The Evolution of Total Quality Management

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The Evolution of Total Quality Management

A useful way to begin to understand the evolution of TQM is to link it to show how the industrial world was developing at the time TQM was evolving.

Until the industrial revolution in the mid 18th century, most goods were custom made. Industrialisation brought about a fundamental shift from cottage industry production to large scale manufacturing. Simultaneously, industrial activity underwent extensive mechanisation. As explained by Ho, ‘craftsmen were diminishing and being replaced by mass production and repetitive work practices.’ The aim with the new industrial era was to produce large numbers of the same product which required processes to be put in place to control quality as it could not be left up to individuals.

Cali explains that the shift away from the production of goods by individual craftsmen bought about the introduction of the assembly line between 1900 and1940 in America where products passed consecutively through various operations. Cali describes how ‘Standardisation became the trend’ adding that the prevailing management thinking at this time centred around keeping jobs simple and under close supervision. The expectation was that workers would meet standards only if closely supervised.

The 2nd world war played a key role in the evolution of TQM. Factories geared up for mass production and were split into functional departments. At the end of the war, America undertook the rebuilding of Japan’s shattered economy. Amongst the many Americans that were sent to Japan to support this effort was Dr W Edwards Deming. He was instrumental in convincing the Japanese to adopt the principles of industrial efficiency and thus the development of the TQM theory was born. He advocated a climate of ‘continuous improvement’. “Listen to me” Deming told the Japanese “…and in 5 yrs you will be competing with the West. Keep listening and soon the West will be demanding protection from you”.

Using his TQM principles, firstly with manufacturing and then to sales and other areas, the Japanese gradually developed their own version of TQM so that by the 1970s, they had begun to dominate some of the manufacturing markets. Deming believed they had done this because they had learned a fundamental principle of TQM that was summed up by Deming: “Nobody except the Japanese understand that as you improve quality, you also improve productivity.”

During the 1970s, American’s position as the world’s foremost industrial power had begun to decline. For example, the U.S. share of the manufacturing market in 1970 was down to 17% from a high in the 1950s of 35% (Cali pg16). Brown believes that the reason for this decline can be partly explained by the way American companies practised the art of inspections in manufacturing products whilst their Japanese counterparts embraced the TQM consumer needs messages promoted by quality gurus including Feigenbaum who promoted the principle that “The total composite product and service characteristics … through which the product or service in use will meet the expectation of the customer” (Feigenbaum in Brown et al, 2000, pg 194).

The reaction by American firms to the success of Japanese was to adopt more of the principles taught by the American TQM gurus. Cali describes how ‘Many American companies achieved success by refocusing their attention on quality and by making satisfied customers their top priority.’

During the early days of manufacturing, inspections were seen as the best way to insure quality within a business. Ho explains that this is a process by which an operative’s work was inspected on a frequent bases and a decision was made on whether or not the individuals work was at a high enough standard. At the time this was seen as an acceptable way of insuring quality in a business, it become larger as the business grew and it created many inspection jobs.

However, often as a business progresses, problems can be more advanced and...
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