Total quality management (TQM) calls for all people in an organization to engage in activities that aim at improving services, products, processes, and work culture to ensure a sustainable competitive advantage. The ultimate goal of TQM is to achieve success in business through enhanced customer satisfaction levels. My course introduced me to various TQM principles. However, I found continuous improvement, just-in-time (JIT), and six-sigma concepts significant and highly applicable to my organization. This paper presents a self-critical review of these three principles.
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Critical Self-Reflection of TQM Aspects
According to Thorne, continuous improvement is a TQM aspect, which ensures that organizations remain ahead of their competitors through optimal operations efficiency (53). Consistent with this assertion, in my organization, process efficiency is a major area of focus in the effort to improve productivity levels, profit margins, and agility. Based on materials presented in class, continuous improvement entails an essential TQM principle that enables organizations to achieve long-term success. The study by Singh presents a contradictory perspective by arguing that implementing continuous improvement creates confusion since it emphasizes theoretical organizational operations mechanisms instead of describing a set of executable concepts (392). Nevertheless, this opposing opinion does not mean that continuous improvements are not implementable. Indeed, Thorne describes a set of things that companies need to do to implement Kaizen activities (54). According to him, an organization needs to pay attention to incremental growth, create a work enhancement culture, adopt business process management approaches, and execute operations upgrading and re-engineering.
In line with concepts learned in class, the TQM principle, as Thorne points out, works by ensuring a never-ending process of continuous improvements covering people, equipment, suppliers, materials, and procedures (54). Apart from emphasizing the existence of zero defects in an organization, this TQM aspect adopts the concept of kaizen, which Singh presents as crucial in facilitating an ongoing process of unending improvements to guarantee superior quality products and services (393). My course illustrated the principle of continuous improvement using the Toyota Company. This globally recognized carmaker offers the best example of how the kaizen concept works. In particular, it continuously improves respect among people by treating them as knowledge workers, engages employees in mental and physical capabilities, empowers them, and ensures the standardization of processes and work practices (Muller 52). This way, people, specifically clients, are treated as the most important sources of Toyota Company’s competitive advantage.
Although Thorne identifies greater agility, boosting employees’ work morale and accountability, higher productivity, and increased profitability as key benefits of continuous improvement (55), Muller’s study reveals how an organization can implement this TQM concept to take advantage of the underlying advantages (52). In my course, I learned about Shewhart’s Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, which is a popular tool for ensuring process improvement within a company. This tool is designed as a circle reflecting the fact that continuous improvement is never an ending process. Rather, it is a repetitive plan. The first stage, plan, involves identifying enhancement opportunities, problem description, and brainstorming, which lead to plan development (Thorne 54). One can also identify anticipated outcomes after resolving the stated problem, which explains the need for continuous improvement. The other step, do, involves executing the plan in a micro-scale form to ensure minimal disruptions of the existing organizational processes. As Thorne confirms, adopting this strategy helps to address the problem of change resistance while at the same time paving the way for solution testing to guarantee the attainment of anticipated outcomes (54).
The “check” phase involves making comparisons between the results of the previous stage with the outcomes established earlier in the first step. In case the intended results are unrealized, one re-starts the cycle. Otherwise, process improvement moves to the fourth level, namely, acting. In this step, the concerned organization adopts a macro-level implementation of the solution (Thorne 54). Nevertheless, I learned from the course that the PDCA framework is not a one-time improvement initiative. Therefore, the cycle is repeated whenever opportunities for improving a previous process emerge.
The Just-in-Time Principle
According to Jung et al., the just-in-time concept involves reducing the time taken to execute various organizational procedures (534). It emphasizes the need for not only suppliers responding to customers promptly but also ensuring reduced flow times in a manufacturing system. As presented in class, I realized that holding stocks of materials and delaying work-in-process and finished products awaiting customer delivery are regarded as wastes that organizations should avoid to realize their TQM initiatives. According to Shabtay et al., holding materials under the just-in-time production system is minimal, a strategy that reduces handling and warehousing costs (2591). Based on the contents presented in class, JIT relies on approaches such as enhanced physical organization, process control, and ensuring perfection in all stages to eliminate wastage and defects. This lesson is in line with views by Jung et al. who regard a just-in-time system as one that results in “set up reduction, uniform plant load, controlled visibility, preventive maintenance, and a balanced workflow” (534). Shabtay et al. offer resourceful recommendations for companies that wish to attain improved productivity levels. According to these authors, JIT requires organizations to employ multi-skilled workers who can execute more than one function in a manner whereby small groups take part in improvement activities (2593). Overall, Jung et al. (534) and Shabtay et al. (2591) agree that production facilities should not only be fit for use but also adopt product-oriented designs. These views require factories to have a one-way flow of materials from the starting to the finishing point of product manufacturing processes.
