Continuous Improvement

Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management (TQM) involves all coordinated activities and procedures to maintain or increase the quality of products or services in a company. The goal of TQM is to control and optimize product or service quality and the related customer satisfaction.

TQM originated in the manufacturing sector, but its principles can be applied to a variety of industries. In the grain industry, we frequently think of grains and oilseeds as commodities rather than products; they are in fact products we are providing to an end user along with services.

TQM is a management framework based on the belief that an organization can build long-term success by having all its members – from low-level workers to its highest-ranking executives – focus on improving quality of products and services to improve customer satisfaction, which can lead to higher profitability and improved sustainability.

Primary Principles of TQM

TQM is considered a customer-focused process that focuses on consistently improving business operations management. There are several guiding principles that define TQM.

• Customer focus. Under TQM, your customers define whether your products and services are meeting their needs. Customer input is highly valued because it allows a company to better understand the products and services are meeting their needs. Customer input is highly valued because it allows a company to better understand the needs and requirements they must fulfill.

• Employee commitment. Your team must buy into the processes and system if TQM will be successful. This includes clearly communicating to everyone all goals, expectations, needs, and constraints. A company adopting TQM principles must be willing to train employees and give them sufficient resources to complete tasks successfully and on time.

• Continuous improvement. Companies should gradually evolve and strive for incremental, small improvements as its workers learn more about customers and processes. Continuous improvement helps a company adapt to changing customer and market expectations.

• Adherence to processes. TQM’s systematic approach relies heavily on process flowcharts, TQM diagrams, visual action plans, and documented workflows. Every member engaged in the process must be aware and educated on their part of the process to ensure proper steps are taken at the right time of production. These processes are then continually analyzed to better understand deficiencies.

• Strategic and systematic approach. A company’s processes and procedures should be a direct reflection of the organization’s vision, mission, and long-term plan. TQM calls for a system approach to decision making that requires that a company dedicate itself to integrating quality and service as its core components and making the appropriate financial investments.

• Data utilization. The systematic approach of TQM only works if feedback and input is given to evaluate how the process flow is moving. Management must continually rely on production KPI metrics to correlate the anticipated outcomes with the actual results. TQM relies heavily on documentation and planning, and only by utilizing and analyzing data can management understand if those plans are being met.

• Integrate systems. One way to utilize data is to integrate systems. TQM strategies believe systems should talk to each other, conveying useful information to make smart decisions. TQM strives to get everyone on the same page by linking data sources and sharing information among systems.

• Communication. Effective communication plays a large part in TQM to motivate employees, educate members along a process, and avoid process errors.

TQM Implementation

TQM is a unique process, and it takes time. Expect to dedicate an extended period of time to your efforts. There is not a specific formula for implementing a system that suits every business and each type of industry. But you can create a checklist of issues that might suit you and proceed with them in chronological order. Some may suit your business, while others will not. Select those that you think will provide an advantage.

To implement TQM for your business:

• Identify and evaluate your company’s existing culture, its core values, and its systems.

• Use this information to create a system that will serve as your master plan.

• Establish what your customers and clients want and what they expect from your business. Determine how to best meet these expectations and needs.

• Create a team of management and employees to guide and implement your goals and include these efforts in your daily business management process.

• Consistently gather feedback from both employees and customers to gauge your progress.

TQM is a strategic continuous improvement methodology that encourages everyone in an organization to focus on quality and service improvements.

Customer satisfaction will increase by being operationally excellent. Many principles drive TQM, but the overall purpose is to eliminate errors, reduce waste, streamline processes, and improve customer satisfaction resulting in increased profitability and a stronger sustainability path.

Jim Voigt is the president of JFV Solutions Inc. and has over 48 years of experience in management and operations in the feed, grain, and grain processing industries. Jim is also trained in and has over twenty years’ experience in continuous improvement methodology.