Quality Management was a natural offshoot of industrialization. Quality management became necessary to help reduce the quantity of defective products arising from production processes. Companies that managed to increase the quality of their products and to reduce defects in their finished products remained profitable. This report looks at the evolution of quality management as a field. It also explores the current methods and applications of quality management.
Definition of Quality
The definition of quality is evolutionary. This comes from the changes in industry affecting quality management approaches and quality management standards. One definition of quality is “freedom from defects” (Stephens 71). This definition applies to the level of workmanship. In this case, the aim of quality management is to eliminate defects through good workmanship. Another definition of quality is “product features” (Stephens 71). In this case, the quality of a product refers to the number of features the product possesses in relation to other products in its range. Taken together, the two definitions show that the current view of quality supersedes excellent workmanship to include the variety of product features.
Another definition of quality is “fitness for purpose” (Lal 1). This definition seeks to make quality a factor of product performance in the context of use. It advances the idea that a perfect product in the wrong context cannot meet the performance demands of that context. Therefore, despite freedom from defects and possession of superior features, a product may have a low quality rating for the specified application. These definitions show that the meaning of quality depends on usage. It is important to define the context before using any of the definitions of quality.
The History and Development of Quality Management
The history of quality management goes back to ancient Babylon. The Hammurabi building code imposed a death sentence on any mason who built a house that later collapsed and killed the occupants (Thomas 201). While the Hammurabi code did not have elaborate rules comparable to those in many cities today, it dealt with the fitness for purpose of any house. Later on, the Egyptians developed a process control system to handle the quarrying of stones for pyramid construction (Thomas 205). The stability of the pyramids depended on the uniformity of the stones used in their construction. This meant that process control was necessary to ensure each stone met its performance requirements.
During the middle ages, quality control became an important facet of shipbuilding because of the risks associated with sailing in poorly designed vessels. Ports with long ship building traditions used quality management to ensure that each ship was fit for its purpose. Quality management became more important during the industrial revolution because of the proliferation of industries. Manufacturers found it necessary to develop quality standards for various reasons. First, the profitability of the industries depended on the efficient utilization of raw materials (Mukherjee 48).
Industries needed raw materials in unprecedented quantities. The only way to make a profit was to use the raw materials efficiently. Secondly, quality controls made it possible for industries to predict the market value of their products (Mukherjee 52). Mass production led to the need for standardized prices. The only way to ensure that customers would purchase goods at the same price was if the manufacturers could produce the same quality of goods. Thirdly, quality became a source of competitive advantage (Dalic 26). Companies that built strong reputations as producers of high quality products gained a market advantage.
In the early years of the twentieth century, Fredrick Winslow Taylor wrote a book entitled, “Principles of Scientific Management” (Lal 22). This book, among other things, identified the need for quality inspections in manufacturing facilities. Taylor saw the need to employ a specialized quality inspector in each industry to ensure that all products released to the market met certain quality standards (Lal 22). His pioneering work led to the development of quality control systems in many industries. As mass production gained credence, quality control became critical for profitability. Each part produced on a production line needed to meet certain quality requirements before the assembly of the final product.
After the Second World War, quality philosophers such as Edward Deming, Joseph Muran, and Philip Krosby developed philosophical insights into quality control. Their insights took advantage of the statistical methods of quality measurement developed in the twenties for quality control. Kaoru Ishikawa synthesized their thoughts in the late sixties and based on his ideas, Japanese industries developed their quality management systems (Stephens 37). These systems gave Japan leadership in product quality management for many decades. Companies such as Toyota developed the Toyota System as its quality control adaptation (Stephens 76). Many Japanese companies practice lean manufacturing and have several other approaches to Total Quality Management (TQM).
Today, quality management uses computerized processes for speed and accuracy. Many manufacturers are aiming to establish non-defective production processes because of the high cost of handling defective products. The main area of contemporary research in quality management is product design. System design is more challenging than component design. Many manufacturers have attained very high quality levels in component design. The challenge is the overall product design. In the automotive sector, the strict quality requirements have been behind the massive recalls of automobiles because of defective system designs. This area requires the input of researchers and process engineers.
