TQM Total Quality Management Basics

- a summary or tutorial about the basics of Total Quality Management, TQM, and how it may be used to provide significant improvements in devlopment and production environments.

Total quality management or TQM is philosophy that has been in use for many years for continuous process improvement.

When used, TQM is integrated into the company philosophy to enable the continuous improvement of the quality of products and processes.

One of the key aspects of TQM, Total Quality Management is that the quality of products and processes is the responsibility of everyone involved within the processes of an organisation.

TQM involves all levels and aspects of a company including management, workforce, suppliers, and customers, to meet or exceed customer expectations.


TQM, Total Quality Management Basics

The basic concept of total quality management, TQM is that it is a customer focussed strategy aimed to produce consistently high quality products or services. In involves the whole organisation and beyond, with quality becoming the responsibility of everyone in the organisation.

Some of the key concepts of TQM, total quality management include:

  • Customer focussed
  • All employee involvement
  • Involves suppliers as well as those within the central organisation
  • Process centred
  • Integrated into company systems and processes
  • Strategic and systematic approach
  • Continual improvement, not just a fix a problem and the job is done
  • Fact based decision making - requires metrics to look at the problems and assess performance and subsequent improvements
  • Communications required across the organisation

TQM key concepts summary

Some of the key concepts behind TQM, total quality management are summarised in the table below:


TQM key concepts
TQM concept Details
Customer focus A focus on defining and meeting the needs of the customer.
Continuous improvement Adopting a strategy where there is a continual aim to improve quality.
Employee empowerment Enable employees to become involved. As they undertake the processes they are often best placed to see the issues and know the best ways of addressing them. Additionally they will feel more involved and will perform better.
Utilise tools for quality improvement Understand and institute tools that will enable the monitoring, assessment and improvement of the final quality.
Product design The development of new products needs to be focussed on meeting the needs of the customer, and not what the design department wants to do or feels they can do, etc.
Process management Quality measures need to be built into every process to ensure the best quality and lowest costs are achieved. Issues with quality need to be able to be visible and rectified.
Supply chain TQM needs to extend to the suppliers as well as the organisation itself.

Evolution of TQM, total quality management

The basic ideas behind TQM have existed for many years, and in many ways, there is nothing new in TQM. That said, bringing the principles and processes together in the format in which they now exist, and implementing them has enabled many companies to totally improve their performance.

Many of the foundations for TQM started to surface in the 1940s during the Second World War. At this time there was a focus on improving quality as lives depended upon the proper functioning of equipment.

Statistical sampling techniques started to be employed to evaluate quality. On top of this quality control charts were used to monitor the on-going production process .

In the 1960s the concept started to take more form. Quality started to be viewed as an aspect that involved the whole organisation. This resulted because all functions and areas within a company or organisation had an impact on the final product quality. Also all shared the costs of poor quality, and this meant that quality was an aspect concept that affected the entire organization.

In the 1970s a major impetus was provided. Many western industries lost out significantly because products emanating from the Far East demonstrated a much higher level of reliability and quality while also being able to be sold for a significantly lower price as a result of the much superior design and build quality and manufacturing processes.

In order to be able to compete and survive, western companies needed to make a step change in the quality of their products. To achieve this, new quality programmes were instituted. Previously quality had been interpreted as a reactive response to an issue. High inspection and rework costs had reflected poorly on the final product. By changing the emphasis to a proactive approach fewer issues were encountered in production raising build standard and lowering costs.

By Ian Poole


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