Quality improvement refers to a structural approach to evaluating system and process performance to determine the need for improvements throughout all areas of organizational operation. Through the consistent and regular collection and analysis of relevant data, companies facilitate an ongoing quality improvement process with the help of which stakeholders can evaluate and monitor initiatives and their results. Even though there are many approaches aimed at organizational improvement, the focus on quality remains one of the core concerns of the management. If companies operate according to the principles of quality as applied to many processes, reviewing and managing each area can lead to the gradual improvement of the system as a whole.
Total Quality Management
Total quality management (TQM) is a quality improvement method and a management strategy focused on embedding quality-related awareness at all levels of an organization. It is concerned with the continuous process of detecting, reducing, and even eliminating manufacturing errors, improving supply chain management, and enhancing customer experiences while also making sure that workers align with the expectations of their training and expertise (Fawzy & Olson, 2018). Thus, TQM is a multi-dimensional process that enables organizations to hold all departments involved in product manufacturing and service provision accountable for the overall level of quality of the final product or service (Fawzy & Olson, 2018).
The importance of TQM is concerned with the fact that it is primarily customer-oriented and is intended to ensure that all components of an organization work toward the common goal of product or service quality, including the improvement of the procedures in place for production.
Apple Inc. is a prominent example of the successful implementation of Total Quality Management processes because from the moment that a customer starts engaging with the retail realm of the organization, they are being introduced to the “customer first” experience (Fawzy & Olson, 2018). The company has worked on creating products and services that are arguably at the highest standard possible in the current technological industry. The continuous improvement of product design and software represents Apple’s effort to refine the previous generations of products and move on with technological advancement through cutting-edge research and development (Fawzy & Olson, 2018).
Because of this, the company has hired research and design teams who have always been dedicated to selling customers the best possible product and quality experience. Thus, exploring quality improvement in the form of TQM using the example of Apple, Inc. can facilitate a better understanding of the principles involved in the continuous strive to raise the level of quality to the highest level possible in the current competitive climate.
Background into Apple, Inc
Apple Inc. creates, manufactures, and markets mobile communication and media devices, personal computers, tablets, as well as other means of multimedia and accessories. The company’s mission statement is to “bring the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals, and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software, and Internet offerings” (Apple, 2021b).
Apple, Inc. began as a garage start-up by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who collaborated on creating their version of a stand-alone computer that would exceed its competitors in the market with its user-friendliness and focus on convenience. From that point, Apple experienced an upward trajectory both in US and global markets, with some hurdles along the way. The company’s revival fell in 2007 when Apple introduced the touch-screen iPhone and later the iPad in 2010 (Levy, 2021). The successful marketing efforts and the customer-focused on
At this time, Apple offers a wide variety of products ranging from smartphones to home media devices, with the possibility of inter-device connectivity through software and applications. Decades of work toward the development of top-quality products and services have led to Apple building a trillion-dollar technological ecosystem that now covers the globe (Khan, 2019). Besides, the global presence of the company has caused the organization to use different universal points of the regions in its favor, thus creating a win-win situation both for itself and each region. The organization’s expansion into a new market has always been based on the local sentiment and culture, and Apple has shown to be successful at such developments by dedicating to TQM and the spectrum of processes involved in the operations of the company.
Apple has experienced revenue growth over the last two years, significantly facilitated by services and products such as the AirPods and Apple Watch, even though its focus product, the iPhone, has stagnated (Garg, 2020). However, the introduction of lower-segment phones such as the iPhone 11 and the upgrading of Pro devices was expected to increase sales (Needham, 2021).
It is notable that the premium pricing, which is considered to be a limitation for the market demand, Apple’s policy has shown to be a source of competitive advantage (Garg, 2020). The company has been working on developing an expensive brand, which provides value for the price. In addition, with the maintenance of a relatively higher price point compared to market rivals, Apple has set itself distinctly higher over the competition. Such an approach has marked Apple’s popularity among customers with high purchasing power as well as those who only buy premium products.
Quality Improvement Efforts at Apple, Inc
The efforts that Apple implements to facilitate quality improvement at the organization are concerned with the objective to connect the company to its consumers to all the work toward customer satisfaction and achieve its goals. It is notable that the company’s approach toward maintaining and managing quality is unique and does not explicitly pertain to a specific approach. For example, there is evidence of the company using the Deming Cycle approach, although the company has not expressly stated that it had used every aspect of the process. For example, Apple Inc. does not carry out consumer research in the traditional way, such as through group surveys and or focus groups.
