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Total quality management (TQM) is a systematic approach to quality assurance that is actively used by companies in various sectors. TQM is largely based on the principle of kaizen, which reflects an organization’s commitment to continuous quality improvement (Kiran 2017). As explained by Kiran (2017), TQM is an organization-wide approach to implementing and maintaining a system of tools to help in controlling and improving the quality of services or products delivered to customers. TQM has gained substantial attention in research, and many companies all over the globe have applied the system. One of the most successful examples of TQM implementation is Toyota, which pioneered the use of TQM in the automobile industry. The present report discusses the methodology and operational framework of TQM based on research and on Toyota’s case study, providing recommendations for businesses wishing to adopt TQM.
Tools and Techniques
One of the fundamental notions in literature discussing TQM tools and techniques is the approach to quality measurement. Kiran (2017) states that there are five different approaches to quality measurement, including transcendent, product-based, user-based, manufacturing-based, and value-based. In the transcendent approach, quality is defined subjectively, which makes it difficult to apply this approach to products and services (Kiran 2017). Other four measures evaluate quality objectively based on product characteristics, customer satisfaction, process quality, or cost-efficiency of a product (Kiran 2017). Using one of these approaches makes it easier for companies to define the target quality level and adjust operations as necessary to achieve it consistently.
The key approach in total quality management that allows achieving and maintaining the desired level of quality is the PDCA cycle that consists of four phases: plan, do, check, act. The cycle was developed by Edwards Deming, who is considered to be the creator of the TQM method (Kiran 2017). It means that organizations seeking to apply TQM need to examine quality outcomes in each of the four steps of production. At the planning stage, processes are designed in a way to ensure the target level of product quality (Dudin et al. 2015). At the production stage, processes need to be monitored consistently to avoid errors that could impact quality. Quality assurance should be applied to the items or services produced to identify defects, variations, and deviations from the set quality level. Lastly, the final stage is to analyze the reasons for any problems found and apply the cycle again to improve performance (Dudin et al. 2015). This approach to quality management ensures continuous quality improvement, which is the primary principle of TQM.
Another topic of concern in TQM literature is the tools that can be used to analyze problems and achieve meaningful change in processes to improve quality. According to Kiran (2017), TQM uses a scientific approach to problem-solving that involves active support from a company’s human resources. In other words, the TQM approach involves evidence-based tools that employees can apply in order to provide suggestions for process improvement. These tools include Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), Failure Mode Effect Analysis (FMEA), Reliability Analysis of in-service failure Data (RDA), Fishbone Analysis, and many others (Fragassa, Pavlovic & Massimo 2014). Each of these tools is designed to divide a particular process into stages to identify a particular part of the process, causing a quality problem.
An important tool in TQM is a quality circle, which seeks to find solutions and identify the root cause of failure (Kiran 2017). Quality circles consist of various employees who have valuable knowledge and could apply it to propose and discuss solutions. For example, if there is an issue with supply delays, a quality circle might include supply chain managers, logistics workers, operators, manufacturing managers, team leaders, and other relevant staff members. The use of quality circles is beneficial because employees can provide insight into the issue and offer creative, cost-effective solutions (Kiran 2017). By allowing employees to take part in decision-making and problem-solving, organizations can also enhance their levels of engagement, motivation, and job satisfaction, which would have a positive impact on performance (Alsughayir 2014). This means that the TQM approach is beneficial for continuous improvement in various organizational areas, even when it focuses mostly on manufacturing.
Implementation and Outcomes
Factors affecting the implementation of TQM and its success have also been reviewed by scholars. For example, Obeidat et al. (2016) found that beneficial knowledge management practices had a positive influence on the application and success of TQM tools and techniques in various companies. Hence, companies that apply employee training and organizational learning strategies while also using a consistent approach to building organizational knowledge, such as codification, would benefit more from TQM than those that do not. A different inquiry by Aquilani et al. (2017) highlighted organizational culture and strategy to be crucial success factors in TQM efforts, noting that companies with a strong strategy and a customer-focused culture were more likely to be effective in TQM. Cătălin, Bogdan, and Dimitrie (2014) agreed that culture and strategy play an essential role in TQM efforts while also noting that weak employee commitment, lack of guidance, inefficient process management, bureaucracy, and other factors could also create barriers for TQM implementation.