The Key Principles of Quality Management
Authors have no consensus regarding the number of fundamental concepts that comprise TQM. However, they all seem to capture the same concepts expressed in different ways. This report adopts the format of TQM principles in the ISO 9000 series. ISO 9000 series identifies eight principles of TQM.
The first principle of TQM according to the ISO 9000 series is customer focus (ISO 3). This principle encourages every organization to make its customers a central part of its operations. This comes from the understanding that the organization depends on its customers for survival. In this sense, the organization must strive to meet the current and future needs of its customers. This calls for the organization to conduct market research continually in order to uncover and meet customer needs and expectations. In addition, the business objectives of the organization should come from customer expectations. This ensures that everyone in the organization works towards meeting the needs of the customers.
The second principle of TQM is leadership (ISO 4). This principle encourages every organization to streamline its leadership function. The principle arose from the positive correlation between focused leadership and superior business performance. One of the goals of streamlining the leadership function is to eliminate miscommunication between different leadership levels in an organization. This principle also encourages leaders to motivate workers towards superior performance. Leaders are also supposed to set challenging goals for the organization. Challenging goals tend to motivate employees to strive towards excellence. Finally, this principle also requires leaders to avail all the resources that employees need to perform their tasks well.
Thirdly, ISO identifies the involvement of people as a principle of TQM (5). The fundamental focus of this principle is the appreciation of all people in the organization as valuable contributors to the objectives of the organization. This principle advocates for Theory Y leadership. It means that the leaders should ensure that everyone understands his or her role in the organization. It encourages leaders to help all employees to know what they contribute towards the organization and the importance of their contribution. This principle also encourages openness in information sharing. In addition, it encourages collective problem solving approaches. In summary, this principle encourages organizations to value and utilize their human resource.
The fourth TQM principle is the use of the process approach (ISO 5). This principle underscores the fact that when an organization uses the process approach to manage its activities, it achieves its goals more efficiently. The use of the process approach ensures that the organization posts predictable results. Once the organization establishes a process for handling a certain issue, it focuses on streamlining the process in order to improve its overall performance. An organization needs to analyze how various processes interact in order to find avenues for improving performance. In addition, the organization must analyze the impact of each process on its stakeholders such as customers, shareholders and its employees.
The fifth TQM principle according to the ISO 9000 series is the use of a system approach to management (ISO 6). The goal of this principle is to break down management silos in the organization. Each organization that does not use a system approach in its management creates an environment that can lead to the emergence of fiefdoms. This can create artificial blockages in the operations of the organization that can reduce overall organizational efficiency. This model also makes it easy for the organization to measure its performance.
The ISO 9000 series identifies continual improvement as a TQM principle (ISO 8). Unlike static improvement processes, continual improvement as espoused by TQM makes finding and eliminating bottlenecks an on-going process in an organization. The ability to implement this principle is what separates regular organizations from dynamic ones. The main advantage of this principle is that it gives the organization the ability to take advantage of emerging opportunities effectively. It makes change a normal process of organizational life. This principle encourages the organization to make continuous improvements in its products, processes, and systems (ISO 8). The effective implementation of this principle is what leads to organizational growth.
The seventh principle of TQM according to the ISO 9000 series is the use of facts in decision-making (ISO 9). This principle encourages every organization to institutionalize the use of logical decision-making processes. The advantage of a fact-based approach to decision making is that each person in the organization can appreciate and anticipate the decisions that the organization will take in any situation. This makes it easy for people to step in for others whenever the need arises. To implement this principle, each organization needs to ensure that every person has access to the information he or she needs to make good decisions. In addition, the organization must always ensure that the information is accurate.
