TQM- Theory and Field Implementation

Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 915 , Published on 25 March 2015

On November 14, 2012, Tata Steel became the first integrated steel plant to win the Deming Grand Prize, the highest award in the field of TQM. As a manager maintenance working in the open cast coal mines at West Bokaro division of Tata Steel, it was a great moment for me since we all had put in great efforts to reach the milestone. As I recall those days, the most challenging thing in the entire scheme of events was the field implementation of the principles of TQM.

What is TQM?

Total quality management is the optimisation and integration of all the functions and processes of a business in order to provide best product and services to a customer through the process of continuous improvement. Often mistaken by organizations as being a tool or a system, it is more about the thought process that can change the attitudes and behaviours leading to improvement. Tools such as Pareto charts, histograms, control charts, scatter plots and others are quite easy to use once the data is available but the tough task lies in ensuring that the people involved have the belief that what they are doing is not a fad but a process of improvement in the long term. Once this thought process starts to flow, TQM will happen with the least of efforts. On the other hand, if an organization is simply trying to do TQM without imbibing it in its culture just for the sake of awards and recognitions, it will find itself spending more time in these activities and becoming less efficient with time.

Principles of TQM and how to achieve them:

There are 8 principles of TQM

1. Customer-focused organisation – Organisations depend on their customers and therefore should understand current and future customer needs, meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations. Also, the individual departments have different departments as customers and the same principle needs to resonate within the organization. MoU (Memorandum of understandings) and regular meetings are used as tools to ensure that there is a regular interaction with the customer and the organization is focused towards the customers.

2. Leadership – The internal environment of an organization is created by the leaders. The leaders must be very clear about the utility of TQM and effectively communicate them to their workforce to make sure that the right results are reached. The key concept of TQM states that Top Management has direct responsibility for quality management.

3. Involvement of people – Being all about the thought process, the movement will propel in the right direction when everyone in the organization is involved. Some tools used for employee involvement are Small Group Activity (SGA) Circles, Knowledge Management (KM) Platforms, Suggestion mela, kaizen logging and MASS - Manthon ab shopfloor se.

4. Process Approach – Any desired result is achieved more efficiently when the tasks are done in a process. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are well defined documents for every task possible in an organization and is one of the best methods for a process approach. It ensures that a given task is done in a similar manner every time through a standard set of rules. Also, the SOPs are subject to changes through Job Cycle Checks (JCC). JCC involves review of a SOP by a manager with the shop floor employee at regular intervals for any process improvements.

5. System approach to management – This principle asks us to treat the organization like a system with parts such as employees, assets, products, resources, and information that form a complex system. PDCA (Plan-do-check-act) is an important tool to the systems approach.

6. Continual improvement – This is something which every organization aims to achieve. Daily management (DM) and planned management (PM) are 2 key concepts used to achieve this. Daily management is the responsibility of line managers who ensure through various tools that the process is in check and there is no lacuna creeping in anywhere. This maintains the present level of quality. On the other hand, planned management is the responsibility of top level management with an aim towards improvement. It involves major policy decisions which will impact the organization positively in the long term.

7. Factual approach to decision making – Decisions should be taken only after proper reasoning and that reasoning will come through the correct analysis of data. Data collection and interpretation thus becomes a very important parameter. Seven basic tools of quality control are generally used in the decision making process. The seven tools are check sheet, control chart, cause and effect diagram, histogram, Pareto chart, scatter diagram and stratification/flow chart.

8. Mutually beneficial supplier relationship - When a company treats its supply partners as customers and removes the traditional adversarial role, both sides can more easily achieve mutual goals and business objectives. The ways to achieve such a relationship is through looking at past practices, leveraging combined strengths, becoming more visible and predictable, basing relationship on mutual trust, setting up performance scorecards and bringing in leaders to the relationship.

The principles and means to achieve them have been summarized in the table below:


Customer focused organization


Involvement of people

Process Approach


MoU, Meetings

Involvement of top management

SGA, KM, Suggestions,

Kaizen, MASS



System approach to


Continual Improvement

Factual approach to decision making

Mutually beneficial supplies relationship




7 QC tools

Leveraging relations

Table 1

Tools of TQM with an industry based example:

As illustrated above, there are numerous tools of TQM that can be used in different kind of situations. Below mentioned are a few of them with respect to an industrial example.

Note: The data provided in the example has been modified to ensure confidentiality. Also, it is meant only for an understanding of the concepts and should not be used for any other purpose.

Background: With the rising prices of imported coking coal globally, captive sources of coal provide a distinctive cost advantage. It had therefore become imperative to use more & more captive coking coal from our collieries replacing the costlier imported coal. It had become a dominant factor for cost competitiveness of Steel Business. Accordingly, it had become imperative to increase the QSEB production which is the largest producer of raw coal in TSL.

Challenges: QSEB, the largest open cast mine of West Bokaro division, had achieved x LT of RC production in FY11 which was the highest till date and all the KPIs were also at their best ever level. Hence, to fulfil the increased customer requirement, all the key KPIs were compared with benchmark figs (KPC Indonesia) for identifying the further scope of improvement.

(Benchmarking - Benchmarking is the process of comparing one's business processes and performance metrics to industry bests or best practices from other companies. Dimensions typically measured are quality, time and cost)

Analysis & Actions

Complete analysis were done under two verticals

1. Increasing HEMM productivity to world benchmark level i) RD Productivity ii) Excavator Productivity

2. Increasing HEMM run hours to world benchmark level

Data collection: Fig 1 below shows an example of data collection which can be later used for analysis

Fig 1.

Interpretation of data:

From above table, it is evident that even though conditions were ok and operators were complying to the no. of passes as prescribed, the problem was suboptimal fill factor

Tools and techniques used:

Fig 2 shows comparison techniques for pre and post situations.

Fig 2

Fig 3 shows a control chart. A control chart is used to determine if the process is operating within the pre-defined limits or not. We normally have an upper control limit and a lower control limit. If any data point lies beyond these points, it is said to be an abnormality. These data points are then subjected to abnormality analysis where their reason for abnormality is determined. Steps are further taken to ensure that any abnormality does not occur in future for the same reason. Control charts are a very important part of the 7 QC tools.

Fig 3

Fig 4 shows the final results which were achieved through this process. There is an immense expected increase in the OB removal as well as in coal production.

Fig 4

The above example shows a structured way to approach a problem using the TQM approach. Many other tools as mentioned in table 1 are available for solving a given problem.


"Doing the Right Thing, Right the First Time, All the Time; always striving for Improvement & always satisfying the Customer." [DOD 1989]

These words by the U.S. Department of defense very well summarize the concept of TQM. Also, there is a misconception that TQM is limited to specific kinds of industries. TQM infact is applicable to any and every kind of work where one wishes to achieve improvement. Japan has been credited with invent of TQM and many industries have tried to follow it. However, not all have been successful. The same quality control tools are available to all but it’s the method of implementation that creates the differentiating factor. To conclude, I would use the below quote by W Edwards Deming.

“We have learned to live in a world of mistakes and defective products as if they were necessary to life. It is time to adopt a new philosophy in the world.”

This article has been authored by Mukesh Ranjan from XLRI


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