Total Quality Management (TQM) is a continuous improvement management concept. It is similar to Six Sigma in that the fundamental philosophy of TQM is to reduce production and service defects, increase customer satisfaction with the product, and streamline supply chain management. In addition, TQM ensures that equipment is well-maintained and current and that employees are well-trained. Most companies who use Total Quality management also utilize other lean processes such as Kaizen, Kanban, and 5S.

History of Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management in Manufacturing

The TQM concept was developed by American management consultants, including W. Edwards Deming, Joeseph Juran, and A.V. Feigenbaum. Originally, Japan embraced the ideas of quality management and continuous improvement introduced by American consultants following World War II. Toyota adopted these practices and developed strategies unique to Japanese culture to create the Toyota Production System, the basis for Lean manufacturing. As Japanese electronics and automotive companies boomed, industries in the United States were struggling to keep up.

The solution was total quality management, a specific quality management approach developed in the 1970s and 1980s. TQM in the US Federal Government began in 1985 when the United States Navy adopted Deming's teachings and named it Total Quality Management. The Department of Defense, United States Army, the Coast Guard, and the EPA eventually followed by adopting elements of TQM, setting the stage for companies to begin implementation.

The popularity of total quality management peaked in the 1990s and the Federal Quality Institute (a result of the Navy implementing TQM) was officially closed in 1995. Although interest in the official TQM program has declined, many of the strategies and principles are practiced in the newer quality management philosophies of Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma.

TQM Principles

In TQM, the goal is to limit defects to 1 per million units produced; production should be done right the first time, every time. The way to do this is the preventing defects during production. One of the main mechanisms for defect prevention is mistake-proofing, or poka yoke, which is the concept of preventing and correcting human error or incorrect operation as it occurs. Poka-yoke refers to any type of constraint designed into a process to prevent incorrect operation. For example, a two-hand operating device is a poka-yoke used to reduce injuries by requiring the operator to use both of their hands to control the machine.

The driving force for TQM is continuous improvement. In TQM there is no place for stagnation. You must move forward, and you must get better, systematically and in every way. At its core, TQM is a management approach to long-term success through customer satisfaction and this is achieved by ensuring conformance to internal requirements. TQM works to integrate all functions (such as the marketing department, the accounting department, the design team, etc.) to create customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is the most important concept in total quality management because the customer determines the level of acceptable quality.

Several of the principles of TQM are the same key concepts of Kaizen. Like Kaizen, a TQM effort can only be successful if all members of an organization participate in improving processes, products, services, and the culture in which they work. All employees are involved and committed to continuous improvement. Another Kaizen tool TQM utilizes is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle to continuously identify and solve issues efficiently. It's important that improvement projects be strategic and systematic and that managers make decisions based on data and facts.

When the United States Navy first implemented TQM in the 1980s, ad hoc cross-functional teams were responsible for identifying and addressing immediate problems. These teams are nearly identical to quality circles, and an important concept in Lean manufacturing in Kaizen. Cross-functional teams bring together workers who perform the same (or similar) job tasks to solve issues related to their work. Teams will meet periodically and will typically work through the PDCA cycle for continuous improvement projects, creating an established flow of improvement.

Total Quality Management Tools

Finally, total quality management relies on what is known as the Seven Quality Tools, a set of charting and graphing techniques to help identify quality issues. The tools used in TQM are:

  1. Fishbone Diagram / Ishikawa Chart: Used to visualize cause and effect and identify the root cause.
  2. Check Sheet Template: Used to collect data in real time.
  3. Control Chart: Used to check if the process is in a state of control.
  4. Histogram: Used to estimate probability distribution based on values within a certain range.
  5. Pareto Chart: Used to evaluate the defects that are frequently occurring and assess them by category.
  6. Scatter Diagram: Used to represent two values in a set of data.
  7. Stratification Diagram: Also called a flow diagram or a run diagram, stratification diagrams are used to sample a group.

There is no singular definition available of TQM, but the core philosophy encourages employee participation from all levels, establishes the mindset of continuous improvement, and integrates all functions within an organization to focus on quality. If you are interested in more Lean Manufacturing topics, check out our Lean training videos and Lean manufacturing tools.

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