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Benefits of Integrated vs. Separate QSE Management Systems

Benefits of Integrated Management System vs. Separate QSE Management Systems

Learn the benefits of integrated management system vs. separate quality, safety, and environmental management systems.

For many years, many larger organisations have managed their requirements in silos. Their quality, safety, and environmental departments own separate policies and procedures. 

This approach often leaves the staff on the ground to manage conflicts and inefficiencies.

An IMS, or Integrated Management System, is the alternative to separately managing all your compliance requirements.

What is an IMS?

An IMS is an efficient management system that integrates all aspects of an organisation’s procedures and resources into one system. It combines processes to cover all standard-specific criteria at the same time. 

An IMS is a highly effective management system that unifies an organisation’s functions and assets. These methods cover all standard-specific requirements simultaneously. Every department and division needs to consider how they can better integrate their policies and procedures.

What are the Standards of IMS?

IMS implementation includes, but is not limited to, the following standards:

Quality Management (ISO 9001)

There is no necessity for certification to any of the standards in the ISO family. However, ISO 9001 does lay out the criteria for a quality management system. Any business, no matter how big or little, in any industry can use it. One million companies and organisations in more than 170 countries have earned ISO 9001 certification.

Strong customer focus, top-level management motivation and involvement, a systematic approach grounded in process, and an emphasis on constant improvement are all foundational tenets of quality management upon which this standard is built.

The principles of quality management as outlined by ISO provide further clarification. A company has numerous advantages when implementing ISO 9001 since it guarantees its clients will always receive high-quality goods and services.

Environmental Management (ISO 14001)

An organisation can improve its environmental performance by adopting the practises outlined in ISO 14001. It provides criteria for an environmental management system.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, ISO 14001 is for any business that wants to take environmental management seriously.

An organisation can improve its environmental performance by adopting the practises outlined in ISO 14001:2015, which provides criteria for an environmental management system. As part of its commitment to sustainability, ISO 14001 is for any business that wants to take environmental management seriously.

Using ISO 14001, a company can improve its environmental management system and bring about the desired results, which benefit not just the environment but also the company and any stakeholders involved. Environmental management systems aim to achieve results that align with an organisation’s environmental policy.

  • Improving environmental performance
  • Meeting regulatory requirements
  • Successful completion of environmental goals.

Safety Management (ISO 45001)

ISO 45001 is a standard that outlines the Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) requirements. It provides implementation guidance so businesses can guarantee their employees’ health and safety. It reduces the risk of accidents and illnesses at work by enhancing the quality of OH&S operations.

Any business can use ISO 45001:2018 to:

  • Improve occupational health and safety
  • Reduce hazards and decrease OH&S risks, including system insufficiencies
  • Enjoy the benefits of OH&S opportunities
  • Resolve OH&S management system nonconformities

The goals of an organisation’s OH&S management system can be more easily attained with the aid of ISO 45001. It should align with the company’s OH&S policy.

Why Do Organisations Use an IMS?

Choosing to deploy an IMS is a crucial part of the organisation’s long-term plan. Reasons for doing so may include the following:

  • To reduce the likelihood of adverse events happening
  • To raise the bar for safety or environmental performance
  • To meet contractual or reputational goals
  • To save money
  • To streamline operations
  • To make things easier all around
  • To streamline existing monitoring and measurement processes

Companies who adopt Lean or Six Sigma-style procedures, formally or as a guide, will find an IMS beneficial. A more integrated approach to efficiency may bridge the gap between process and functionality.

Why is an IMS Important?

1. It avoids duplication of effort.

Suppose a company integrates all or most of the programmes in its current management system. In that case, it will likely discover that each programme has a distinct set of operational procedures and staff. An IMS can combine these, saving time and effort in functional middle management and reducing the need for duplicative processes and procedures.

