Total Quality Management.

History of TQM

TQM came to prominence (some would say ‘into fashion’) in the early 1980s, because of the success of Japanese industry in producing better quality products at competitive cost, especially in motor cars, motor bikes and electronic items such as TV’s, radios, hi-fi etc. Because of this, for the first time since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the United Kingdom became a net importer of finished goods.

A lot of research was undertaken to determine why this was the case, generally leading to the conclusion that while some in the West preached quality, most industries did not listen and relied on the old ways of inspecting quality in, in other words making bad product and then chucking it out rather than making good product in the first place

On the other hand the Japanese had taken the teachings of W. Edwards Deming and the statistical methods of Walter Shewhart seriously and adopted them wholeheartedly leading to products that were more readily manufacturable and more reliable than equivalent UK and American products.

The term “total quality management” was probably first coined in the United Kingdom by the Department of Trade and Industry during its 1983 “National Quality Campaign” following the publication of Kaoru Ishikawa’s book What Is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way in Japan in 1981.

Features of TQM

There is no widespread agreement as to exactly what TQM is. However most would probably cite:

  • “Quality is is ‘fitness for purpose’ as defined by the customer”
  • “Top management has direct responsibility for quality improvement.”
  • “Increased quality comes from systematic analysis and improvement of work processes.”
  • “Quality improvement is a continuous effort and conducted throughout the organisation.”

These kinds of definitions were very different to the common meaning of the term quality, which usually meant something hand-made and expensive, using good materials, meaning that by definition nothing that was mass-produced could be high quality; which was perhaps the underlying reason why the West had never taken ‘scientific’ quality seriously.

TQM often uses the following tools and techniques:

  • The PDCA cycle to drive issues to resolution
  • Cross-functional teams (such as quality circles)
  • Active management participation
  • The Seven Basic Tools of Quality to analyze quality-related issues
    • Cause-and-effect diagram (also known as the “fishbone” or Ishikawa diagram)
    • Check sheet
    • Control chart & Run charts for Statistical Process Control
    • Histogram
    • Pareto chart
    • Scatter diagram
    • Stratification (splitting into sub-groups for a flow chart or run chart)

Development of TQM

In spite of awards such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award TQM gradually fell out of fashion. It was not the magic bullet, or at least the way ‘Japanese’ quality was implemented in many Western companies was not the whole answer, and the quality movement was standardised (and some would say bureaucratised) by the introduction of ISO 9000 in 1987, which seemed to focus on traceability and a paper trail proving that procedures had been followed, rather than the quality of the product.

Then business interest in quality improvement under the TQM name faded as Jack Welch’s success at GE attracted attention to Six Sigma and Toyota’s success attracted attention to Lean manufacturing, though the three share many of the same tools, techniques, and significant portions of the same philosophy.