However, this does not entail that the organization does not want to take input from their potential customers who will use Apple products in their everyday lives (Podolny & Hansen, 2020). Instead, by observing the behaviors and interactions that customers have with the products at Apple stores, the company’s management responsible for product development has discovered ways in which a high-quality and non-intimidating design could be achieved (Apple, 2021a).
Another way in which Apple strives to develop a high-quality product is through continuous checking and assessment to ensure that each product is manufactured according to a pre-determined plan. Inside Apple’s highly secret testing facilities, each new item undergoes rigorous trials to guarantee the highest possible quality of the items being released to the market. For instance, it may seem unlikely that any normal smartphone would be subjected to extreme weather conditions; however, the testing labs may chill smartphones to the temperature of -40C or heat them to 110C (Griffin, 2019). Nevertheless, the testing is essential for ensuring the proper functioning of microchips embedded into the smartphones intended to store data (Griffin, 2019).
Moreover, chips cannot be improved or modified after phones get into customers’ hands, while software updates can be adjusted remotely (Griffin, 2019). Therefore, the company uses rigorous testing to find any possible hardware limitations, changing and fixing them to guarantee that smartphones, tablets, or laptops can cope with anything to which they are being subjected. Because of the high prices set on Apple products, it is essential that quality control and management reduce product malfunctioning risks.
Total quality management at Apple is also embedded into the organization’s marketing efforts. From the very conception of Apple, the marketing strategy that the company has been considered groundbreaking, especially since it had to compete with Microsoft. For example, the 1984 Macintosh TV advertisement is still viewed as one of the greatest commercials ever (Hiltzik, 2017).
The uniqueness behind Apple’s marketing strategy is concerned with enabling customers who want to belong to the community to purchase the product or service that is being advertised. Capitalizing on the universality of self-perception, the organization has made potential customers believe that the brand understands and likes them, which enables creation a sense of community over the products that the company produces and markets.
In its marketing efforts, Apple provides detail for each significant audience segment; the more detailed the profiles are, the more beneficial they become within the strategy. Specifically, Apple continuously monitors such demographic factors as gender, age, profession, and other information, as well as psychographics which includes desires, fears, pain points, and other data (Tu, Zhang, & Huang, 2018).
During marketing, Apple implements a customer-centric approach to make sure that every aspect of customers’ journeys, including customer service, is on the highest level possible. Through effective customer service, it is possible to develop a strong marketing strategy that enables loyalty to the brand and retaining the market share.
As an Apple product is being marketed to customers, the organization how the product has been accepted by the marketplace in terms of quality, price, and other criteria. When a product with flaws has been marketed to customers, Apple aims to work in order to correct it and make adjustments to perfect it. According to the company’s former CEO Steve Jobs, “when we fall short, which we sometimes do, we try harder, we pick ourselves up and figure out what’s wrong, and we try harder. […] When we succeed, they reward us by staying users” (as cited in Weinberger, 2017, para. 4).
Considering such statements, it shows that Apple is highly invested in how its products are being received by customers, thus aiming to improve product lines consistently. It is also necessary to state that when Apple apologizes for the faults in its products, it commits to giving information on how the issues can be fixed and, moreover, offer free replacements and adjustments to all customers who have invested in the faulty item. The example of the iPhone battery scandal shows that Apple is willing to learn from its mistakes.
Considering the fact that the feature of battery monitoring is very helpful to users, the battery-replacement program had to take place without any limitations, with customers getting an opportunity to be better informed and have improved-functioning iPhones (Weinberger, 2017). The way in which Apple handles quality issues shows that the organization can offer a good lesson about the importance of openness and transparency.
In addition to the Deming cycle that focuses on quality improvement, Apple has been shown to implement Deming’s Fourteen Points, which represent crucial elements for any company to survive and maintain its competitive advantage in the respective industry. When comparing the company’s approach to the product and service development with Deming’s Fourteen points, it becomes clear that there are some similarities to be noted (Fawzy & Olson, 2018)). For instance, the two points of creating constancy of purpose and adopting the new philosophy, it is evident that Apple includes them in the quality improvement efforts when it comes to designing new products.