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Finally, research on TQM showed the potential benefits of implementing this system correctly in various industries and organizational contexts. As shown in a study by Ngambi and Nkemkiafu (2015), TQM practices have a direct impact on cost reduction in manufacturing firms. Moreover, increased employee training and empowerment associated with TQM also lead to significant increases in financial performance and corporate social responsibility (Ngambi & Nkemkiafu 2015). Furthermore, research by Mwaniki and Okibo (2014) confirmed that the involvement of top management in quality control and continuous improvement contributed to the financial performance of companies in the banking sector. TQM practices were also found to enhance organizational culture and productivity (Valmohammadi & Roshanzamir 2015). Thus, the successful implementation of TQM can bring many benefits to companies.
Case Study: Toyota TQM
Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese car manufacturer that produces and sells motor vehicles all over the globe. Its original brand, Toyota is one of the most popular car brands all over the globe, in line with Volkswagen, Ford, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, and Kia. In 2016, Toyota was the largest car manufacturer in the world by sales volume (Parker 2016). Besides Toyota, the company also produces cards under the brand names of Hino, Lexus, and Ranz, which cater to various customer segments. The vehicles produced by Toyota are famous for their high quality and durability, which allows the company to make consistently high profits. This is mainly due to the use of TQM practices, which were implemented by the company back in the 20th century (Toyota Motor Corporation 2012a). The use of TQM has also allowed Toyota to design and establish the Toyota production system, which has been used by many other companies in the manufacturing sector due to its benefits (Amasaka 2014). As will be shown in the case study, TQM practices used by Toyota comply with evidence-based principles and recommendations, which is what enabled them to be extremely effective.
Although TQM in Toyota is focused on increasing the quality and reducing the variability in products, the company applies TQM to all of its activities (Figure 1). These include product planning, profile design, engineering design, research and development, evaluation, production preparation, product engineering, manufacturing, inspection, sales, service, market research, and product management (Amasaka 2014). On the development stage, quality is judged based on examinations of planned performance and characteristics, which allows ensuring the absence of structural or engineering errors (Amasaka 2014). During production-related stages, from preparation to inspection, the quality of processes, materials, individual parts, and final products is monitored based on objective measures (Amasaka 2014). This is essential because for a car to be durable and reliable, quality control has to be applied to its every component, from engine to paint. A comprehensive and detailed approach to quality at these stages helps to ensure that the company’s products match the consumers’ needs, thus fostering customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Similarly, the sales, service, market research, and product management stages also require quality control in order to improve satisfaction. To achieve this, Toyota conducts regular customer satisfaction surveys and engages customers in quality improvement efforts by allowing them to submit ideas and suggestions, as well as by providing maintenance services after purchase (Amasaka 2014). An essential aspect of quality management in Toyota is that the company uses customers’ claims to identify and address problems. Warranty claim reduction activities and the Dynamic Assurance System (DAS) have been used for this purpose since the 1970s (Toyota Motor Corporation 2012b). All in all, Toyota is an example of best practices in TQM due to how its principles are applied throughout the company.
Best Practices in TQM Toyota
There are four primary characteristics of Toyota’s approach to quality management. First, the company uses quality control and assurance methods that are based on extensive research and testing (Toyota Motor Corporation 2012b). This means that all of the tools applied by Toyota, including FMEA and FTA, proved to be effective through research and experience. Secondly, the company actively engages its employees in the process of quality control by establishing quality circles, conducting training, and performing internal audits (Toyota Motor Corporation 2012b). Thirdly, the application of TQM tools in Toyota is in line with its strategy, which is customer-focused. Toyota Motor Corporation (2012b) states that there are specific committees that are tasked with improving customer centricity on an on-going basis, including the Customer Delight (CD) Quality Improvement Committee and the Customer Satisfaction (CS) Improvement Committee. Finally, the approach to quality assurance in Toyota is systematic and involves all departments, divisions, and facilities in the company. All of these characteristics are consistent with the definition of TQM and its fundamental methodology. As a result, they address possible barriers to the successful implementation of TQM and allow the company to benefit from the system.
All in all, the present research has achieved its goal to discuss the methodology and operational framework of TQM based on literature and on Toyota’s case study. The literature review provided in-depth information regarding various tools and techniques used in TQM, as well as factors influencing the success of TQM initiatives. The literature review showed that TQM is best used throughout the organization and that it should rely on the company’s definition of quality. This definition, in turn, should be applied to every step of operations using the PDCA cycle, which is at the foundation of TQM (Dudin et al. 2015; Kiran 2017). Research also showed that TQM is a relatively flexible approach to quality improvement because companies can choose techniques and tools that suit their goals, strategy, and operations. This aspect of TQM is vital because it allows applying the framework to any company, regardless of its size, scope, or products.
