Total Quality Management

May 11, 2012

Concept of Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is based on a Japanese Concept called Kaizen, is the philosophy of continually seeking ways to improve operations. It invloves identifying benchmarks of excellent practices and instilling a sense of employee ownership of the process. The focus can be on:

  • Reducing the length of time required to process requests for loans in bank
  • The amount of scrap generated at a milling machine or the number of employee injuries.
  • Continuous improvement can also focus on problems with customers or suppliers, such as customers who request frequent changes in shipping quantities and suppliers that to maintain high quality.

The bases of the continuous improvement philosophy are the beliefs that virtually any aspect of an operation can be improved and that the people most closely associated with an operation are in the best position to identify the changes that should be made. Consequently, employee involvement plays a big role in continuous improvement programs.

Getting Started with Continuous Improvement

Instilling a philosophy of continuous improvement in an organization may be a  lengthy process, and several steps are essential to its eventual success.

  1. Train employees in the methods of statistical process control (SPC) and other tools for improvement quality.
  2. Make SPC methods a normal aspect of daily operations.
  3. Build work teams and employee involvement.
  4. Utilize problem-solving techniques within work teams.
  5. Develop a sense of operator ownership of the process.

Here employee involvement is central to the philosophy of continuous improvement. However, the last two steps are crucial if the philosophy is to be the part of everyday operations.A sense of operator ownership emerges when employees feel as if they own the processes and methods they use and take pride in the quality of product or service they produce. It comes from participation on work teams and in problem-solving activities, which instill in employees a feeling that they have some control over their workplace.

Source: Operations Management, Strategy and Analysis, Fourth Edition, Karajewski/Ritzman, Page151-152

May 5, 2009

Formal Work Group and its Role in Continuous Improvement: Quality Circles

Quality Circle Training

Quality Circle Training

Formal work groups result primarily from the organizing function of management. In other words group of people who report to a supervisor is a formal work group. The role of formal work group is very important in achieving quality and productivity at workplace. There are different team configurations that strive hard to achieve these objectives. One such use of formal work group is the quality circle, which originated in Japan. A quality circle is composed of a group of employees (usually 5 to 15 people) who are members of a single work unit, section, or department. The unit’s supervisor or manager is usually included as member of the quality circle. These employees have a common bond; they perform similar service or function by turning out a product, part of a product, or a service. Membership in a quality circle is almost always voluntary. The basic purpose of a quality circle is to discuss quality problems and to generate ideas that might help improve quality. (more…)

March 18, 2009

Kaizen: The Life Blood of Standardized Work

Standardized work and KAIZEN are the means by which people make the Toyota Production System work. People are by far the most important element of the entire system. Without the support of everyone involved, no part of the system will work. No matter how ingenious the method of production or service  may be,  for example, if the workers do not follow rules, the entire system of production control will fall apart. (more…)

March 16, 2009

Jidoka-The Second Pillar of Lean Production System

Jidoka is Japanese word which is usually translated to English as automation. But at Toyota, Jidoka refers to as the ability of production lines to be stopped in the eventuality of such problems as equipment malfunctions, quality problems or work being late, either by machines which have the ability to sense abnormalities or by employees. (more…)

December 1, 2008



Published with Permission of Norman Bodek author of book "The Idea Generator."

Kaizen is a Japanese word. It is basically composed of two words “KAI” means change and “ZEN” means better. In other words it means change for betterment or improvement.

Kaizen is a philosophy that defines management’s role in continuously encouraging and implementing small improvements involving everyone. It is the process of continuous improvement in small increments that make the process more efficient, effective, under control, and adaptable.

Improvements are usually accomplished at little or no expense, without sophisticated techniques or expensive equipments.

It focuses on simplification by breaking down complex processes into their sub-processes and then improving them.

The Kaizen improvement focuses on the use of:

  1. Value-added and non-value-added work activities.
  2. Muda, which refers to seven classes of waste-overproduction, delay, transportation, processing,inventory, wasted motion, and defective parts.
  3. Principles of motion study and use of cell technology.
  4. Principles of material handling and use of one-piece flow.
  5. Documentation of standard operating procedures.
  6. The five S’s for workplace organization. (Already explained in Lean Production Post)
  7. Visual management by means of visual displays that everyone in the plant can use for better communications.
  8. Just-in-time principles to produce only the units in the right quantities, at the right time, and with right resources.
  9. Poka-yoke to prevent or detect errors.
  10. Team dynamics, which include problem solving, communication skills, and conflict resolution.

Kaizen relies heavily on a culture that encourages suggestions by operators who continually try to incrementally improve their job or process.

September 12, 2008

Organizing for Total Quality Management: Structures and Teams

When we talk about organizing for Total Quality Management, we mean preparing and organizing people in such a manner that they could work according to the philosophies and practices of TQM. One such way is to compare the traditional organization and the organization based upon
TQM philosophy.

The traditional organization of employees in a company is based upon cascading of authority that can best be illustrated in a pyramid, on the apex of which lies top management, then comes middle management, functional management, supervisors, and employees. This organization of employees, though traditionally accepted and most  appropriately defined way to express the employee organization in a company, does not fit well with the TQM philosophy.

Interestingly, when you view organizing of staff based upon TQM philosophy, the traditional pyramid turns upside down. Why? because TQM is highly customer focused philosophy. If you see the inverted pyramid you would notice that customer comes first, which is followed by the employees, front-line supervisors,and so on and so forth.

Why is that so? The answer is simple. The organization need to give particular emphasis on the development of its front-line staff and supervisors since they are the company in the eyes of their customers. For example front-line staff may be a flight attendant, the bank taller, the sales person, a call center operator, etc. (more…)

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