In generations past, quality control managers stalked assembly lines to inspect products for defects. Any flawed items ended up in a scrap pile. In today's business world, the goal is to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, such waste. How are companies doing it? By adopting quality management systems (QMS), in which quality checks and balances are incorporated into every aspect of the company. But quality concerns don't end with products. Service quality counts too, and the most successful small businesses pay close attention to this as well. Whether your company produces a product or provides a service, you can implement a quality management system. In addition to improving quality, such a program can: Reduce costs by minimizing waste. Increase productivity by eliminating time spent correcting and managing defective goods and services. Give you a competitive edge since you can pass on lowered costs to consumers. Ensure the long-term viability of your business. Assess your QM IQ You don't need an MBA to take advantage of quality management, but it's a good idea to brush up on any areas you don't understand before implementing your program. Train employees Give employees and managers the knowledge they need to produce products or provide services that meet specified standards. Implement process controls Maintaining stable processes is vital to quality management. Implement controls that will spot variations in procedures so you can react quickly to get the process back on track. Eliminate nonconforming materials Quality management requires that you keep nonconforming materials out of your production runs. Discovering discrepancies and taking action to correct them and to prevent future problems are essential to making improvements in quality. Choose quality suppliers Implementing a quality management system involves more than tweaking your internal processes. Your ability to produce quality products also depends on the quality of the materials and service you receive from your suppliers. Use tools to evaluate your suppliers and include suppliers in your project planning. Use the Pareto analysis A Pareto chart is a bar graph that illustrates problems or defects in descending order. The chart can be used as a visual tool to help prioritize changes needing to be made to improve quality. Audit your QMS Continually review your quality management program. Analyze reports and data to discover processes that need retooling.