Continuous improvement: Organizational commitment to constantly improving the quality of a product or service.
A quality revolution continues to take place in both the private and public sectors. The generic term that has evolved to describe this revolution is quality management or continuous improvement. The revolution was inspired by a small group of quality experts, individuals such as Joseph Juran and the late W. Edwards Deming. For our discussion, we’ll focus our attention primarily on Deming’s work.
An American who found few managers in the United States interested in his ideas, Deming went to Japan in 1950 and began advising many top Japanese managers on ways to improve their production effectiveness. Central to his management methods was the use of statistics to analyze variability in production processes. A well managed organization, according to Deming, was one ink which statistical control reduced variability and resulted in uniform quality and predictable quality of output. Deming developed a 14 point program for transforming organizations. Today, Deming’s original program has been expanded into a philosophy of management that is driven by customer needs and expectations.
Components of Continuous Improvement:
1) Intense focus on the customer: The customer includes not only outsiders who buy the organization’s products or services but also internal customers (such as shipping or accounts payable personnel), who interact with and serve others in the organization.
2) Concern for continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is a commitment to never being satisfied. Very Good is not good enough. Quality can always be improved.
3) Improved in the quality of everything the organization does. Continuous improvement uses a broad definition of quality not only to the final product but also to how the organization handles deliveries how rapidly it responds to complaints how politely the phones are answered and the like.
4) Accurate measurement: Continuous improvement uses statistical techniques to measure every critical variable in the organization’s operations. These are compared against standards, or benchmarks, to identify problems trace them to their roots and eliminate their causes.
5) Empowerment of employees: Continuous improvement involves the people on the line in the improvement process. Teams are widely used in continuous improvement programs as empowerment vehicles for finding and solving problems.
Kaizen: The Japanese term for an organization committed to continuous improvement.
Quality management expands the term customer beyond the traditional definition to include everyone involved with the organization either internally or externally, encompassing employees and suppliers as well as the people who buy the organization’s product’s or services. The objective is to create an organization committed to continuous improvement or, as the Japanese call it Kaizen.
Quality management is a departure from the earlier management theories that were based on the belief that low costs were the only road to increased productivity. For example, the US car industry is often used as a classic example of what can go, wrong when managers focus solely on trying to keep costs down. In the late 1970s, GM, Ford, and Chrysler built products that many consumers rejected. When the costs of rejects, repairing shoddy work, product recalls, and expensive controls to identify problems were considered US auto manufacturers were less productive than many foreign competitors. The Japanese for example demonstrated that it was possible for the highest quality manufacturers to be among the lowest cost producers. Managers are Indian auto components industry, as well as those in other industries have also recognized the importance of quality management and implemented many of its basic components. For instance, Sona Koyo-Steering Systems limited (SKSSL) is the leader in the steering gears market in India with a 45 percent share of the domestic market. SKSSL: is TQM and ISO 14001 certified and the winner of the Deming Award for 2003. It has consistently been focusing on reducing costs while improving product quality.
Today the terms quality management may not be as popular as it was 15 years ago. As often happens with new business practices, they can become clichés. However, regardless of the terminology, the elements and the goals of quality management and continuous improvements are still essentials in achieving an effective and lean workplace.