Important Aspects of Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management philosophy that supports the process of continuous improvement within an organization and where total emphasis is placed on the customer. In the socioeconomic viewpoint, TQM defines the customer as all members of society and facets of environment that interact with the activities of the company. TQM is also defined as a set of management practices throughout the organization, geared to ensure the organization consistently meets or exceeds customer requirements. The goal of TQM philosophy is – “Do the right things right the first time, every time.” One of the principal aims of TQM is to limit errors to 1 per 1 million units produced.

Important Aspects of Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a significant advance over traditional Quality Control (QC) programs. Traditional QC concerns itself with the number of final items found defective, replacing them with good items, or else negotiating the predicted failures into a supply contract. TQM, rather, seeks to eliminate defects altogether through a structured process of “root cause analysis” and “continuous improvement.” The TQM process involves the entire organization’s horizontal personnel structure from concept design engineers through development, product management, production, and marketing. Where QC tends to concentrate on individual points of failure, TQM views the individual points of failure as part of an overall systemic problem, and focuses on fixing the system as well as the failure points.

Total Quality Management (TQM) requires the involvement and commitment of the entire company. Vertically, from the CEO down, management must allocate resources for training, group discussion, and change management. Decisions must be made which impact where money is invested in the business, what opportunity costs, (e.g. redirecting personnel and resources toward quality rather than design or product management,) are practical, and ultimately, how a company’s products or services are perceived by the market. If top management is not committed to making TQM a top priority, the efforts of those who are committed to TQM will fail to sustain a successful program. Horizontally, TQM must be infused into all areas at the middle management and worker level. Design engineers must consider installation and maintenance. Product managers must consider manufacturing procedures. All efforts drive toward a standard of 99.9997% defect-free production.

Product development in a TQM environment is very different to product development in a non-TQM environment. Without a TQM approach, product development is usually carried on in a conflictual atmosphere where each department acts independently. Short-term results drive behavior so scrap, changes, work-around, waste, and rework are normal practice. Management focuses on supervising individuals, and fire-fighting is necessary and rewarded. Product development in a TQM environment is customer-driven and focused on quality. Teams are process-oriented, and interact with their internal customers to deliver the required results. Management’s focus is on controlling the overall process, and rewarding teamwork.

Important Aspects of Total Quality Management (TQM) include:

  1. Customer-driven Quality: TQM has a customer-first orientation. The customer, not internal activities and constraints, comes first. Customer satisfaction is seen as the company’s highest priority. The company believes it will only be successful if customers are satisfied. The TQM company is sensitive to customer requirements and responds rapidly to them. In the TQM context, `being sensitive to customer requirements’ goes beyond defect and error reduction, and merely meeting specifications or reducing customer complaints. The concept of requirements is expanded to take in not only product and service attributes that meet basic requirements, but also those that enhance and differentiate them for competitive advantage. Each part of the company is involved in Total Quality, operating as a customer to some functions and as a supplier to others. The Engineering Department is a supplier to downstream functions such as Manufacturing and Field Service, and has to treat these internal customers with the same sensitivity and responsiveness as it would external customers.
  2. TQM Leadership from Top Management: TQM is a way of life for a company. It has to be introduced and led by top management. This is a key point. Attempts to implement TQM often fail because top management doesn’t lead and get committed – instead it delegates and pays lip service. Commitment and personal involvement is required from top management in creating and deploying clear quality values and goals consistent with the objectives of the company, and in creating and deploying well defined systems, methods and performance measures for achieving those goals. These systems and methods guide all quality activities and encourage participation by all employees. The development and use of performance indicators is linked, directly or indirectly, to customer requirements and satisfaction, and to management and employee remuneration.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Continuous improvement of all operations and activities is at the heart of TQM. Once it is recognized that customer satisfaction can only be obtained by providing a high-quality product, continuous improvement of the quality of the product is seen as the only way to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction. As well as recognizing the link between product quality and customer satisfaction, TQM also recognizes that product quality is the result of process quality. As a result, there is a focus on continuous improvement of the company’s processes. This will lead to an improvement in process quality. In turn this will lead to an improvement in product quality, and to an increase in customer satisfaction. Improvement cycles are encouraged for all the company’s activities such as product development, use of EDM/PDM, and the way customer relationships are managed. This implies that all activities include measurement and monitoring of cycle time and responsiveness as a basis for seeking opportunities for improvement. Elimination of waste is a major component of the continuous improvement approach. There is also a strong emphasis on prevention rather than detection, and an emphasis on quality at the design stage. The customer-driven approach helps to prevent errors and achieve defect-free production. When problems do occur within the product development process, they are generally discovered and resolved before they can get to the next internal customer.
  4. Fast Response: To achieve customer satisfaction, the company has to respond rapidly to customer needs. This implies short product and service introduction cycles. These can be achieved with customer- driven and process-oriented product development because the resulting simplicity and efficiency greatly reduce the time involved. Simplicity is gained through concurrent product and process development. Efficiencies are realized from the elimination of non-value-adding effort such as re-design. The result is a dramatic improvement in the elapsed time from product concept to first shipment.
  5. Actions based on Facts: The statistical analysis of engineering and manufacturing facts is an important part of TQM. Facts and analysis provide the basis for planning, review and performance tracking, improvement of operations, and comparison of performance with competitors. The TQM approach is based on the use of objective data, and provides a rational rather than an emotional basis for decision making. The statistical approach to process management in both engineering and manufacturing recognizes that most problems are system-related, and are not caused by particular employees. In practice, data is collected and put in the hands of the people who are in the best position to analyze it and then take the appropriate action to reduce costs and prevent non-conformance. Usually these people are not managers but workers in the process. If the right information is not available, then the analysis, whether it be of shop floor data, or engineering test results, can’t take place, errors can’t be identified, and so errors can’t be corrected.
  6. Employee Participation: A successful TQM environment requires a committed and well-trained work force that participates fully in quality improvement activities. Such participation is reinforced by reward and recognition systems which emphasize the achievement of quality objectives. On-going education and training of all employees supports the drive for quality. Employees are encouraged to take more responsibility, communicate more effectively, act creatively, and innovate. As people behave the way they are measured and remunerated, TQM links remuneration to customer satisfaction metrics.
  7. A TQM Culture: It’s not easy to introduce TQM. An open, cooperative culture has to be created by management. Employees have to be made to feel that they are responsible for customer satisfaction. They are not going to feel this if they are excluded from the development of visions, strategies, and plans. It’s important they participate in these activities. They are unlikely to behave in a responsible way if they see management behaving irresponsibly – saying one thing and doing the opposite.

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