5 Quality Management Buzzwords Explained

Two employees talking about common Quality Management concepts

One of your main challenges as a quality management professional revolves around relating your expertise to coworkers and the organization at large. The saying “quality is a three-letter word” speaks volumes about the perception that your fellow employees have about quality management. For everyday workers (i.e., those who will actually execute your quality initiatives), the number of quality management acronyms and common terms can be overwhelming. To help you clear the air and communicate more effectively, here’s a list of 5 quality management buzzwords you’ll come across and what they mean.

Closed-loop QMS

Closed-loop QMS is arguably one of the most used buzzwords in quality management today. In one manner of speaking, closed-loop refers to “tying up the loose ends” of quality management from a more holistic point of view. Complicating the definition, your coworkers may also be misinterpreting the acronym QMS, which stands for Quality Management System – not quality management software. Without a doubt, software is integral to today’s quality management systems, so it’s no wonder why so many of your coworkers might confuse the meaning. Broadly speaking, closed-loop QMS describes a method for taking a company-wide approach to quality that may include suppliers and business partners in the fold as well. The challenge is bringing a closed-loop QMS to life, which is certainly easier said than done.


This acronym stands for Cost of Poor Quality, which on the surface seems like a fairly straightforward definition. However, cost of poor quality causes much confusion because in the past, quality management experts and researchers have defined this term with slight differences. Adding to the confusion, some quality management practitioners prefer the acronym COQ (Cost Of Quality), which may have the same meaning as cost of poor quality. Today, experts have divided cost of quality into two components: cost of poor quality (i.e. internal and external costs of failures) and cost of good quality (i.e. investments made towards appraisal and prevention of defects). Whichever term you use, you must be able to communicate to coworkers that cost of quality has several dimensions to keep in mind.


Standing for Enterprise Quality Management Software (not system), the definition of EQMS leads to much confusion since QMS is an acronym for a system, not a category of software products like EQMS. The purpose of EQMS is to allow previously disjointed, patchwork quality management processes and IT processes to centralize QMS information in (ideally) a single software solution. EQMS seeks to eliminate manual quality processes while integrating QMS data from a company-wide perspective. For instance, implementing an EQMS would allow your company to integrate the applications you use on a daily basis with enterprise resources planning (ERP) data to enable closed-loop QMS principles throughout the enterprise.

Balanced Scorecard

Scorecards have been a hot topic in quality management for quite some time, so the definition has had time to shift slightly. Scorecards are reports that give your company a snapshot of its most important quality management metrics. Today, the term balanced scorecard is more common because this method of assessing the output of quality management initiatives includes business processes as well as quality management metrics. Too many companies today do not balance their scorecards with financial or operational metrics that place quality management metrics in a company-wide context. For instance, the ideal balanced scorecard includes financial data, customer feedback (such as recalls), and internal operational metrics, which can come directly from the shop floor given the capabilities of a near real-time EQMS. For more information on Supplier Scorecards, click here.

5S Method

This term may be the most difficult to relate to because it crosses cultural boundaries between Japanese and American approaches to quality. Quality management professionals sometimes refer to this acronym as the “five S’s” to clarify the meaning of the concept in English. To cut through the confusion, the meaning of 5S includes:

  • Seiri: sorting necessary tools and parts from unnecessary ones
  • Seiton: carefully organizing these tools and parts
  • Seiso: constantly searching for ways to eliminate waste
  • Seiketsu: practicing the previous three facets every day
  • Shitsuke: habitually adhering to all of the above

In short, the 5S method ensures that workers play an active role in continually improving quality every day.

Certainly, there are many more commonly used quality management buzzwords, but these five are very likely the most commonly confused. At the end of the day, your task as a quality management professional is to distill complex concepts to a level that your coworkers will understand and execute efficiently to drive quality and operational excellence across the enterprise.