Total quality management is a formalized system for constantly improving customer satisfaction by uniformly reducing defects and improving the quality of the products you make.

TQM capitalizes on the involvement of management, workforce, suppliers, and even customers, in order to meet or exceed customer expectations through your quality management system. By reviewing the fourteen points made famous by Deming, it’s easy to see what total quality management entails:

  • Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.
  • Adopt the new philosophy.
  • Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
  • End the practice of awarding business on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier.
  • Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service.
  • Institute training on the job.
  • Adopt and institute leadership.
  • Drive out fear.
  • Break down barriers between staff areas.
  • Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce.
  • Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.
  • Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship, and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
  • Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
  • Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.

Using these principles as a standard of measurement against your existing processes within the business can help you then build quality management into your work systems as well.

The areas to focus on when building TQM practices into your existing systems can be broken out as follows:

  • Customer Focus – Make sure all of your methodologies, changes, and improvements are focused on enhancing the customer experience. If the customer does not benefit in some way from a change you’re about to make or a process you’re considering improving, don’t do it. If it adds no value to the customer, it adds no value to the business.
  • Tools and Methodology – Develop and implement tools within your business that enable employees to quickly find and isolate non-conforming materials. Ensure that there are procedures in place to find and fix the source of the defects permanently to remove future failures from the process.
  • Continuous Improvement – Quality procedures and manufacturing processes should undergo a process of continuous review and improvement. This could be measured by the number of defective products made, the number of products made within a percentage of the control limits, or some other similar metric based on your company’s standard. Before this can begin, however, a benchmark must be established against which future improvement is measured, with the mark continuing to increase as quality is improved.
  • Employee Involvement – Your company must empower employees to find and correct quality issues as they arise on the production floor or in the test lab. This should be a formalized system to provide feedback to the employee once changes are made. Any employee in your organization should have the ability to address immediate issues as they arise without fear of reprimand or backlash.
  • Company Culture – You must establish a culture within your company that improves the ability of employees work together to solve quality issues. This can be in the form of regular team meetings to seek input, formation of a quality improvement oversight committee or task group, or having a quality leader identified within each group of your organization to get and share quality-related issues with others.
  • Executive Management – Top management owns the total quality management process. You must believe in it, and make sure all of those around you believe in it as well. Quality is driven from the top down, and if employees see that their management is not committed to quality, they will not commit to it either. The environment within your company should breathe quality to ensure success.
  • Training – Your employees should constantly receive training as it relates to quality. This also includes refresher training on job-related tasks and procedures, as they tie directly back into quality production as well.
  • Decision Making – To thrive in a quality environment, decisions about quality should be made based only on measurements. There should be no gray areas existing within the company. If it is within the written specifications, it is acceptable, if it is outside of the specifications, no matter how slight, it is non-conforming. Only when quality is handled in this way can the continuous improvement process work and be effective as you tighten your control limits.