Introduction to Total Quality Management (TQM)

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Total Quality Management


Definition and Meaning of Total Quality Management (TQM)

“TQM means that the organisation’s culture is defined by and supports the constant attainment of customer satisfaction through an integrated system of tools, techniques, and training. This involves the continuous improvement of organisational processes, resulting in high quality products and services”[1]

Based on the above mentioned definition, TQM focuses on the overall operations of an organisation but also emphasises that quality must be customer driven (Please Refer to PPT slides for Su-Kam case study discussed during class). It further implies that TQM focuses on identifying the root causes of quality problems and correcting at them at the source, as opposed to inspecting the final or finished product after it has been made[2]. TQM broadly encompasses theories of quality like those proposed by Deming, Juran and Crosby. These theories are examined in an organised manner under specific concepts proposed under TQM and are as follows:

1. Customer focus:

The primary goal of an organisation is to identify and meet customer needs on the basis of existing trends in the industry, changes in tastes and preferences, etc. The organisation should continuously gather information through suitable research methods to identify and meet the specific needs of the customers. For example, in the Su-Kam case study, Su-kam identified three major problems (still) existing in the power sector – Power outages and fluctuations, bad quality power backup appliances and a fragmented industry.

2. Continuous Improvement (Kaizen):

Continuous improvement, also known as ‘Kaizen’ refers to a philosophy or practises that encourage never-ending improvements within an organisation across all processes like in manufacturing, engineering, business development and management. Continuous improvement or Kaizen requires companies to continuously strive to be better through learning and problem solving. For example, Su-kam continuously adopted innovative ways of manufacturing inverters plus UPS that earlier required separate UPS system. Also, they manufactured invertors whose power backup duration lasted to 2 – 3 hours from 10 – 15 minutes. Deming’s Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle is also a suitable tool used by companies for bringing about continuous improvement across processes

3. Employee empowerment:

TQM philosophy in a company also encourages empowerment to their company’s employees. This implies that employees, as a self-initiative, can seek out problems and correct them. Accordingly, employees are rewarded for uncovering quality problems and not punished. One of the most common ways of enabling employee empowerment is to form a “Quality Circle”, which includes a group of employees from different departments within a company volunteer to solve quality problems (Please refer to notes titled, “Introduction to Quality” for note on quality circle). In the Su-kam example, the company set up a team with qualifications and experience in the UPS industry, cable TV industry, missile industry and other electronic industries to continuously develop creative and innovative invertors that meet specific needs of customers.

4. Use of Quality Tools:

To identify quality problems employees require proper training of quality tools. Training of quality tools is essential towards proper assessment of quality, interpretation of the problems and correction of the problems. Quality tools can include the “Cause-and-Effect Diagrams” or Ishikawa (Fishbone) diagram (Please refer to the notes titled, “Introduction to Quality”) that identifies the problem across all processes within a particular business activity. Other tools include, Pareto analysis, checklists (a list of common defects and number of observed occurrences of these defects), charts like histogram[3], etc.

5. Product Design:

The quality of a product can be built if the product design meets the customers’ expectations. A useful tool used for determining customers’ expectations is the Quality Function Deployment (QFD) tool. QFD broadly considers customer requirements by preparing of list of certain characteristics of a product and rating their importance in accordance to the customers’ expectations or requirements.

Figure 1: Relationship Matrix

For example, a company has identified certain characteristics of a backpack for students such as number of zippers & compartments, weight of the backpack, strength of the backpack, grade of the dye colour and cost of materials. These characteristics were determined on the basis of what is available through their competition and their own capabilities. Alternatively, students’ requirements were related to durability, lightweight, roomy, looks nice and low cost as against the characteristics of the backpack. The students’ requirements are also identified by the company through a preliminary survey of students. The ratings are related to measuring the relationship between the company’s characteristics and students’ requirements as a strong positive relationship, positive relationship, negative relationship and strong negative relationship (Refer to Figure 1). The strength of the relationship is identified through a matrix (with company’s characteristics as rows and students’ requirements in column). This matrix is also known as the “House of Quality” matrix. Let’s say that number of zippers and compartments are negatively related to the weight of the backpack. A negative relationship means that as the company increases the desirability of number of zippers and compartments decreases the desirability to the weight of the backpack. Alternatively, a positive relationship between number of zippers and compartments and appearance means that an increase in desirability of number of zippers and compartments increases the desirability for appearance.  Once the company has identified all positive and negative relationships the company and construct relevant parametric changes in the product and evaluate the same with competition. Finally, the company sets a target for achieving all relevant changes that also meets relevant requirements of the students

6. Process Management:

This implies that quality should be built into the process or quality should be maintained right at the source. If the source of the problem is not identified and corrected, then the problem will continue to be present further affecting the quality of the final product. For example, if you are baking a cake and you find that a part of the cake is hard and not as soft as the remaining half, then by simply cutting off that part of the cake does not solve the problem. Baking a cake would be more effective if you identify the problem that occurred before and during baking the cake. The problems could be temperature may have been set high, the oven (or microwave) may not be distributing the heat evenly, etc.

7. Managing Supplier Quality:

TQM also extends the concept of quality to the company’s suppliers. Traditionally, companies tend to have numerous suppliers that are engaged in competitive price bidding. There are pitfalls in selecting a supplier with the lowest price. Raw materials arriving at the company may be of poor quality leading to additional costs in quality inspection and delay in production for the searching the right supplier. Companies with few suppliers have long-term relationships based on trust and business with these suppliers can be continued in the long-run if the suppliers met preset quality standards that do not require quality inspections. Companies could also involve suppliers in every stage of business processes right from product design to final production such that the suppliers are aligned with the companies’ relevant quality needs for producing quality-based products.

[1] Putting Total Quality Management to work, Marshall Sashkin, Kenneth J. Kiser

[3] Frequency distribution of variables (defects or errors related to manufacturing or distribution)