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Creating a quality culture with TQM

Published: 14 Sep 2020

Miguel Cartañá, Senior Quality Consultant at AQC Group, Spain, explains the importance of Total Quality Management (TQM), and the principles quality teams and their businesses should adopt to achieve success.

Understanding the meaning of Total Quality Management (TQM) is not simple, just as it would be to design a bridge without the knowledge of engineering, or to operate on someone without having the knowledge and experience as a doctor or surgeon. With quality matters, the opposite occurs where most people in the profession believe that he/she is capable of giving his/her opinions on how to organise an effective quality system in the company to prevent and resolve problems, without having the sufficient knowledge on what this task actually involves.

When I see how the training of future quality managers is approached, some companies and training providers apply complex techniques for product design, problem solving, efficiency, and improvement, but fail to establish the quality basics in their business system which includes the quality principles and above all, an adequate mentality towards the business, staff and customers/suppliers.

It is essential for companies to understand that TQM is not based only on compliance with the standards of the sector or on the application of complex techniques, but rather on having strong communication inside and outside of the organisation, respecting staff/suppliers and meeting their commitments.

The following TQM principles can be used by a business (in no particular order) as a starting point to help business owners achieve a high level of quality across their organisations:

  • Quality is a first priority.
  • Top management’s involvement in quality management.
  • Setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) objectives.
  • Fulfil your commitments for customers, your team and senior management.
  • Respecting staff/suppliers and their opinions to strengthen the organisation.
  • Making customers a fundamental part of the team and business.
  • Analysing situations to solve problems that may arise.
  • Analysing problems using the principle of 3 Gen: Genba (Place), Genbutsu (Piece), Genjitsu (Done).
  • Most causes of both new and recurring defects.
  • Avoid recurring problems by carrying out an analysis of the true root cause(s), applying effective corrective actions, and verifying their full implementation in the design and production processes.
  • Using quality in a way that prevents quality problems (eg, defects) of a product from becoming widespread.
  • The most important improvement that can be made in the serial production phase to keep production stable.
  • To overcome product quality defects for customers and suppliers.
  • Address and solve quality problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Problems are solved with the participation of the entire team.
  • Plan for quality using the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) methodology.
  • Do not modify the production plan under any circumstances – An organisation’s production control department must adapt their plans to comply with the production plan that has been created.
  • Create work rules that are easy to understand from the operator’s point of view.
  • Follow the company’s quality documentation (quality manual/instructions) rules and maintain discipline when it comes to following the operative processes, particularly in difficult situations.
  • Inform, communicate, and consult with the company’s stakeholders.

Being humble

One of the most important principles that has not been listed above is ‘being humble’. If a staff member displays arrogance, he/she will not be able to collaborate with their colleagues effectively. As a quality professional, you must be humble by respecting the opinions of others, follow the rules, learn from your mistakes and communicate with other departments of your organisation. To achieve this TQM principle, we have to change our mentality by not trying to be the best, and instead, work together as a team to achieve the company’s objectives rather than our personal goals.

The real implementation of TQM means a revolution in the mindset of all staff/employees to create a strong quality culture that will resonate throughout every part of an organisation.

We must not forget that quality is not born out of a mere whim but out of a need for a company's survival.

It is that spirit of survival that must always remain in the company, no matter how much it grows and prevents us from forgetting the basics, who we are and how we started as a business.