Management Systems: An Introduction

Management Systems: An Introduction and Update

Allison August 07, 2023

Applied Environment & Safety have recently reviewed and updated our Health, Safety and Environmental management system to include quality. This is part of our routine review and update of the system. Reviews of management systems are a key component of the continuous improvement cycle.

Further to our management system review and update, we have updated this article to include information on quality management systems, reflecting the update in the Applied Environment & Safety management system.

This article provides the perfect introduction to best understand management systems, covering the following key topics:

  • What are management systems;
  • What are the typical elements of a management system;
  • How to ensure your management system is effective;
  • Key management system standards you should know:
    • ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental management systems;
    • ISO 45001:2018 – Occupational health and safety management systems;
    • ISO 9001:2015 – Quality management systems;
  • Integrated management systems; and
  • Why are management systems important.

What are management systems

A management system is the way in which a business manages the interrelated parts of its operations in order to achieve its objectives. These objectives can relate to a number of different business aspects including health and safety, environmental performance, product or service quality, operational efficiency and many more.

The level of complexity of the management system will depend on business specific context. For some businesses, especially smaller ones, it may simply mean having strong leadership from the business owner, providing a clear definition of what is expected from each individual employee and how they contribute to the overall organisational objectives, without the need for extensive documentation. More complex businesses operating, for example, in highly regulated sectors, may need extensive and detailed documentation and controls in order to fulfil their legal obligations and meet their organisational objectives.

What are the typical elements of a management system

Management systems are tools for managing complexity. They are about setting goals and considering organisational conditions, deriving actions and measures from the goals, and reliably completing tasks to achieve the goals through clear processes and responsibilities.

Management systems are made up of a series of interconnected elements that drive continual improvement of a particular discipline or aspect of an organisation such as safety, quality and environment. These elements all serve to support the overarching purpose of the system which is to drive continual improvement toward a policy, vision or value expectation.

In order to deliver continual improvement consistently across an organisation, measures are required that affect all areas – from top management to trainees. Management systems, therefore are typically based on a four-phase cycle: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

Management Systems Plan Do Check Act
Four-phase cycle: Plan, Do, Check, Act

Here are the phases of the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle explained in simple terms:

1. Plan
The first step to any system planning or process improvement is to figure out what you need to do. Like any project plan, this includes a variety of information, such as:
– Objectives and success metrics;
– Deliverables or end result;
– Stakeholders;
– Timeline; and
– Any relevant risks or constraints.
2. Do
Once you have a plan, the next step is to put it into action and try it out. We would suggest implementing your plan on a small scale to ensure it works.
3. Check
Review the implementation of the Do phase to ensure everything went according to your plan. More likely than not, you will identify things to improve on during the Do phase. After all, it is called the continuous improvement cycle and the Check phase is critical to finding these small things before they get too big and problematic.
4. Act
After reviewing, move to the Act phase, which includes rolling out the full plan or process improvement. Don’t forget that this is a cycle, if you need to, return to the Plan phase to continuously improve your project or processes.

How do I ensure my management system is effective

One of the best ways to ensure that you management system is effective with all the applicable processes is to refer to a standard set of requirements. Management system standards (MSS) are codes, guidelines or processes used by an business to formalise, systematise and legitimise their activities or tasks.

MSS can improve business performance by specifying repeatable steps that can be implemented to achieve goals and objectives. As well as create an organisational culture that engages in a continuous self-evaluation, correction and improvement through employee awareness and management leadership and commitment.

Key management system standards (MSS) you should know

There are internationally recognised standards for management systems including ISO 9001 (quality), ISO 14001 (environmental) and ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety). These standards define processes, procedures and records requirement for a successful management system.

These management systems can be the subject of ISO certification. A summary of the key MSS are outlined below.

ISO 9001:2015 Quality management system

ISO 9001:2015 sets out the criteria and requirements for establishing, maintaining and continually improving a system that helps businesses consistently deliver services or products that meet customer requirements and complies with applicable regulations. The standard places a strong emphasis on risk based thinking and context analysis as well as the need for businesses to regularly review and update their quality management system to ensure it remains effective and is aligned with strategic objectives.

ISO 14001:2015 Environmental management systems

ISO 14001:2015 helps businesses achieve the intended outcomes of their environmental management. This includes enhancement of environmental performance, fulfilment of compliance obligations and achievement of environmental sustainability objectives.

ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems

ISO 45001:2018 provides a systematic approach to managing health and safety in the workplace. The standard helps businesses to establish, implement and maintain processes to eliminate hazards, minimise risks and address nonconformities. It provides guidance on how to use management processes to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as how to proactively improve workplace health and safety performance.

Integrated management systems

An integrated management system (IMS) is a single system designed to manage multiple aspects of a businesses operations in line with multiple standards such as quality, environment and health and safety management. Ultimately, quality, environment and health and safety control have many common points, and all work towards the goal of making businesses more effective and efficient. Therefore these systems can be integrated to minimise duplication or creating extra work for staff.

In practice, an IMS involves merging existing formal systems and implementing specific best practices business wide.

Why are management systems important

A management system is an effective method of documenting processes and ensuring consistency in implementation. As well as identifying opportunities for improvement.

The benefits of an effective management system include:

  • More efficient use of resources and improved financial performance;
  • Improved risk management and protection of people and the environment;
  • Ensuring compliance with regulatory and best practice obligations; and
  • Increased capability to deliver consistent and improved services and products, thereby increasing value to customers and all other stakeholders.

Do you need assistance?

We have vast experience in the development, implementation and review of management systems.

Our experience includes:

  • Management system review and gap analysis;
  • Development of management system documentation including policies and standards;
  • Environmental management procedures;
  • Safe operating procedures;
  • Forms and checklists; and
  • Auditing of management system compliance and opportunities for improvement.

Contact us if you need further support or have a detailed question for our team of experts.