Total Quality Management (TQM) describes the culture, attitude, and organization of a company striving to produce high quality products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations. Originating in the 1950s, its popularity has increased since the 1980s, and its quality management concepts have been implemented by automotive companies such as Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, and Toyota Motor Company.
But what, exactly, is total quality management and how does it work? We can gain a better understanding by examining the core concepts of the TQM Philosophy.
This is the first and most important concept of the TQM Philosophy. Built upon the understanding that quality value of a product is reduced if it does not meet the customer’s needs, the customer focus concept states that the client’s wants and/or needs must be met or exceeded. But first, a company must first determine what those wants and needs are. To do this, they gather information through market studies, research groups, and client meetings. Benefits of achieving this concept include:
- Increased revenue
- Increased effectiveness
- Improved customer loyalty
Taking into account that customer expectations are always changing (and typically rising as quality management begins to provide results), the continuous improvement concept stems from a belief that mistakes can be avoided and defects can be prevented. It extends to all aspects of an organization, from the shop floor to the marketing department to decision-making.
One common approach used to ensure continuous improvement remains a core concept is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Its processes are as follows:
- Plan: evaluate the current processes and make plans to resolve the problems found
- Do: implement the plan and collect data for evaluation
- Check: study data to determine if the plan is achieving the desired results
- Act: Communicate results and implement the new procedure if successful
It is important to remember that, because this approach is a cycle, the entire process starts over once a new plan or procedure is implemented.
In the TQM Philosophy, employees are considered a vital part of the quality management process. They are empowered to make decisions, their contributions are valued, and their suggestions are implemented. In order to ensure they are able to make logical, valuable contributions, employees are given quality tools and extensive training.
Use of Quality Tools
As already mentioned, quality tools are important for ensuring that employees are able to make valuable and informed decisions and contributions. They must also receive extensive training to help them understand access quality via quality control and measurement tools. This gives employees the ability to accurately interpret their findings and effectively correct problems.
Providing a design that meets customer expectations is a critical element to building a quality product. Unfortunately, this can be more difficult than it sounds because most customers provide general descriptions, such as “safe,” “tough,” or “sleek.” Automotive companies must translate these generalizations into specific technical requirements.
One tool that helps them do this is known as QFD, or Quality Function Deployment. This tool identifies the requirements of customers and then scores those requirements numerically. The scores are then translated into specific product requirements, such as side air bags for “safe”. This tool can also be useful for enhancing communication between various company functions and departments.
Manage Supplier Quality
Most concepts of the TQM Philosophy apply only to the company itself, but the supplier quality management concept extends to outside suppliers. It is built upon philosophy that suppliers who strive to meet the company’s needs help the company meet their customer’s needs. In many cases, as long as the supplier meets preset quality standards, materials are accepted without inspection, which helps to speed up the overall production process.
Through this understanding of TQM Philosophies and core principles, it becomes clear how and why some automotive companies have excelled at creating loyal customers who return for their products, year after year.