Before quality assurance was introduced quality was monitored by quality inspectors at the end of the production process. Any products that were faulty were scrapped by the inspectors, which led to considerable levels of wastage. Quality assurance is concerned with trying to stop faults from occurring in the first place, so there are zero defects. Products are produced to pre-determined standards, which are maintained by following a set of steps. Although some products will be tested to check they meet the required standard, it reduces the need for lots of quality inspectors, and also reduces wastage.
Toyota, a Japanese car manufacturer, has completely embraced the principles of quality assurance. They are very concerned about the reduction of waste, and improving quality in the first place to reduce defects. They aim to exercise quality assurance at all stages, from planning, right through to production. Examples include Toyota designing quality into their cars to make sure they are as defect free as possible. They use computer aided design (CAD) to help designers improve quality and to see where potential problems will be.
In production, thousands of rigorous tests are carried out by the Toyota employees, as they are responsible for their own work, and the work of their co-workers. Toyota team members treat the ‘next person on the production line as their customer’. This means no defective parts will be passed on, and if there are any defects, the line will be stopped so the problem can be corrected. However, Toyota’s history has been littered with many difficult challenges, which once solved, has resulted in a competitive advantage for the company. (http://www. iqa. org/publication/c4-1-110. shtml).
One of these challenges would have been gaining total commitment from the employees, in order for them to take on the extra responsibility and take quality seriously. Toyota has introduced a number of reward systems to motivate employees and ensure their commitment, including extra special awards for employees with perfect attendance. These rewards will have motivated employees, and encouraged them to be committed to the firm (http://www. toyotageorgetown. com/qualdex. asp). Quality assurance is a step towards TQM, as it is a stage most organisations go through before they tackle TQM.
It is not about an organisation reaching a final destination, but instead a continual journey, where every employee in the organisation will systematically try to manage the improvement of the company. For this change to be made successfully, ‘many attitudes need changing, thinking developed and perceptions broadened’ (http://www. businessskillstraining. co. uk/bst_tqm. htm). Employees will need to be responsible for continually improving operations in which they are involved and suggesting more efficient ways of doing things. For this seriousness about quality to come about, British aerospace will have to change the company culture.
They have already gone some way to doing that by slowly implementing quality assurance. Their employees are therefore likely to be serious about quality, but may not yet be used to the ideas of continual improvement. During the early stages of TQM, it is important that there is a strong leader or set of leaders to share the vision of the company with other employees. As employees start to share the vision, the managers should perhaps adopt a more participative leadership style, which emphasises co-ordination rather than controlling.
This allows employees as much empowerment as possible, and the motivation to succeed whilst not being controlled. Managers may however need to provide necessary support and will hold people accountable for results (http://www. improve. org/tqm. html#Visionary). TQM will also cause other areas of the business to change, including the HR department. Flexibility and adaptability are very important to the concept of continual change, and only people who display these traits should be hired. HR will have to develop new methods to select the people who ‘fit’ the job.
They will have to change job design and job descriptions to adhere to the new total quality management structure. Reward systems will also change, as people will need to be rewarded for their ideas and continual improvement as well as meeting production and quality targets. Statistical quality control (SQC) is used by organisations for acceptance sampling or statistical process control. Statistical quality control can be defined as ‘the application of statistical techniques to measure and evaluate the quality of a product, service, or process’ (http://www.uoguelph. ca/~dsparlin/sqc. htm).
One rule at British Aerospace is that quality has to stay constant or improve. Statistical process control (SPC) can be used to monitor levels of quality using control charts, with acceptable upper and lower limits. When British Aerospace introduce TQM, and start improving processes, SPC will measure if product quality is varying as a result of these changes being made. Employees will therefore know if the changes improve quality, or reduce quality, which will indicate whether the changes should be kept.
Statistical quality control is perhaps currently being used for acceptable sampling with British Aerospace. SQC is being used to test incoming materials from suppliers prior to entry into the production process. Once the numbers of defects in the sample have been measured, based on what is acceptable, the batch will either be accepted or rejected. This type of control will encourage suppliers to improve their quality, as batches sent back to them will result in lost revenue. If the suppliers have high quality standards, it will be easier for British Aerospace to carry out TQM and produce defect-free products.
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