Quality is a crucial parameter which differentiates an organization from its competitors. Accroding to American Society of Quality, quality management originated from medieval Europe in the late 13th century
In the early 20 century, World War II (1939 – 1945) quickened the quality revolution. Prior to the war, the quality movement had progressed gradually, but that progress was impeded by the lack of communication among companies. World War II affected the approach for the management for quality dramatically. It marked the inclusion of “processes” in quality practices. A “process” is defined as a group of activities that takes an input, adds value to it, and provides an output. In the middle of 1920s, Walter Shewhart began to focus on controlling processes, making quality relevant not only for the finished product but for the processes that created it. He successfully brought together the disciplines of statistics, engineering, and economics.
After World War II was the Japanese quality revolution. The Japanese welcomed input from foreign companies and lecturers, including two American quality experts:
- W. Edwards Deming, who had become frustrated with American managers when most programs for statistical quality control were terminated once the war and government contracts came to an end.
- Joseph M. Juran, who predicted the quality of Japanese goods would overtake the quality of goods produced in the United States by the mid-1970s because of Japan’s revolutionary rate of quality improvement.
Japan’s strategies represented the new “total quality” approach. Rather than relying purely on product inspection, Japanese manufacturers focused on improving all organizational processes through the people who used them. As a result, Japan was able to produce higher-quality exports at lower prices, benefiting consumers throughout the world. Japan had a widely held reputation for shoddy exports, and their goods were shunned by international markets. This led Japanese organizations to explore new ways of thinking about quality.
Responding to the burgeoning quality from Japan, the US emphasizes not only statistics but approaches that embraced the entire organization, became known as Total Quality Management (TQM). Here are the 8 principles of total quality management:
- Total employee involvement
- Integrated system
- Strategic and systematic approach
- Continual improvement
- Fact-based decision making
One of these principles is continual improvement which is the ongoing improvement of products, services or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements. Among the most widely used tools for the continuous improvement model is a four-step quality assurance method — the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle
The Plan-do-check-act Procedure
- Plan: Recognize an opportunity and plan a change.
- Do: Test the change. Carry out a small-scale study.
- Check: Review the test, analyze the results, and identify what you’ve learned.
- Act: Take action based on what you learned in the study step. If the change did not work, go through the cycle again with a different plan. If you were successful, incorporate what you learned from the test into wider changes. Use what you learned to plan new improvements, beginning the cycle again