The Case for Common Management Systems, Despite the Barriers

Management Systems, like the ISO standard, are hard to build, but despite the barriers they're worth it. 

thomasnet, management, standards, risk, safety, health, businessManufacturing management systems like those represented in the ISO standards and others have a major impact on what happens in the industrial setting. Whether discussing a system aimed at quality, environment, health, and safety (EHS), risk, social responsibility, or energy management, each is designed to provide structure around resources — processes, procedures, and personnel  — while enabling continuous improvement.

In many respects, these various systems are very similar — so much so that it begs the question: Why aren’t more organizations integrating them? Identifying commonalities and then standardizing particular aspects of each system across the enterprise would certainly provide benefits to efficiency, cross-training, collaboration, and more, but most companies seem hesitant to take the leap.

Despite the similarities between management standards, there is a source of reluctance in merging them, though there is also an emerging case for a common management standard.

Similarities between Management Standards

As we’ve written about in the past at LNS Research, every company pursues its own unique operational excellence journey. It may be focused on ensuring safety or quality, reducing environment impact, improving efficiency, or various other areas. So for many organizations, it makes sense to adopt a particular management standard or a mixture of standards to support progress toward those goals, as operations become more complex.

Some of the most widely adopted standards, along with the functional areas they impact, are the following

  • ISO 9000: Quality
  • ISO 14000: Environment
  • OHSAS 18000: Health and Safety
  • ISO 31000: Risk
  • ISO 50001: Energy
  • ISO 26000: Social Responsibility

While it is not at all uncommon for industrial and manufacturing organizations — especially large ones — to have more than one of these management systems in place, it is worth noting that there’s a considerable amount of overlap between them. For instance, a corrective and preventive action (CAPA) process for EHS is virtually identical to one used for quality management. Similar cases could be made for audits, change management, and other processes as well.

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Companies would benefit from conforming to a single instance of the CAPA process. It would be easier to monitor process health, provide training, improve the process based on enterprise-wide inputs, and support it with technology. So why are there disparities between virtually identical processes?  

The Cause of Hesitation

The standards noted above all aim to control and improve performance across the value chain. Each has its own set of requirements, best practices, processes, and regulations and is overseen by different departments and senior managers. In addition, each tends to use different IT mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on performance.

When we look to our research, experiences, and interviews with industry executives, we can boil down the cause of hesitation in moving to a more singular way of operating to one thing, and it’s usually not technology related. Most often, it’s the people and culture. In some cases, as organizations grow, senior leadership tends to shape the culture, and as a consequence that culture can end up taking precedence in decisions. Some companies may highlight quality as a top corporate value, while others may focus more on safety, each of which has its own corresponding management system that can end up taking the lead — and take energy away from others.

Also, it may be the case that a particular department becomes insular and protective of “their turf” (i.e., a particular set of processes, procedures, and, yes, even headcount). In such a case, management in that department may not be concerned with what other departments are doing or want to bother with conforming to a common management standard — essentially turning a blind eye to the potential enterprise-wide benefits.

Taking just those few examples, it’s easy to see the power culture can wield within manufacturing and industrial organizations. When fostered with the right mindset, it can be one of the greatest assets, but it can also be a roadblock for making decisions that will benefit the enterprise as a whole.

The Case for a Common Management Standard

Particularly today, as we move forward into the Big Data era, a common management standard could be beneficial in transforming the massive amounts of data coming from across the value chain into intelligence. Most of today’s organizations have limited visibility into and interaction with different areas of the value chain. And at a time where market leaders are talking about end-to-end, integrated processes, this type of siloed environment isn’t doing justice to the direction companies need to be heading.

The point is, you should be aligning these various management systems in a way that helps you move toward not just your department’s goals but your organization’s operational excellence goals — however you define operational excellence. You should be establishing a common system that structures how progress will be made toward those goals while allowing for needed flexibility locally and functionally. This takes collaboration.

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This article was originally published on ThomasNet News Industry Market Trends  and is reprinted with permission from Thomas Industrial Network.  For more stories like this please visit Industry Market Trends.