2. It maximises the productivity of upper-level executives.

An IMS helps evaluate risks and opportunities more strategically. There is less waste of resources, like time, money, and effort, in the organisation’s administration. Combining the monitoring and measuring procedures across the many management systems makes reporting more concise and less likely to overlook critical risk trends. Information isn’t overwhelming.

3. It optimises system implementation and management.

Developing the IMS may take time and energy, but system simplification and risk-based decision-making benefits will more than pay for the initial investment. Instead of assigning resources to separate functional programmes in isolation, you might allocate them to training and compliance auditing processes.

The other major problem is that supporting management systems can drain resources if departments within an organisation operate independently. It might cause problems, such as rivalry for leadership positions or limited resources. 

Different departments’ risk-based priorities may cause them to compete with one another for resources; for instance, quality and environmental management teams. Competition amongst such teams for resources is illogical and inefficient if the organisation recognises that it might benefit from a more unified or effective solution to risks and opportunities. 

Over the next few years, an IMS should foster a stronger sense of shared purpose among the support staff. It must eliminate unnecessary steps in the workflow to make better use of scarce resources.

4. It reduces audit time and expenses.

More holistic auditing is possible when departments stop thinking in silos. For instance, you can merge quality, health, and environmental management audit trails. 

There may be a net reduction in the amount of time spent on internal audits, and the number of separate audits should go down as a result. It can mean fewer interruptions to regular operations and less audit fatigue among some individuals taking part in the audit.

5. It facilitates a coordinated method of management.

Considering whether or not your current methods of handling stakeholder expectations are the most efficient, as seen above, prompts the development of an IMS. 

Some businesses find that operating within silos is the most efficient handling of daily operations. But there are two tests to see if this is the case:

  • Do we have unified thought, or do different departments within the organisation sometimes work against one another?
  • Could the time and energy we’re putting in twice be better spent elsewhere, with better results?

If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, it’s probably not in your best interest to invest the time and energy into developing or improving an IMS.

6. It helps organisations get certified at a lower cost.

Larger organisations should expect a shorter assessment period from the relevant certification body (CB) if implementing an IMS. 

There are several advantages to reducing the time management spends on assessments, which is a significant portion of the entire cost, not just the assessment fees. The assessment group is also more likely to pay attention to the IMS’s primary risks and opportunities as they exist in the present configuration. As a result, this can help with long-term objectives like quality growth instead of just immediate ones like checking boxes.

What are the Critical Elements of an Integrated Management System?

Managers who want to boost their company’s productivity through an IMS may find it challenging to get started. Let’s review a few essential features that all such systems should have.

Systematic Management

As a manager, your responsibility is to ensure that your organisation’s adoption of an IMS will promote systems thinking throughout the company. When applied to business, systems thinking emphasises that every choice affects other parts of the organisation and might lead to problems if other factors aren’t addressed.

All parts of the organisation are linked together and affect one another via feedback loops that reveal how smoothly operations are performed from beginning to end.

Detailed Auditing Capabilities

Integrating auditing as a regular part of your management strategy is essential. It’s common knowledge that businesses get audited to ensure they follow industry standards and laws. Managers can conduct audits quickly and easily with this process module built into the solution’s architecture, eliminating the need to switch between systems or sift through paperwork.

Companies may discover where they can improve by doing such audits and then sharing that information, which will help them reach their goals more quickly than ever before.

Prioritising Continuous Improvement

Companies in today’s fast-paced world constantly monitor and enhance their workflows and procedures. The only way to prevent minor problems from becoming significant catastrophes is to monitor the status of processes and workflows continually.

Continuous improvement means your solution must include tools for monitoring managerial efficiency over time. It must have features for evaluating the success of initiatives in terms of how they are integrated into operational procedures.

Reducing Bureaucracy

Eliminating unnecessary steps is one way to reduce bureaucracy. 

Complications might occur when various management standards don’t reconcile with one another. Separate management systems make difficult even the most straightforward decisions due to the bureaucratic red tape involved.

When all the management tools work together, your company can function methodically. The processes can adapt better to change. 

