review of the current quality performance against historical performance and company benchmarks.
Document all of the areas where you will measure quality against a baseline of existing data. If you don't have a baseline, establish one at the outset of your planning for this initiative. Your quality objectives need to be measurable and relevant to your quality policy. Some suggestions include: waste reduction, both internal and external; cycle time improvements; request for quotation turnaround times; supplier development; and inventory reduction. Choose areas which offer the most long-term benefit to your company.
Review and document your progress for every category. Regular review of the effectiveness of your quality initiatives forms the basis of measurement for the overall effectiveness of the quality system. Negative outcomes aren't necessarily indicative of an ineffective system. How your organization responds with corrective actions and shows demonstrable improvement over time will yield positive results.
Audit your program regularly. While the internal auditing program itself is one of the metrics for determining the effectiveness of the quality system, the program should review the progress of all quality objectives as a sub-component of the same effort by checking employee performance on the floor and review of quality records. It will serve as exceptional objective evidence that your organization is taking overall quality very seriously and that you have quality records demonstrating both monitoring and measurement of your quality management system.
Meet with your top management quarterly to review findings. This is often a good interval to see longer term trends. More frequent meetings may be difficult to accomplish with busy schedules.
Don't pick too many or too few quality objectives for ongoing monitoring and measurement. Pick six, seven or eight critical areas that are essential to your operation. More than that could prove dificult to manage. Less than that might not pass the scrutiny of a third-party auditor as a serious effort.