Total Quality Management (TQM) emerged in the 1980s in response to economic losses experienced due to Japanese manufacturers producing higher quality goods at lower cost. TQM was a natural outgrowth of the Toyota Production System, eventually giving rise to approaches like Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma.
Companies that adopt TQM and related process excellence methodologies need a specific set of Quality Management System (QMS) tools. With that in mind, today we’re looking at how the QMS supports what the American Society for Quality (ASQ) calls the 8 principles of TQM.
1. Customer Focus
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines Total Quality Management (TQM) as “a management approach to long–term success through customer satisfaction.”
Quality is defined from the customer’s perspective, and a proactive quality culture leverages QMS tools aimed directly at increasing customer satisfaction.
These tools include:
- Complaint Management processes: Proactively managing customer complaints helps contain problems and turn them into improvement opportunities.
- Risk Management: Using risk assessments and tools like Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) helps you protect consumers from quality and safety risks.
- Compliance tracking: Centralizing regulatory, standard and customer requirements lets you link them to controls and analyze gaps.
2. Empowered Employees
An engaged workforce is the engine that drives TQM. The QMS helps employees take ownership of quality by providing data and feedback on how their efforts impact quality.
An automated system in particular helps teams communicate and work together more effectively, giving employees confidence in the quality mission.
3. Process Approach
Like many quality philosophies, TQM draws from the process approach aimed at understanding the link between process inputs and finished quality.
A QMS supports the process approach by addressing every element of the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, including steps such as:
- Documenting processes.
- Assessing risk.
- Change management.
- Corrective action.
4. Integrated Systems
TQM emphasizes the connection of different functions and process areas into an integrated business system. A fully integrated QMS ties together the full range of quality processes, also moving data to and from other business systems. These could include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), as well as other processes like finance and human resources.
5. Strategic Management
Companies must have a strategic plan that makes quality a top priority. More than just writing a plan, you need to take action to achieve it. That means:
- Presenting quality and risk data at high-level management reviews and soliciting cross-functional engagement.
- Providing for high-leverage initiatives in the quality budget.
- Reviewing and communicating results regularly.
6. Continuous Improvement
The most prevalent quality management strategies all place special emphasis on continuous improvement. The QMS supports continuous improvement, but only if you have a closed-loop process to address issues you find. In this sense, an automated QMS holds a distinct advantage over manual tracking and follow-up methods.
7. Data-Driven Decision-Making
TQM focuses on making decisions based on performance data. A proactive organization will collect and analyze data on an ongoing basis, using integrated Reporting tools to analyze trends and take action.
One critical aspect in making better decisions through data is accounting for risk. That’s because risk provides an objective yardstick for moving from “maybe we need a new control here” to “the calculated risk level is unacceptable according to established criteria.”
The final element of TQM is communication. Any management expert will tell you that communicating results helps motivate employees, who need to know if they’re doing a good job.
Automation can help here, since manual data entry and analysis tends to delay communication of results. That is, if they’re communicated at all to front-line employees, to whom performance data just as much as leadership does.
Designing and Implementing Your QMS
No matter whether you’re using Lean, Six Sigma, TQM or some combination, you’ll want to make sure you take time to design your QMS carefully. By incorporating some of the key tools we’ve discussed here, you can ensure that your processes will run smoother so you can focus on making improvements.