Integrated management systems

Integrated means combined; putting all the internal management practices into one system but not as separate components. For these systems to be an integral part of the company's management system there have to be linkages so that the boundaries between processes are seamless.

System

A system is the interconnection of components to achieve a given objective. These components include the organisation, resources and processes. Therefore, people, equipment and culture are part of the system as well as the documented policies and practices.

A definition

an integrated management system
An integrated management system (IMS) is a management system which integrates all components of a business into one coherent system so as to enable the achievement of its purpose and mission

What should be integrated?

Anything which has an effect on business results must be part of the management system. Therefore, an IMS should integrate all currently formalised systems focusing on quality, health and safety, environment, personnel, finance, security etc. What this means is that all the processes and the documents that describe them would be integrated.

What integration is not

For something to be integrated it does not just sit next to the other components - it has to be fixed to the others so as to make a whole. Therefore, putting the financial system, the quality system and the environmental system into one book of policies and procedures is not integrating management systems. Creating one national standard for management systems is not integration. Buying a software package which handles quality, safety and environmental documentation is not integration. Merging disciplines such as putting the quality manager, safety manager and environmental manager in one department is not integration. But neither are integrating just quality, health, safety and environment an IMS, as there is only one system in any business. It just so happens that some parts may be formalised and others not.

Integrated management

Sometimes the word 'system' gets omitted, thus changing the subject of integration from system to management. Integrated management is a concept whereby functional management is dispersed throughout an organisation so that managers manage a range of functions, eg a manufacturing manager would manage planning, manufacturing, safety, personnel, quality, environment, finance etc.

Why should management systems be integrated?

The reasons

There are several good reasons for integration, to:

  • reduce duplication and therefore costs
  • reduce risks and increase profitability
  • balance conflicting objectives
  • eliminate conflicting responsibilities and relationships
  • diffuse the power system
  • turn the focus onto business goals
  • formalise informal systems
  • harmonise and optimise practices
  • create consistency
  • improve communication
  • facilitate training and development

The pressure

The pressure to integrate a company's management systems will be from within. It is doubtful that customers will demand an IMS. There are no national or international standards for integrated management systems.

How should systems be integrated?

There are several approaches which can be taken, depending on an organisation's current position.

Conversion

If an organisation has a certificated QMS, it can build upon that by adding the necessary processes to cater for health, safety, environmental and other requirements of management system standards. All systems should share the following processes:

  • document development and control
  • training
  • internal audit
  • management review
  • corrective action
  • preventive action

There are a few important additions:

  • risk assessment - this should address safety risks, environmental impacts and process failure modes. By having a common approach it will be easier to compare risks occurring in different parts of the business
  • regulations management - this should cover the capture of regulations on health, safety, security, etc and their analysis and impact
  • programme management - this should focus on specific improvement programmes such as safety, environmental and security improvement
  • public awareness - this should address the notification aspects of health, safety and environment

The integration comes about by adding new practices to existing processes and hence revising documents to cover health, safety etc.

The weakness with this approach is that the quality of the result very much depends on the approach an organisation took when developing the original quality system.

Merging systems

If an organisation has more than one formal system - eg a quality management system and an environmental management system - it can merge the two systems and proceed to integrate other systems as it begins their formalisation. With this method the organisation can merge documentation where it supports the same process. However it will remain two separate systems unless the labels are removed and quality, safety and environment are no longer separated at the detail level.

System engineering approach

Whether an organisation has an existing formal system or no formal system, it can adopt the system engineering approach to management system development, ie design a system top-down to fulfil a specific objective. The benefits are that one coherent system can be built which serves business needs and does not tie the organisation to a particular standard. The standards are used to assist identify tasks and processes. This approach starts by looking at the business as a whole and establishing its purpose, mission and core processes which achieve this mission. The steps which follow on from this are as follows:

  • model the business
  • deploy functions to the model and form process development teams
  • analyse business processes using flow charts, standards and failure mode analysis techniques
  • formulate operational policies which will govern the processes
  • develop procedures to control each business process which define who does what where, when and how
  • capture existing documentation
  • identify documentation needs by linking the existing documents to the control procedures
  • develop document development plan
  • document the system
  • implement the new practices

With this approach, existing descriptions of processes, tasks etc are in use when they serve the process objective. If they do not they should be discarded and rewritten. Throughout the focus is on process, not separate disciplines.

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