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Total Quality Management (TQM) Foundation

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is a part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Introduction to Quality

With ever evolving market dynamics, every manufacturer in each product category is trying to fuse in all possible attributes in a product/service. It is also necessary to maintain competitiveness by generating a steady stream of new products. To succeed firms try to respond to changing customer needs and the moves of their competitors. But all these efforts are leading the consumer to a dilemma because of not so distinguished products/ services. For example all mobile phones with each passing day are becoming synonym to one another in terms of technology within a specific price range.

The number of new products and processes has increased while the model lives and life cycles have shrunk. Thus what makes a product/service stand out from the cluster or define the impact and profitability of the new product can be answered by a term -Quality- in general can be defined as a standard against which similar kinds of things are measured. Quality is more of a perceptual parameter to judge than a concrete set of rules. It can vary from consumer to consumer on the basis of fulfilled requirements and the satisfaction obtained.

As per American Society for Quality: “A combination of quantitative and qualitative perspectives for which each person has his or her own definition”; examples of which include, “Meeting the requirements and expectations in service or product that were committed to” and “Pursuit of optimal solutions contributing to confirmed successes, fulfilling accountabilities”. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings: a. The characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs; b. A product or service free of deficiencies.”

This leads us to find what it takes to maintain the level of quality which leaves the clients asking for more not because of deprivation but because of satisfaction. Till few years back the term quality was used either in context of manufacturing of a product and customer’s conditional views after using that product. Production and operation activities like process, capacity, inventory and workforce still represent the large chunk of an organization’s human and capital assets but with digital transformation of enterprises, quality is no longer just producing less defective items. It has swept into each vertical of the business like sales, manufacturing, advertising and customer service and decides the fate of the product and the business as a whole.

Total Quality Management

Total quality management or TQM may be defined as managing the entire business so that it excels on all dimensions of products and services that are important to the customer. There are two essential goals for TQM:

  1. Careful design of the product or service
  2. Ensuring that the organization’s systems can consistently produce the design.

How to achieve TQM is no secret anymore. Companies like General Electric and the Motorola have used the philosophy and methods of Six Sigma to eliminate defects in their products and processes. The methods installed in this step seek to reduce the variation in the processes that leads to these defects.

The challenge is to make certain that a quality program really does have a customer focus and is sufficiently agile to be able to make improvements quickly without losing sight of real time needs of the business.

There is also a need for sustaining a quality culture over the long haul. As Tom Peters has said, “Most quality programs fail for one of the two reasons: they have system without passion, or passion without system.”