Making adjustments and final choices quickly will cut down on red tape. Assigning process owners with a cross-functional team can be extremely useful for a streamlined approach. When these groups work together, they can remove roadblocks to decision-making and implementation by shouldering that duty themselves.

Effective Record Management 

Integral to any effective management system is a reliable document control system. You and your fellow managers won’t be able to make informed decisions or enhance operations without a reliable document management system.

An IMS should provide a comprehensive library that authorised people inside your business can access. With this system in place, workers may quickly transfer data across their workstations, resulting in more streamlined document distribution.


The uniformity of the IMS is mainly due to the standardisation process. It is bolstered by the fact that all management system standards share the same fundamental structure and concepts. The coordinated management of shared components boosts this uniformity.

The elements and functions most often standardised are:

  • Manuals
  • Policies
  • Objectives and goals
  • Structure and responsibilities
  • Top management
  • Work instructions
  • Document and record control
  • Training
  • Internal communication
  • Emergency response
  • Performance indicators
  • Nonconformity management
  • Control of monitoring and measuring equipment
  • Preventive and corrective actions
  • Internal and external audits
  • Critical analysis

Wherever practicable and desirable, non-integrable activities and operations should be reevaluated to work in tandem with the integrated parts and processes.

How is IMS Implemented in an Organisation?

Planning an IMS rollout and settling on a strategy can be aided by various ideas or principles. Importantly, they can clarify the potential outcomes of IMS policies and goals.

But first, let’s consider the synergies between the ISO standards for quality, safety and environmental management systems. The standards committees have spent many years aligning the standards via the numbering of clauses, known as Annex SL.

Annex SL will give you a firmer grasp of the concepts underpinning an IMS’s function. Generally speaking, the high-level structure (HLS) of Annex SL is what it claims to be. Therefore, all future ISO standards must meet the high-level requirements in Annex SL:

  • Clause 1 – Scope
  • Clause 2 – Normative references
  • Clause 3 – Terms and definitions
  • Clause 4 – Context of the organisation
  • Clause 5 – Leadership
  • Clause 6 – Planning
  • Clause 7 – Support
  • Clause 8 – Operation
  • Clause 9 – Performance evaluation
  • Clause 10 – Improvement 

According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Annex SL allows standards authors to incorporate their unique technical themes and needs while maintaining a unified structure, wording, words, and definitions.

Now that we discussed Annex SL, let’s move on to understanding the best practises for implementing IMS. 

1. Training people and spreading awareness

When a company adopts a formal management system standard like ISO 9001, ISO 14001, or ISO 45001, it is essential that all employees, especially critical staff, have a thorough grasp of the principles and practises outlined in the standards.

Undoubtedly, the recent modification of the standards based on Annex SL High-Level structure (HLS) and the adoption of a risk-based approach will present a significant challenge for all current and future users alike.

Because of the breadth and depth of an organisation’s standards, they mustn’t get mixed up during implementation. Every staff member must be well-versed in the systems they’re responsible for maintaining.

Get the word out and educate your staff on the IMS guidelines your company will implement. All personnel, from the management down to the entry-level, should participate in the training.

With the right amount of information, employees can be motivated to work together towards implementing a management system consistent with ISO standards.

2. Planning goals and strategies

Comprehensive quality, environmental, health, and associated objectives should reflect the company’s vision, mission, goals, and strategic direction. Collaborate with higher-ups to craft the policy.

As tracking progress towards each goal takes time and effort, it’s best to start with fewer targets. The specifics of the situation dictate how many people are involved. A global project management firm would set more goals than a project management company with fewer employees.

Annex SL does not mandate any particular level of difficulty for metrics. The stakeholders’ needs and the business’s essentials determine the difficulty level. 

For instance, if yuo want to increase the number of employees with access to a more thorough performance review, you can easily track how many people in the organisation have received this service. However, it often comes down to leadership judgement after determining whether the anticipated performance boost resulted in more competency, safer behaviours, or whatever the goals were.