Finally, the ISO 9000 series identified mutually beneficial supplier relationships as the eighth TQM principle. The basic assumption behind this principle is that each organization and its suppliers are mutually dependent. This means that each of them should identify mutually beneficial arrangements. Good supplier relationships give organizations the ability to take advantage of emergent opportunities. Organizations that seek to implement this principle should plan joint improvement programs with their suppliers, alongside other cooperative ventures. In the same breath, each organization should identify its key suppliers and work towards deepening their relations.
Quality Management Thinkers
The emergence of quality management as an academic discipline as well as its adoption in industry relied on the work of the champions of TQM. These champions were scholars and philosophers in the field of quality management. The notable champions of TQM were Edward Deming, Joseph M. Juran, A. V. Feigenbaum, Kaoru Ishikawa, and Philip Crosby.
Edward Deming was a statistician who came up with fourteen key principles for quality improvement. Deming was philosophically opposed to the use of management by objectives. He helped to bring to the fore the need to add quality management to the essential role of supervisors. He encouraged organizations to bring down management silos and other organizational barriers in order to turn the workforce into a cooperative team.
Apart from the fourteen principles, Deming also identified barriers to the effective deployment of quality management. The list he made included lack of purpose, and emphasis on short-term profits (Lal 33). A comparison of Deming’s fourteen principles and those espoused by ISO shows that Deming had captured the essence of TQM, but had too many specifics in his list of principles. Each of them can comfortably fit within the eight TQM principles of the ISO 9000 series.
The second champion of TQM was Joseph M. Juran. Juran first came to the limelight when he proposed the application of the Pareto principle to the quality management. This approach defined his philosophy and forms part of his quality management legacy. Juran also developed the quality trilogy, which comprised quality planning, quality control, and quality improvement (Stephens 14). Part of Juran’s discomfort with the quality management approaches of his time was that they focused on the quality of the finished product instead of focusing on the entire planning process. By the time quality checks came into play, it was already too late. At best, quality control processes could only identify defective products, rather than stop the production of defective products from the onset.
The third champion of quality control was Armand Vallin Feigenbaum. Feigenbaum was the one who developed the concept of Total Quality Control, which later evolved into TQM. He contributed to quality control in several ways. First, he developed Total Quality Control, which was the precursor to TQM, and is the foundation of the present day practice of quality management. Secondly, Feigenbaum developed the concept of the hidden plant. The hidden plant refers to all the activities that an organization undertakes to revise poor quality work (Bender and Krasnick 14).
When Feigenbaum looked at all the hidden efforts, he concluded that these activities were significant enough to form a hidden plant within the factory. Thirdly, Feigenbaum developed the concept of quality accountability (Bender and Krasnick 15). Essentially, he tried to find ways of making people accountable for quality in the organization. This approach can help an organization to eliminate quality lapses in processes where no one is accountable. Feigenbaum also developed the concept of quality costs by showing that the production of poor quality goods and services costs the organization time and money (Thomas 28).
The fourth champion of quality control was Kaoru Ishikawa. Ishikawa developed the philosophies of Juran and Deming by finding ways of applying them to Japanese companies. Ishikawa conceptualized quality circles and then trained organizations on how to use quality circles (Bender and Krasnick 66). The essential quality principles propagated by Ishikawa were as follows. First Ishikawa believed in continuous improvement of processes, products, and systems (Lal 14). He encouraged organizations to implement continuous improvement mechanisms in their production processes. Secondly, Ishikawa believed that organizations needed to worry about quality at every stage of production. This was in response to the prevailing practice where quality inspections took place at the end of the production process.
Finally, the fifth champion of quality management was Philip Crosby. Crosby developed four main precepts. Crosby defined quality as conformance to requirements (Mukherjee 34). In this case, the requirements meant product and customer requirements. Secondly, Crosby believed that prevention was the only way of attaining high quality production standards (Mukherjee 38). This meant that it was important to do something in the right way during the first attempt. This eliminates the costs associated with revisions. Thirdly, Crosby popularized the notion that the standard all quality management processes should aim for is to have no defects (Bender and Krasnick 72). This is an absolute standard. Finally, Crosby postulated that the price of quality was the cost of quality failure (Bender and Krasnick 72).
