wardell books

Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management

The concept of total quality has many interpretations and is often referred to by other terms such as “total quality control”, “total quality management” and “total quality leadership”. However, the key term in all these theories is “total,” meaning that everyone and every process is involved. Control should be embedded within, and driven by, the organization. “Quality” refers to everything a business does to provide goods and services that meet customer requirements, the way employees interact with each other and what the company expects from its suppliers. While total quality is a large and extensive theory, it compliments JIT well.

To get to the root of a quality control problem, remember to make use of the repeating “why?” question we discussed in “Management.” Ask yourself why a quality control problem exists, and then ask yourself the same question about your answer. Continue with this line of questioning until you come to the root of your problem. Nine times out of ten you will discover a systems based flaw. One time out of ten, you will have a people problem. So get into the habit of reviewing your systems, before you start blaming your people.

Many businesses have already begun setting the groundwork for total quality even before beginning the transformation to a JIT environment. The management commitment and organization development necessary to get total quality underway provides a fertile ground for JIT to begin being implemented. Poor production quality results in excess waste. This could include waste material, finished goods that fail inspection, or excess labour, all of which translate into wasted time and money.

The solution is quality control, but this must go well beyond mere inspection checks. Inspection checks are useful, but they only deal with symptoms. They don't get to the root of the problem, which for nearly every business is in the orchestration of its systems.

Tom, the owner of a furniture manufacturing company was frustrated with his assembly crew. It seemed that when the shop got busy, they would fall behind, holding up the rest of the manufacturing process. When Tom encouraged them to work faster things would temporarily improve, but inevitably, they would fall behind again. Tom considered replacing these employees, but since he was in the process of writing a manufacturing system he decided he would look for a systems oriented solution first.

When Tom studied the assembly process more closely, he discovered that his cutting crew left all the materials for the assemblers in one place. This meant that his assemblers had to sort through the materials to find what they were looking for. This was no problem when things were slow, but when things got busy, the materials became unorganized and time consuming to work with. By designing a system for organizing the temporary storage of the materials, the assembly crew was able to keep up with the manufacturing pace at all times. The problem was solved at its root, and Tom didn't need to replace any employees.

Quality control should be integrated into your production process rather than be something separate. Write them as subsystems or connecting systems for your production systems or in some cases, simply update your existing systems.

This will save time, as well as mistakes because problems are solved at the source, rather than after the fact.


Following are some practical ways to integrate quality into your daily business practices.

  1. Buy for quality first and price second, not the other way around. This doesn't mean price is unimportant, it is, but far too often the long-term benefits of quality are sacrificed for the short-term benefits of price. So when spending money, try to determine the long- term value of what you are getting and then compare it to the price you are paying. By the way, this concept applies to everything your company puts out money for, from your inventory to your employees.

  2. Continuously hunt for flaws and fix them before they grow into serious problems. A commitment to quality means more than having regular inspections, it means high quality workmanship that rarely, if ever, fails inspection. It's all in your perspective. Most people try to resolve their problems only after they are too big to be ignored. By then, however, it is often too late. The more practical approach, and ultimately the less expensive approach, is to develop continuously evolving systems, along with a Corporate Culture, that focus on solving problems at their source.

  3. Implement employee education and training programs. Quality must be everyone's responsibility, not just the responsibility of management or quality control. Investments here will come back to you many times over.

  4. Integrate accountabilities for quality control into your production positions and employee reviews. This will help to put the responsibility for quality where it should be, directly into your production process and into the hands of your production staff. If you have separate quality control positions, another option is to rotate the people between your production and quality control positions.

  5. Encourage and support problem solving at all levels of employment. When people are empowered to make decisions, they are more likely to take responsibility for their actions. You need a staff of caring, thinking human beings to run a strong business these days, not just a bunch of warm bodies, so promote a Corporate Culture that encourages your employees to take matters of quality into their own hands.

  6. Encourage and reward pride in workmanship. This comes back to your Corporate Culture again. Nothing will affect your quality levels more than employees who care. You can encourage this by openly demonstrating your appreciation of a job well done and by regularly sharing success stories that promote quality.

  7. Use statistics to analyze and monitor your progress. Find ways to quantify the various aspects of quality for your business. For example, how many products fail your final quality inspection each month? Or, how quickly do your average customers find what they are looking for in your store? The most important of these will become part of your Strategic Indicators and will be used to monitor your progress towards your Strategic Objective. Whatever you measure, make sure it is as simple and as automatic as possible a process. If gathering statistics becomes too much of a chore, it won't happen.

The following questions will help you design your Quality Control System.

From a production perspective, what are your most significant concerns regarding quality and what are your minimum standards?

How often do you meet these standards?

What quality control mechanisms will ensure that your standards are maintained 100 percent of the time?

What purchasing mechanisms will ensure that your standards are maintained 100 percent of the time?

What corporate culture mechanisms will ensure that your standards are maintained 100 percent of the time?

What training mechanisms will ensure that your standards are maintained 100 percent of the time?

What checkpoints / spot checking mechanisms will ensure that your standards are maintained 100 percent of the time?

What feedback mechanisms will ensure that your standards are maintained 100 percent of the time?

What other mechanisms will ensure that your standards are maintained 100 percent of the time?