Total Quality Management (TQM) is a business philosophy that seeks to encourage both individual and collective responsibility to quality at every stage of the production process from initial design and conception through to after sales service.
Many businesses may not use the term TQM anymore but the philosophy is still very much part of most business thinking. It is seen as being a way in which a business can add value to its product and to gain competitive advantage over its rivals. The former may allow a business to charge a higher price for its product or service whilst the latter can be a key feature of its marketing programme.
TQM requires a change in the way in which businesses operate. It implies a number of things if it is to work successfully:
· Management structures have to be more consultative and less hierarchical.
· Workers have to be empowered to be able to make decisions at all levels of the organisation.
· Workers have to be trained and involved in the building of the philosophy.
· Communication links between workers and management and between the business and all aspects of the supply chain must be excellent.
· Commitment to TQM must be backed by action, which the customer can see, and experience.
· Commitment to the process must be led by the senior management of the business - paying 'lip service' will invariably end up in failure.
TQM can be addressed in a business in a number of ways. The most common are:
· A policy of zero defects - any problems in the production process are filtered out before they get anywhere near the customer.
· Quality chains - each stage of the production process is seen as being a link in the chain right down to the relationship between one worker in the process and another.
· Quality circles - meetings of those directly involved in the production process to discuss and solve problems and make improvements to the production process.
· Statistical monitoring - the use of data and statistics to monitor and evaluate production processes and quality.
· Consumer feedback - using market research and focus groups to identify consumer needs and experiences and to build these into the process.
· Changing production methods - many businesses, where appropriate, have looked at the layout of their production processes - it could be the move to open plan offices, the development of teams or the use of cell production to improve worker commitment to the philosophy.
TQM invariably involves some sort of cost. Re-organising the business in any of the ways above not only involves capital cost but also the cost of training staff. High quality change management is therefore an essential ingredient of the success of such strategies.
Costs can however be saved if the change is successful. The cost of replacing damaged or faulty goods can be high - if the business waits until the end of the process other resources will have been wasted. The improved communication between suppliers and the firm should help to reduce defective components.
Other benefits may involve the effect on customer loyalty and repeat purchases, as well as winning over customers from rivals. Image and reputation can take many years to win but only a short time to lose so the stakes for the business are high.
To prove that the business has rigorous quality standards, external certification by a respected body is seen as being important. Such external certification could be through the Investors in People programme - a recognised standard in the training and professional development of staff in a business - and through such bodies as the ISO.
Two certificates are particularly sought after - ISO 9000 and ISO 14000. The former is concerned with quality management in relation to customer requirements, customer satisfaction, adherence to regulations and the pursuit of continuous improvement.
ISO 14000 is related to the impact of the firm's activities on the environment and the firm's attempts to improve its performance in this respect. Getting certification means that the company can send a message to companies throughout the world, which recognise this standard - currently, around 90 countries - of the quality that they can expect when dealing with the company.
The standards for the ISO 9000 family deal with the following areas:
1. Quality management systems - establishing and monitoring the process whereby product and service quality are maintained.
2. Management responsibility - how the management establish, maintain, monitor and communicate their commitment to the standards.
3. Resource management - how the business provides the resources - both physical and human - to enable the standards to be met and maintained.
4. Product realisation requirements - how businesses establish and monitor quality from concept to final product or service delivery.
5. Measurement, analysis and improvement requirements - how businesses use data to monitor their quality control and how this data is used to improve quality provision.
The terminology related to quality management could be regarded as being a bit 'nineties' but the philosophy is still one that drives many businesses as they seek to find ways in which, in an increasingly competitive global market, they can gain some form of competitive advantage or add value to their business.
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Last edited by Gyan Guru; 09-07-2010 at 05:44 PM.