A JIT production facility has no stock of materials or finished products stored in internal warehouses. This situation has led to different scholarly opinions. For example, Jung et al. see it as beneficial since it helps an organization to effectively manage its cash flow (535). These authors note that holding inventories disadvantages an organization. In particular, storing more than what is required in the present production process is not only capital-intensive but also introduces additional costs such as damages of materials in warehouses. It also calls for the utilization of the already constrained space, which, in turn, hinders efficient operations. Crain disagrees with the above just-in-time premise of holding the required stock of materials. This author claims that this move eliminates the benefit of tapping other exciting and unpredicted opportunities due to insufficiencies associated with the stock at hand. According to Crain, it may take a long time to acquire the necessary parts. Hence, it becomes inappropriate where urgent stock replenishing is required since this may translate to lost sales. This demerit affects customers. Specifically, where a manufacturer cannot meet the required product quality standards, it may take a long time to figure out possible alternatives.
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According to Jung et al., instances of manufacturing firms predicting demand rates increase the probability of purchasing materials that are unlikely to be used in the future (537). Clients’ tastes and preferences keep on changing to the extent of compelling companies to respond by altering the existing product designs. The value of materials may also deteriorate. In this case, even if they are used, they result in products with poor quality, hence failing to meet customers’ expectations. Nonetheless, in my opinion, which in line with the materials taught in class, the just-in-time system requires companies to implement effective strategies for controlling the flow of inventories.
The Concept of Six-Sigma
The Motorola Company was the first to execute the concept of six-sigma before General Electric (GE) later endorsed it. Madhani supports the importance of the six-sigma aspect as part of TQM approaches by noting that it improves quality by reducing defects, costs, and time wastage (44). High-quality products are more likely to satisfy customers. Hence, this TQM principle is important in building clients’ loyalty to a particular company’s commodities. Through the six-sigma concept, organizations achieve production accuracy of close to 100% (Madhani 47). Hence, in every one million units of products, only three defects may be witnessed. This accuracy level is achieved through empirical statistical methods or the experiential modeling of various manufacturing processes. Amid the benefits of the six-sigma principle in ensuring constant product and service improvements through reduced wastage via issues such as pollution, Nourelfath et al. regarding the implementation of this concept as highly demanding (6092). Its execution process requires the strong commitment of top management officials. However, its emphasis on reducing defects or products falling out of customers’ range of specifications indicates its significance in enhancing organizational competitiveness.
My course presented the six-sigma concept as a process for improving product quality. Any organization can easily implement this TQM principle. For example, the probability of encountering a defect is easy to compute using the six-sigma calculator. Projects that uphold this principle can also be implemented through sub-methodologies such as to define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC) and define, measure, analyze, design, and verify (DMADV) frameworks (Madhani 50). The former six-sigma strategy seeks to enhance “existing processes falling below specifications and looking for incremental improvement” (Madhani 50). DMADV applies to processes that aim at developing new products or procedures. It is also deployed to deal with processes that require a complete overhaul to solve quality issues, as opposed to focusing on incremental improvements.
The case General Electric illustrates the value of implementing the above TQM principles at my company. According to Madhani, GE reported benefits amounting to 10 billion American dollars within the first five years upon implementing the six-sigma concept (53). Since then, many other companies, including Motorola, Texas Instruments, and Telefonica de Espana, have implemented this approach (Nourelfath et al. 6093). It is also valuable for companies in the engineering, construction, and finance industries.
Organizations operating in the present-day competitive environment need to seek strategies for improving their products, services, and processes to ensure optimal customer satisfaction. Eliminating wastes in both human capital and operations enables them to increase productivity and profit margins while at the same time lowering their prices of products and services to achieve cost leadership. After conducting a self-critical analysis of TQM principles learned in the course, the paper has identified six-sigma, continuous improvement, and the just-in-time strategy as three important aspects that can be implemented in my organization to boost efficiency, performance, and, consequently, profitability.
Crain, Keith. “Just in Time Isn’t Foolproof.” Automotive News, 2018, Web.
Jung, Kyung, et al. “Supply Planning Models for Remanufacturer under Just-In-Time Manufacturing Environment with Reverse Logistics.” Annals of Operations Research, vol. 240, no. 2, 2016, pp. 533-581.
Madhani, Pankaj M. “Six Sigma Deployment in Sales and Marketing: Enhancing Competitive Advantages.” IUP Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 14, no. 2, 2017, pp. 40-63.
Muller, Joann. “Toyota Recharges.” Forbes, vol. 197, no. 7, 2016, pp. 50-56.
Nourelfath, Mustapha, et al. “Evaluating Six Sigma Failure Rate for Inverse Gaussian Cycle Times.” International Journal of Production Research, vol. 54, no. 20, 2016, pp. 6092-6101.
Shabtay, Dvir, et al. “Single-Machine Two-Agent Scheduling Involving a Just-In-Time Criterion.” International Journal of Production Research, vol. 53, no. 9, 2015, pp. 2590-2604.
Singh, Ramjit. “Empirical Examination of the Impact of Total Quality Services on the Hospitality Industry Business.” Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, vol. 16, no. 4, 2015, pp. 389-413.
Thorne, Jon J. “Developing an Improvement-Driven Plant: Leading Indicators Not Only Help Predict the Lagging Results, They Also Serve as a Starting Point for Continuous Improvement Because They Measure the Processes That Can Be Directly Managed.” Plant Engineering, vol. 69, no. 6, 2015, pp. 52-55.