Quality Management Approaches
The measurement of the quality of services is different from the measurement of the quality of manufactured goods. This difference arises from the nature of goods and services. Customers can assess the quality of a product after picking it off a shelf, and can predict with reasonable accuracy how any other copy of the same product will perform. When it comes to services, it is impossible for a customer to predict whether the quality of services received from a company will be satisfactory at a different time. The reason for this is that customers access services on demand, while they access manufactured products in advance. In this regard, the measurement of the quality of manufactured products differs from the measurement of the quality of services.
Measuring the Quality of a Manufactured Product
Based on the definitions of quality discussed in the previous section, it is possible to deduce the essential factors to consider when measuring the quality of manufactured products. The first approach of measuring the quality of manufactured products is by examining how the finished product compares to the design specifications. This measure is useful when using the no-defects approach to quality management. In this case, the basis for product testing is the ideal performance standards set during the design phase. The second approach to the testing of the quality of manufactured products is checking whether the product is fit for purpose. The idea in this case is to determine whether the product meets the functional requirements and customer expectations (Martin 19).
This measure is ideal for testing products that are new in the market. Such products require performance testing to ensure that they meet market needs. Another approach for measuring the quality of manufactured goods is by using statistical techniques (Mukherjee 65). The methods used in statistical measurement of quality include checking the degree of conformity of a batch of products to design standards against the number of defective products in the same batch. This means that an organization uses measures that indicate the percentage of defective products in relation to non-defective products. This approach is useful for measuring changes in production quality in numerical terms. However, knowing the number of defective products as a statistical expression is only the first step in instituting quality control measures.
Measuring Quality of a Service
Measuring the quality of a service is not as easy as measuring the quality of a product. The reason for this is that services expire at the point of consumption and are not available for review later. However, each organization can use customer feedback as a means of measuring the quality of services offered by the organization. A company can also measure the quality of the services offered statistically by reviewing the feedback it gets from its customers.
A company needs to collect reviews from its customers. Usually, organizations have places where customers can give their feedback in the form of complaints, or compliments. By counting the number of complaints received per unit number of customers, a company can establish whether the services it renders meet the desired criteria. This approach requires care because not every customer provides feedback to the organization. In fact, a large number of unhappy customers do not give feedback (BSI 1). A company may not even realize that it has lost business to its competitors.
A second way of measuring the quality of services is by examining the number of customers who use the company’s services. This means that it is important to keep track of the number of customers who seek services from a company, and the number of repeat customers. If the company realizes that it is serving an increasing number of customers per given time, then it can tell whether its services have the appropriate quality dimensions. A reduction in the number of clients can mean that there are quality lapses in the provision of services. It is important to note that number alone cannot be a good indicator of the quality of services offered. The company may have other competitive advantages that lead to high customer numbers, such as a convenient business location.
Quality Management in the US and Japanese Firms from the Fifties
Quality management in Japan took off earlier than in the US. After the Second World War, Japan decided to focus on industrial growth as its national priority. Initially, Japanese products were not competitive in the global market because of low quality workmanship. The work of thinkers like Kaoru Ishikawa made Japan change its attitude towards quality management. Ishikawa, among other quality management promoters influenced the Japanese industry by introducing quality management thinking and practices in the country. During the same period, the US was a world leader in manufacturing. The country had well developed industries and stable industrial models. However, quality management was not a priority for many companies in the US. Manufacturers were happy with their production processes and were not keen to improve the prevailing methods. This went on until the seventies.
The energy crisis of the late seventies made the world aware of quality improvements in Japan. The country had made the production of fuel-efficient cars a central priority in its automobile industry. The result was that when people started looking for efficient cars, Japanese cars proved their worth. In addition to automobiles, Japanese machinery started making their way to shops in the US. Companies such as Fuji and Sony became household names in the US because of their ability to produce goods that rivaled the quality of products made in the US.
