SQMAS (Supplier Quality Management Audit Scheme) is a quality management system standard developed specifically for small to micro sized businesses to provide a cost effective and suitable alternative to ISO 9001.
This is a practically designed standard focusing upon individual business risks and customer requirements and tailored specifically to the business. It is based on visible action with only 6 documents required to be completed. SQMAS is implemented through a process of monitoring, checking and action and will be inspected annually to ensure that improvements are being made. This helps to ensure the long term sustainability of the organisation.
From our experience of working with SMEs (small and medium sized businesses), one of the biggest recurring problems faced when tendering and bidding for contracts is quality management. This is not to say that small businesses are in any way deficient when it comes to quality, far from it. SMEs time and time again have been proven to bring a very different offering to large corporations and multinationals. The issue arises when SMEs are required to demonstrate their Quality credentials when completing a PQQ (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire), supplier questionnaire or Tender. A documented quality management system sounds very complex, and while it serves a very important purpose, it is an unfortunate reality that many companies are sold systems that are far too onerous and bureaucratic for their actual needs.
SQMAS was designed and developed as a direct result of a demand in the marketplace for a Quality Management System (QMS) relevant to SMEs which is simpler to implement and understand and not as expensive as ISO 9001 to implement and maintain.
Until now the principle way for companies to demonstrate that they have a QMS was to implement ISO 9001 which in many cases is not suitable, particularly for the smaller businesses and has often discourages them from tendering for work.
In October 2014 SQMAS was officially launched under SQMAS Limited to offer a more suitable, affordable alternative.
The main aim of SQMAS is to ensure that you have a system that suits your business and remains at a low cost to your business so that you are able to compete in the market place against larger organisations. This is to encourage keeping work local for local businesses.
A QMS is essentially a set of processes and procedures that you have in place to help you effectively control and manage the day to day activities of your business. The use of the word quality is in itself misleading. A QMS is not a standard of excellence about a product or service that indicates it is better than everything else in the market. Rather, a QMS is about consistency and control of the business, and specifically, consistently meeting the requirements of the customer.
A good question to ask yourself as a business is the lottery question. If a particular person doesn’t come into work Monday morning because they’ve won the jackpot, does the business have a sufficient knowledge of each step of that person’s role, and access to key information to ensure that someone else can take over?
The ISO 9001 Quality Management accreditation is most commonly requested in tender/supply chain documents. While this is highly respected and serves an excellent purpose, it is not always a realistic and appropriate investment for an SME, particularly those on the smaller end of the spectrum. Having an ISO 9001 accreditation implemented properly will cost several thousand pounds.
Another pitfall of which to be wary is within the wording of the questions on most tenders, which asks specifically for a system certified by a UKAS-accredited provider. It is possible to have an ISO 9001 system implemented and audited by the same person, but this does not carry the same integrity and level of scrutiny as an audit that has been undertaken by an independent third party. A UKAS accredited standard requires an independent third-party audit to take place, and the UKAS logo will be one of the first things the buyers will look for on the certificate.
Whilst 9001 carries the highest marks it is generally possible to score the next possible highest mark if you have a credible alternative system in place. SQMAS (Supplier Quality Management Audit Scheme) offers the integrity of a system that has audited by an independent third party, while coming in at a fraction of the cost of an ISO 9001. The requirements of SQMAS are broadly similar to ISO 9001, only that they have been adapted and simplified to the reflect the needs of smaller organisations (SMEs).
We can provide third party and supply chain audits to assist with your 9001 compliance.
SQMAS can be used to assist with supply chain initiatives to ensure customer needs are being addressed and to satisfy the requirements of 9001.