3. Performing gap analysis

The next step in the IMS implementation process is to assess the level of integration between the various parts of the management system.

It is essential to remember that process personnel may not always be aware of how far they have integrated these processes when examining what has to be done within an IMS deployment. Verify the claims made by employees by checking the written or diagrammatic expression of the procedure. One should always be prepared for the possibility of crossed boundaries.

The litmus test is whether the procedure helps achieve the goals.

If you respond with a negative or “not sure,” it’s clear that you need to do additional research or think about the situation. Suppose you’re using a process control system other than Annex SL, like Six Sigma, Lean, or something else. In that case, you must agree on metrics for integration areas before reorganising your leadership reviews. 

Health and safety are only two examples where efficiency or, more accurately, waste reduction strategies could benefit from being expanded. But they might already be a part of the package. For example, some businesses consider less-than-ideal safety measures to be wasteful or inefficient. 

It is possible to refine the definitions of “efficiency” and “waste reduction” as part of the IMS strategy if the organisation feels the necessity. It’s essential to spot areas where different fields have used somewhat different techniques.

4. Process development

Every management system relies heavily on its documentation. Establishing standards necessitates writing down systemic and productional practices, policies, and goal statements.

Detail steps following the requirements of the relevant norms. Put together comprehensive documentation for all aspects of the business, including a user manual, work instructions, functional procedures, system procedures, and related forms.

5. Process implementation

Implement the plans and paperwork. Conduct a workshop to discuss applying the policies and documentation required to meet the requirements of the applicable ISO standards.

6. Conducting internal audit

A reliable internal auditing system is essential for any business. However, if internal auditors have had adequate training, audits are more likely to generate valuable results.

Trained professionals must conduct the internal audit. Changes must be implemented across all audited departments to close existing gaps to ensure the effectiveness and compliance of the IMS.

7. Senior Management Review

Senior management reviews have the following objectives:

  • Examine the effectiveness of the IMS and make adjustments if necessary
  • Figure out what needs improvement and propose solutions
  • Evaluate the goals and policies to see if they are appropriate

The management review’s ultimate goal should be refining the IMS and quality guides. Process performance and improvement will increase when your company’s IMS becomes more effective and efficient.

8. Pre-certification Gap Analysis

Check your IMS for efficiency and conformance. The degree to which an IMS satisfies standards can be described by an audit similar to the one performed during certification. More than that, it may demonstrate how to finish the certification audit successfully.

9. Corrective Actions

A quality management system aims to enhance an organisation’s capacity to satisfy client and regulatory needs. An effective corrective action programme for nonconformances is crucial to any functional IMS.

Fix the discrepancies discovered by the gap analysis. Having finished this, your company will be ready for the certification audit.

10. Certification Audit

Get ISO certifications by making sure your company satisfies all requirements.

How can FocusIMS help?

FocusIMS manages all the requirements of compliance as simply and efficiently as possible.

1. FocusIMS ensures your resources, including vehicles, are maintained and your staff are suitably trained. Built-in alerts let you know when they need servicing, and assets need calibration. 

FocusIMS also alerts you to ensure staff are trained to meet quality, safety and environmental requirements. FocusIMS provides alerts to maintain legal compliance to meet quality, safety and environmental requirements. Before and after photos and project risk assessments ensure all the quality, safety and environmental prerequisites are maintained. 

2. FocusIMS will find you using about a third of the documentation with separate systems.

Separate management systems treat each of these areas as isolated elements of daily operations resulting in many independent and sometimes conflicting documents for each project.

3. FocusIMS integrates nine HSEQ modules into one powerfully simple platform. It effortlessly allows you to meet and maintain your compliance requirements for a fraction of the cost.

Certification providers acknowledge the time savings in auditing an IMS over three separate systems. They generally offer significant discounts when certifying your system with an IMS.

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