The eighties saw the reemergence of the US as a production powerhouse. The US proved to be innovative in its product design processes. In addition, management consultants, working with quality management specialists started training companies in the US on quality control. Companies in the US that took quality control seriously soon became competitive against Japanese companies. In some cases, Japanese companies opened branches in the US to handle the local market. Companies based in the US did the same in Japan to benefit from the Japanese quality culture. The result was a general increase in quality standards in the two countries.
Today, TQM is a standardized process found in both the US and Japan. Different companies have different adaptations for use in their context. The rising power in the world right now is China. China is becoming a strong partner to many countries because of its huge manufacturing capabilities. China is suffering from quality control problems partly because of its history. China is competitive because of the low labor costs in the country. Based on Japan’s history, China can catch up with the US and Japan in the coming years if it adopts quality control as a central tenet of industrial growth.
Examples of Quality Practices in UAE Organizations
Many organizations in the UAE use TQM principles to run their affairs. Two of these organizations are Mashreq and the Dubai Customs. Mashreq is an ISO certified banking institution. Mashreq obtained an ISO 9000 certification in regards to its service quality. Mashreq identified four main customer needs in its efforts towards achieving ISO 9000 certification. First, the company realized that it is vital for it to achieve a superior level of reliability, efficiency, and effectiveness in its services (BSI 1).
The UAE is an important financial hub for the Middle East. Competition in the financial services sector is very stiff. A lackadaisical performance is a recipe for disaster for any financial services provider. In this regard, Mashreq set for itself challenging goals in regards to the quality of services that its clients can expect. Secondly, Mashreq made a commitment to ensure that it would improve its processes, systems, and services continually, while at the same time ensuring that staff morale remained high (BSI 2). This goal was consistent with the principles of TQM. The third commitment that Mashreq made towards quality improvement was to demonstrate an ongoing commitment towards its customers.
This commitment was very similar to one of the principles of TQM that encourages organizations to focus on their customers. The fourth commitment Mashreq made was to benchmark its services with international players (BSI 2). This commitment showed that Mashreq realized that the UAE is becoming an international financial hub. The organization also hoped that setting high goals would motivate its staff members to engage in their work with greater focus. The main issue in Mashreq’s ISO 9000 certification was that the organization demonstrated its commitment to TQM, and continual process improvement. The organization has put systems in place to aid it to improve its processes, systems, and products.
The second organization that is practicing TQM is Dubai Customs. Dubai Customs is a very busy organization by virtue of Dubai’s role as a transport hub of the UAE, the Arab countries, and beyond. The emirate is also becoming a critical connection point for international flights. The management of Dubai Customs acted on the need to reduce and eventually eliminate all quality concerns in regards to the services offered by the organization. The managers were alive to the fact that dissatisfied customers tend to go away without talking to anyone. On the other hand, it is possible to win back customers who voice their complaints.
The managers of Dubai Customs chose to invite quality assessors from LRQA to conduct a quality assessment. This decision shows that the organization was ready to risk its reputation for the benefit of its customers. It also demonstrates that the organization was confident about its systems.
The certification process took five months. This period was shorter than normal because of the commitment of the organization to TQM. The certification project had several aspects, which included gap analysis, internal audits, external audits, and the eventual certification (Lloyds Register 2). The certification project aimed at ensuring that Dubai Customs achieved the ISO 10002 certification for the handling of complaints. Handling of complaints is a very critical aspect of service quality.
The objective was to ensure that Dubai Customs would handle at least three quarters of all complaints within a week. By the end of the certification project period, the time had reduced to two and a half days. The project also included an audit of the actual complaint management system. The auditors assessed the effectiveness of the actions generated from complaint resolution processes, against the needs of the clients of the organization. This helped the organization to find a way of measuring the quality of the solutions it gave to its customers.
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