Why Care About Quality Management Systems in Toll Processing?
Robyn Gralinski, Feb 11, 2021 7:00:00 AM
When you consider a toll processor for milling, drying, blending, and processing raw materials, proprietary formulations, and more, which factors rise to the top? Equipment, capabilities, and probably location, too. Reputation might also play an important part.
But can you objectively verify that once your material is in their hands, your toll processor does exactly what they claim to do? How can you trust that their teams are always looking out for opportunities to improve efficiency, quality, cost-effectiveness, and your overall satisfaction?
That’s where quality management comes in.
By implementing a formal quality management system (QMS), your toll processing partner commits to proving that they consistently deliver on their promises.
Your toll processor’s QMS ensures quality not only in your final product, but in every action, interaction, and process step as your material passes through their operations.
What is a Quality Management System (QMS)?
A QMS (such as international standard ISO 9001) is a company’s foundation for quality management. With a QMS properly implemented and followed by all employees, no material moves through toll processing without tight control and complete documentation.
Your toll processor’s QMS includes every process, asset, resource, and cultural value that contributes to customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. In short, the QMS is your toll processor’s plan for how they work. Certification in an international standard proves that:
- Your tolling partner has gone through the work to establish a plan,
- That every employee, leadership included, understands and follows the plan, and
- That an objective third party has validated the plan and its implementation according to measurable standards.
Think about it: The steps to manufacture a product from a raw material (or several raw materials) can be intricate. Each ingredient may individually demand multiple processing steps, increasing the complexity. Blending may require multiple steps to achieve final specifications. Packaging, storage, and handling requirements add further layers of complexity.
So only when you observe, document, follow, test, and verify that each step is correct can you be assured that your product is exactly what you say it is. Entrusting the details to a toll processor says you have confidence in their ability — and, as important, their accountability — to live up to your standards.
Your toll processor’s QMS certification is proof that their work meets your specifications, the same way, every time.
Who is Impacted by a Toll Processor’s QMS?
Communication and documentation form the foundation of a QMS. That means every work action, from your initial contact with a customer service representative or a technical sales engineer all the way through to final delivery, and every individual who touches your project adheres to the QMS.
A QMS demonstrates that your toll processor knows what it takes to create, document, and uphold detailed, required steps in processing your material, including:
- Contract compliance
- All physical processing procedures
- Safety and health requirements
- Quality assurance protocols (such as equipment validation and quality control checks)
- Documentation for shipping, chain of custody, special certifications, and more
But, does that mean all work processes are rigid and unchangeable? What about identifying opportunities for improvement?
A QMS not only leaves room for improvement, it’s based on a principle of continuous improvement, using a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle for implementing changes. This approach supports scientific processes since it limits variables and requires documentation of every change.
Justified changes are continuous improvements that improve overall value, including:
- Cost savings
- Customer experience improvements
How Does a QMS Work in Concrete Terms?
When a QMS-certified toll processor takes in a product at the trial stage, engineers and material scientists establish processes and procedures using the scientific method, and create a Quality Document (QDOC-01) for the project. This document includes:
- Material specifications on arrival, including expected packaging
- Delivery and/or receiving procedures, and handling and storage requirements
- Processes, equipment, and timeframes for completion
- A processing specification sheet (built off a template so no detail is missed)
- All required quality control checks
- Scheduling of equipment, locations, and timing of movements
- Shipping specifications, including material targets, final packaging, and logistics
The project’s Quality Document 01 can be revised as process improvements are determined. Naturally, there is a process for making revisions.
How Does a QMS Improve Toll Processing Outcomes?
A toll processor’s experience and continuous practice of evaluating and improving systems informs their ability to create, adjust, and document processes for meeting your specifications.
Processes are designed, implemented, and improved (following the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle) to achieve your specifications in the most efficient, most consistent way possible, delivering advantages including:
- Complete documentation of every process
- Comprehensive testing and analytical requirements
- Reporting of results
- Evidence-based decision making
- Precision in identifying nonconforming outcomes, discovering root causes, and acting to correct them
- Documentation of acceptable process adjustments
- Fully shared awareness of expectations, requirements, and methods
- Greater ease in achieving intensive, complex certifications (such as cGMP, kosher, halal, organic, etc.)
The greatest benefit of your toll processor’s QMS is your confidence, which is based on comprehensive, transparent communication and accountability.
A QMS-certified toll processor demonstrates a commitment to quality through systemic, ongoing audits. ISO 9001 recertification audits take place every three years. In between, companies participate in annual surveillance auditing.
Quality is Driven by Customer Satisfaction
For quality-committed companies, a customer focus is the first and primary driving principle of an ISO 9001-certified QMS. Customer satisfaction surveys are a key component of monitoring and improvement. Quarterly surveys ensure open lines of communication between the toll processor and customers, so potential improvements can be promptly identified and achieved.
Above all, quality is a promise.
You make promises about your products and services to your customers and consumers. A toll processor that’s committed to quality — and is certified as proof — ensures that your promises are upheld throughout every manufacturing step. Without the framework of a QMS, critical details could be missed at any step. Scientific rigor could fall by the wayside, and the quality of your final product could be left to chance.
But adherence to a QMS should instill confidence that your toll processing partner is not only committed to your specifications. They’re also invested in continuously making efficiency improvements, finding ways to optimize and control costs, and identifying opportunities to ensure your total satisfaction.
You can learn more about the distinctions between contract manufacturing and toll manufacturing, and how the differences can affect your product quality and brand reputation when you review our guide, What Are the Differences Between Toll Manufacturing and Contract Manufacturing? Just click the link below to download your copy now.