Total Quality Management (TQM)

What Is Total Quality Management (TQM)?

Total quality management (TQM) is the continual process of detecting and reducing or eliminating errors in manufacturing, streamlining supply chain management, improving the customer experience, and ensuring that employees are up to speed with training. Total quality management aims to hold all parties involved in the production process accountable for the overall quality of the final product or service.

TQM was developed by William Deming, a management consultant whose work had a great impact on Japanese manufacturing. While TQM shares much in common with the Six Sigma improvement process, it is not the same as Six Sigma. TQM focuses on ensuring that internal guidelines and process standards reduce errors, while Six Sigma looks to reduce defects.

Key Takeaways

  • Total quality management (TQM) is an ongoing process of detecting and reducing or eliminating errors.
  • It is used to streamline supply chain management, improve customer service, and ensure that employees are trained.
  • The focus is to improve the quality of an organization's outputs, including goods and services, through the continual improvement of internal practices. 
  • Total quality management aims to hold all parties involved in the production process accountable for the overall quality of the final product or service.
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What's Total Quality Management?

Understanding Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total quality management is a structured approach to overall organizational management. The focus of the process is to improve the quality of an organization's outputs, including goods and services, through the continual improvement of internal practices. The standards set as part of the TQM approach can reflect both internal priorities and any industry standards currently in place.

Industry standards can be defined at multiple levels and may include adherence to various laws and regulations governing the operation of a particular business. Industry standards can also include the production of items to an understood norm, even if the norm is not backed by official regulations.

Primary Principles of Total Quality Management

TQM is considered a customer-focused process that focuses on consistently improving business operations. It strives to ensure all associated employees work toward the common goals of improving product or service quality, as well as improving the procedures that are in place for production.

Special emphasis is put on fact-based decision making, using performance metrics to monitor progress; high levels of organizational communication are encouraged for the purpose of maintaining employee involvement and morale.

Industries Using Total Quality Management

While TQM originated in the manufacturing sector, its principles can be applied to a variety of industries. With a focus on long-term change rather than short-term goals, it provides a cohesive vision for systemic change. With this in mind, TQM is used in many industries, including, but not limited to, manufacturing, banking and finance, and medicine.

These techniques can be applied to all departments within an individual organization as well. This helps ensure all employees are working toward the goals set forth for the company, improving function in each area. Involved departments can include administration, marketing, production, and employee training.

What Does Total Quality Management Do?

TQM oversees all activities and tasks needed to maintain a desired level of excellence within a business and its operations. This includes the determination of a quality policy, creating and implementing quality planning and assurance, and quality control and quality improvement measures.

What Is an Example of TQM in Practice?

Perhaps the most famous example of TQM is Toyota's implementation of the Kanban system. A kanban is a physical signal that creates a chain reaction, resulting in a specific action. Toyota used this idea to implement its just-in-time (JIT) inventory process.


To make its assembly line more efficient, the company decided to keep just enough inventory on hand to fill customer orders as they were generated. Therefore, all parts of Toyota's assembly line are assigned a physical card that has an associated inventory number. Right before a part is installed in a car, the card is removed and moved up the supply chain, effectively requesting another of the same part. This allows the company to keep its inventory lean and not overstock unnecessary assets. Effective quality management resulted in better automobiles that could be produced at an affordable price.

What Are the Principles of TQM?

Various iterations of TQM have been developed, each with its own set of principles. Still, certain core elements persist. These include, among others: Good leadership; a focus on quality; putting the customer first; error-correction and improvement as an on-going process; and job training.

Article Sources

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  1. Toyota. "Section 4. Plant Construction and Expansion Item 4. Development and Deployment of the Toyota Production System." Accessed Aug. 29, 2021.