According to Jonathan Ive, the majority of Apple’s competitors are invested in doing something new and different and appear innovative and exciting; however, these are the wrong goals because the main focus is making a product that is genuinely better than its previous version (as cited in Ogg, 2012). Because of this, Apple intends to introduce utterly new device categories rather than tactically responding to a particular product problem which, in turn, increases the expectations of quality (Ogg, 2012). For the company, it requires consistency and real discipline, which has shown to drive the brand forward – a genuine and sincere desire to do something that is objectively better.
The approach associated with introducing arguably the highest quality products in the market is what sets Apple from most of its competitors, thus helping elevate the long-term success of the organization. Furthermore, the goal of continuous product improvement enables the manufacturer to work on releasing new, updated and enhanced versions of the available product lines (Ogg, 2012).
Specifically, the latest iterations of new smartphones, tablets, digital watches, or laptops are not only implemented to improve the bottom line of the company but are also intended to correct design errors that competitors may often overlook, thus facilitating continuous quality improvement. Such an approach enables the brand to focus on people’s needs and wants first.
Since personnel represents a crucial component of the company’s success, the dedication of Apple to invest in the continuous training and hiring of professionals also plays a significant role in the company’s quality improvement efforts. These efforts align with such principles as the company’s internal training program, the so-called Apple University, was established as a tool for inculcating workers into the business culture of the organization, specifically as the business has been growing and the technology industry-changing (Chen, 2014).
Although the training process is highly secretive, it is known that employees are welcome to sign up for training courses that have been developed specifically for their positions and experience. Some courses may be tailored to workers who want to learn more about the business side of Apple, such as manufacturing or marketing, while others focus on the design aspect or communication (Chen, 2014). Notably, the running theme throughout Apple training sessions is to embed workers into the unique organizational culture where employees believe that they are making the best products in the market that will help improve customers’ lives.
Based on the assessment of Apple’s quality improvement efforts, it can be concluded that the company does not align itself with a specific approach intended to enhance the quality of products and services. Nevertheless, the organization serves as a prime example of putting quality first in the modern technological industry. Apple is known for its high standards of quality by dedicating itself to various areas of business that are interconnected and impact one another. The unique strategy that Apple has implemented is concerned with Total Quality Management that covers all areas of operation, ranging from Research & Development to customer service, and the highest quality that the company aims to achieve in such areas is what sets Apple products and services apart from the competition.
Specifically, in R&D, Apple professionals are concerned with continuous troubleshooting and ongoing testing to make sure that each product that reaches the market can stand against the identified risks and challenges. In marketing, Apple strives to create a community of like-minded customers who share the same vision regarding product quality and performance. In training, the company is dedicated to educating workers on the corporate culture and the promotion of Apple values and how they can be delivered to potential customers.
Being a trillion-dollar company, Apple has broad resources available to it and can use them for cultivating strategic planning and the consistent improvement of both business processes and technologies themselves. Thus, enhanced planning, production, and continuous improvement represent the pillars of Total Quality Management that Apple Inc. has been showing for decades of operation.
Apple. (2021a). Design. Web.
Apple. (2021b). Product feedback. Web.
Fawzy, M., & Olson, E. (2018). Total quality management & Apple success. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Management 2018 International Annual Conference. Web.
Garg, P. (2020). How has Apple gained competitive edge over the years?. Web.
Griffin, A. (2019). Inside Apple’s top-secret testing facilities where iPhone defences are forged in temperatures of -40C. Independent. Web.
Hiltzik, M. (2017). Column: A reminder that Apple’s ‘1984′ ad is the only great Super Bowl commercial ever — and it’s now 33 years old. Los Angeles Times. Web.
Khan, Y. (2019). All you need to know about Apple’s global presence. Web.
Levy, S. (2021). Apple Inc. American company. Web.
Ogg, E. (2012). Ive: Most Apple competitors have “completely wrong goals”. Web.
Podolny, J., & Hansen, M. (2020). How Apple is organized for innovation. Harvard Business Review. Web.
Tu, J-C., Zhang, X-Y., & Huang, S-Y. (2018). Key factors of sustainability for smartphones based on Taiwanese consumers’ perceived values. Sustainability, 10, 4446. Web.
Weinberger, M. (2017). Apple’s Battery Apology Could Be Its Most Important Ever. Entrepreneur. Web.