The thorough review of Toyota’s TQM strategy is also a significant achievement of the work since it shows an example of effective TQM implementation. Toyota has been using TQM for decades in order to improve product quality and customer satisfaction. The TQM practices in Toyota are useful because the approach to TQM in the company complies with the foundational methodology of TQM. For instance, customer focus, comprehensiveness, and the use of reliable tools are highlighted by Kiran (2017) as the features crucial to successful implementation. Hence, by exploring Toyota’s approach to TQM, the paper discussed best practices in the area, which can be used for quality improvement efforts in various other settings.
The work is significant both to research and to practice. On the one hand, it provides an in-depth exploration of Toyota’s TQM strategy and relates it to the methodology of TQM, thus proving that the theoretical framework proposed in research literature can be successfully applied in practice. The paper also shows the flexibility of TQM methods, which contributes to the literature in the field. Although the flexibility of the TQM approach has been briefly addressed in the literature, there are no recent studies that discuss how companies can use this feature to their advantage. Based on Toyota’s case, it appears that aligning TQM principles with the company’s global strategy helped to produce a working operational framework for implementation.
On the other hand, the work undertaken in the paper can also contribute to practice by providing managers with more insight on TQM implementation. As evident from the literature review, TQM is a rather complex method that has many components, and thus, managers require to apply it carefully to achieve the best results. In particular, it is important to choose the tools that suit the organization’s goals while also removing barriers to successful implementation. Both of these concerns about TQM application are discussed in the case study and the literature review. Both sections of the paper show that focusing on customer satisfaction as the key desired outcome of TQM implementation project, as well as engaging employees through shared problem-solving and training, are helpful ways of achieving success.
Moreover, the paper also emphasizes the importance of facilitating organizational learning, creativity, and innovation through discussion boars, such as quality circles or committees. In Toyota’s case, committees perform the function of quality circles because they focus on a particular issue and attempt to find solutions that would help the company to address it at the corporate level. All of these findings can be applied by managers who seek to use the TQM methodology to achieve a significant increase in quality, customer satisfaction, productivity, and cost-efficiency.
Overall, there are two key lessons that can be learned from this research report. First of all, it is essential to draw comparisons between literature and practice in the study of various management techniques. The exploration of TQM provided in the paper involves both theoretical and practical perspectives, which contribute to the paper differently. The literature review provides a summary of the topic and highlights critical concerns based on research evidence. For instance, the literature on the barriers to TQM implementation is useful for understanding the relation of the framework to various organizational factors. Since employee resistance, lack of commitment, and poor engagement have a negative influence on TQM, it is obvious that human resources management plays a crucial role in TQM success. Moreover, studies also identify the importance of top management’s involvement in TQM implementation. This means that TQM is also linked both to leadership and to strategy, and thus it should be aligned with other strategic tools used by a company and receive enough support from leaders in the form of information, resources, and guidance.
The case study of effective TQM in Toyota is the ultimate proof of this, and it also suggests more ideas on TQM use. In particular, Toyota’s case highlights the importance of remaining customer-focused as part of continuous quality improvement. The company presents some ways to do it by investigating warranty claims, welcoming suggestions from clients, and creating quality circles (committees) focused on customer satisfaction.
The second lesson is that, while there is a substantial volume of research on TQM, scholars have not yet been able to narrow it down into a specific framework due to the flexibility and variability of TQM tools and techniques. While these features are important, it might pose challenges for inexperienced managers who attempt to implement TQM. The best option for managers at the moment is to examine cases of TQM implementation in similar companies, which can help them to design a successful strategy.
Based on the information above, there are two main recommendations for further studies in the area of TQM. Firstly, it is crucial to consider the implementation of TQM from a more practical viewpoint. For example, future research could examine the plans and strategies used by various companies to apply TQM and relate them to financial or quality outcomes. Secondly, it would be beneficial to perform more research using the case study method. As evident from this paper, connecting TQM theory to its applications in large companies can produce results that will be useful for managers. Thus, studies could focus on comparing TQM methodology to the operational frameworks used by other companies practicing TQM successfully.
Alsughayir, A 2014, ‘Does practicing total quality management affect employee job satisfaction in Saudi Arabian organizations?’, European Journal of Business and Management, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 169-175.
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