The Total Quality Approach Defined

Just as there are different definitions of quality, there are dif­ferent definitions of total quality. The authors define total quality as follows:

An easy way to grasp the concept of total quality is to consider the analogy of a three-legged stool, as shown in Figure 1.1. The seat of the stool is customer focus. This means with total quality the customer is in the “driver’s seat” as the primary arbiter of what is acceptable in terms of quality. Each of the three legs is a broad element of the total quality philosophy (i.e., measures, people, and pro­cesses). The “measures” leg of the stool makes the point that quality can and must be measured. The “people” leg of the stool makes the point that quality cannot be inspected into a product or service. Rather, it must be built in by people who are empowered to do their jobs the right way. The “processes” leg of the stool makes the point that processes must be improved, continually and forever. What is con­sidered excellent today may be just mediocre tomorrow. Consequently, “good enough” is never good enough.

Another way to understand total quality as a concept is shown in Figure 1.2. Notice that the first part of the defi­nition in Figure 1.2 explains the what of total quality; the second part explains the how. In the case of total quality, the how is important because it is what separates this approach to doing business from all of the others.

The total in total quality indicates a concern for quality in the broadest sense—what has come to be known as the “Big Q.” Big Q refers to quality of products, services, people, processes, and environments. Correspondingly, “Little Q” refers to a narrower concern that focuses on the quality of one of these elements or individual quality criteria within an individual element.

1. How Is Total Quality Different?

What distinguishes the total quality approach from tra­ditional ways of doing business can be found in how it is achieved. The distinctive characteristics of total quality are these: strategically based, customer focus (internal and ex­ternal), obsession with quality, use of the scientific approach in decision making and problem solving, long-term com­mitment, teamwork, continual process improvement, bot­tom-up education and training, freedom through control, unity of purpose, and employee involvement and empow­erment, all deliberately aimed at supporting the organiza­tional strategy. The underlying concept that drives the need for total quality is competitiveness. Although pride of prod­uct (or service) is a philosophical driver of the total quality concept—organizations that produce a product or provide a service should want it to represent them in a way they can be proud of—the practical driver is competitiveness. In today’s globally competitive business environment, organizations cannot survive, much less thrive, unless they outperform the competition in proving superior value. And quality is an essential ingredient in superior value (quality, cost, service). The individual characteristics relating to total quality shown in Figure 1.2 are explained later in this chapter.

2. The Historic Development of Total Quality

The total quality movement had its roots in the time and motion studies conducted by Frederick Taylor in the 1920s. Table 1.1 is a time line that shows some of the major events in the evolution of the total quality movement since the days of Taylor. Taylor is now known as “the father of scientific management.”

The most fundamental aspect of scientific manage­ment is the separation of planning and execution. Although the division of labor spawned tremendous leaps forward in productivity, it virtually eliminated the old practice of one highly skilled individual performing all the tasks required to produce a quality product. In a sense, that individual was CEO, production worker, and quality controller all rolled into one. Taylor’s scientific management did away with this by making planning the job of management and production the job of labor. To keep quality from falling through the cracks, it was necessary to create a separate quality depart­ment. Such departments had shaky beginnings, and just who was responsible for quality became a clouded issue.

As the volume and complexity of manufacturing grew, quality became an increasingly difficult issue. Volume and complexity together gave birth to quality engineering in the 1920s and reliability engineering in the 1950s. Quality engi­neering, in turn, resulted in the use of statistical methods in the control of quality, which eventually led to the concepts of control charts and statistical process control, which are now fundamental aspects of the total quality approach.

Reliability engineering emerged in the 1950s. It began a trend toward moving quality control away from the traditional after-the-fact approach and toward inserting it throughout the design and production processes. However, for the most part, quality control in the 1950s and 1960s involved inspections that resulted in nothing more than cutting out bad parts.

World War II had an impact on quality that is still being felt. In general, the effect was negative for the United States and positive for Japan. Because of the urgency to meet production schedules during the war, U.S. companies focused more on meeting delivery dates than on quality. This approach became a habit that carried over even after the war.

Japanese companies, on the other hand, were forced to learn to compete with the rest of the world in the produc­tion of nonmilitary goods. At first, their attempts were un­successful, and “Made in Japan” remained synonymous with poor quality, as it had been before World War II. Around 1950, however, Japan decided to get serious about quality and establishing ways to produce quality products.

Japanese manufacturers overcame a reputation for pro­ducing cheap, shabby products and developed a reputation as world leaders in the production of quality products. More than any other single factor, it was the Japanese miracle— which was not a miracle at all but the result of a concerted effort that took 20 years to really bear fruit—that got the rest of the world to focus on quality. When Western companies finally realized that quality was the key factor in global com­petition, they responded. Unfortunately, their first responses were the opposite of what was needed.

In spite of these early negative reactions, Western com­panies began to realize that the key to competing in the global marketplace was to improve quality. With this realization, the total quality movement finally began to gain momentum.

Source: Goetsch David L., Davis Stanley B. (2016), Quality Management for organizational excellence introduction to total Quality, Pearson; 8th edition.

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