Why Integrate Aviation SMS and QMS
Historically, quality management systems and traditional safety programs have been managed separately. With the advent of modern safety management systems (SMS), there is an opportunity to develop synergies between the two systems. However, the majority of safety professionals at smaller companies remain focused on simple SMS compliance and may miss out on this unexpected boon, which has been disguised as a regulatory mandate.
Indeed, many organizations still manage their organizations' safety and quality initiatives with separate systems for quality operations and safety operations. This is an important mistake that requires consideration. But don't make a hasty decision until you understand the benefits, risks, and implications for scalability.
Related Articles on Integrated SMS and QMS
- 5 Easy Ways to Combine QMS and SMS in Aviation Operations
- 4 Things to Understand about QMS and SMS in Aviation Risk Management
- QMS Programs vs Aviation Safety Management Systems (SMS)
The separation of safety from “regular” operations sets the aviation SMS implementation up for failure for several reasons:
- Creates a hierarchy of concerns;
- Creates greater scope of work for company operations;
- Creates added pressure on employees to conform to more business practices (i.e., quality PLUS safety operations); and
- Creates greater workload in terms of procedural and training requirements.
In such an environment, the bottom line (money) is almost always more important to companies. Which generally involves:
- Safety is lower priority than quality;
- QMS operations receive greater attention and focus;
- The pressure to perform trumps safety behavior (apparent conflict of interest); and
- Added pressure creates the right environment for safety complacency or resentment.
QMS and SMS operations need to be rolled into one package. As a "new way of doing business," there will be no conflict of interest between departments or added pressure to perform in unsafe ways.
Here are the 5 most important ways to integrate aviation SMS and QMS into a quality-safety management system (QSMS)
1 – Ensure Upper Management Support
Without question, in every operational situation, this has proven time and time again to be the most important difference between success and failure. In companies with separate QMS and SMS, the QMS only becomes more important when upper management dictates it to be so.
In other words, upper management’s attitude will dictate the stone and “hierarchy” of safety. Integrating aviation SMS and QMS is no small undertaking. It involves:
- Reviewing all critical areas of quality and safety operations;
- Rewriting these areas; and
- Possibly restructuring the organization to better fit the integrated quality and safety needs.
All the above points require:
- Significant support – both financially and physically;
- Time and planning; and
Because it probably won’t be easy, and it might not be a smooth transition. Which is why it cannot happen without upper management support. An operation could not run properly without upper management, and there’s no reason to pretend that a restructuring could work without it either.
Related Articles on Integrated SMS and QMS
- What Are Differences of Aviation Safety Management Systems (SMS) and QMS Programs
- Moving from Quality Management to Integrated SMS and QMS Systems
- How Integrating QMS and SMS Will Improve Aviation Safety Audit Performance
2 – Redesign Policies and Procedures to Incorporate QMS and SMS
With upper management support in hand, the first step to integrating aviation SMS and QMS together is to audit the policies and procedures of both safety and quality operations. The primary goals of doing this are as follows:
- Identify overlapping policies/procedures between QMS and SMS;
- Combine overlapping policies/procedures into one QSMS policy/procedure;
- Identify policies and procedures with separation of quality and safety concerns;
- Rewrite such policies to integrate both quality and safety features equally;
- Significantly reduce the total number of policies and procedures in the company; and
- Ensure that bureaucratic functioning of safety and quality is inseparable.
In short, the purpose of doing this is to marry quality and safety operations in a way that removes the separation of concerns on conflict of safety/quality interest. Combining quality and safety policies/procedures involves restructuring sub-items, such as checklists.
3 – Create Goals That Are QMS and SMS in Nature
The other bureaucratic side of integrating a QSMS is redefining goals that account for both quality and safety. In practical application, what this ends up looking like in real-world scenarios is:
- Create goals that use words like “and” and “with”;
- Safety meetings with management to ensure that new goals are meeting safety, quality, and financial objectives; and
- Tying similarly classified goals from different areas of operations (financial, quality, safety) into one goal.
All the above points translate to a tricky transition. It means navigating all areas of the company without “stepping on anyone’s toes.” The fact is that not everyone is going to appreciate having their tried and tested goals reworked.
In the short run integrating QMS and SMS goals could be a hassle. In the long run, it will provide your organization with:
- More beneficial objectives for overall company health;
- More specific goals to reach; and
- Better understanding of how to operate efficiently in the safest manner.
Related Articles on Aviation SMS Goals and Objectives
- What Are Safety Objectives in Aviation SMS – with Examples
- How to Create Safety Objectives in Aviation SMS with Examples
- 3 Goal-Setting Tips Using Aviation Key Performance Indicators - with Free KPI Resources
4 – Combine QMS and SMS Resources into Management System Resources
Combining QMS and SMS budget and tools into one integrated operation provides tangible safety benefits for the company, including:
- Allows the safety aspect of the company to receive better financial attention;
- Cuts down on company overhead by cutting out superfluous elements of the company – such as extra training and extra tools to meet safety AND quality needs; and
- Company operations that are easier to manage;
- Company operations that are easier to monitor; and
- Company operations that are simpler and easier to follow.
The point in combining budgets is to cut out any financial duplication, such as training employees twice (non-integrated) where they could be trained once (integrated) or spending the time to review 50 policies (non-integrated) when only 25 are needed (integrated).
5 – Quality Performance Monitoring Is Half Safety Performance Monitoring
Nothing will send the message to employees that quality and safety are the same things as creating performance reviews that incorporate both safety and quality operations. It sends the message that:
- Safety and quality performance are equally valuable; and
- Safety and quality performance are not separate focuses.
Ultimately, creating combined performance monitoring for safety and performance is what will be most personal for front-line employees, and give them the most incentive to behave like a QSMS employee instead of a “sometimes SMS employee and sometimes QMS employee.”
When performance monitoring is split between safety and quality, it can be confusing for employees to understand what is important, and what will be the quicker ticket to getting a raise/promotion. Employees need to understand that a ticket for a raise or promotion is both safety and quality behavior.
A great way to begin integrating aviation SMS and QMS operations is by treating it like any other management of change operation. Here is a great resource to get you started
Last updated June 2023.