Logistics Technology

What Is Total Quality Management? 3 Processes You Need to Understand

Published by in Logistics Technology

Have you ever excitedly purchased something only to get home and find the product defective? You’re ready to try out this new thingamajig but discover that not only can you not experience it right away, but now you’ve got an errand to run.

As a producer, you have to think along these lines. Are your products and services doing this to your customers?

what is total quality management

Quality management is critically important in manufacturing. If you’re pumping out products at a breakneck pace but they disappoint your customers, it’s all for naught and will negatively impact your business.

Product defects result in a bad customer experience; 91% of consumers will not do business with a company again if they have a negative experience the first time.

The good news? Negative experiences are avoidable. In addition to having good logistics software in place, you can take advantage of the concept of total quality management (TQM) to revolutionize not only your manufacturing activities but your entire business model.

Total quality management defined

So, what exactly is total quality management? According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), it is a:

…management approach to long-term success through customer satisfaction. In a TQM effort, all members of an organization participate in improving processes, products, services, and the culture in which they work.

In the logistics sphere, TQM is an approach that integrates all quality-related functions and processes companywide to improve the quality and performance of the finished product.

Total quality management techniques were first developed in the World War I era, when large-scale manufacturing efforts were widespread but produced items of poor quality.

Over the ensuing years, manufacturing industries developed standards and sampling methods to ensure high-quality finished products.

A 2014 study published by Advances in Decision Sciences found that TQM implementation is “positively related to all performance measures” and that total quality management practices “in general, improve performance of the firm.”


The 8 principles of total quality management

According to ASQ, total quality management:

  1. Is customer-focused. Everything a company does—from training employees to buying new tools—is done with the customer in mind.
  2. Involves all employees. Employees must be empowered to work toward common goals and allowed to operate in a workplace free from fear.
  3. Is process-centric. By enacting processes that take inputs and turn them into outputs, you can consistently create high-quality products regardless of the people involved.
  4. Is integrated. All developed processes must be integrated into one larger process, and everyone must be on the same page, buying into the company’s vision, mission, and guiding principles.
  5. Has a strategic and systematic focus. Companies must formulate strategic plans that include quality integration as a fundamental component.
  6. Is constantly improved upon. Empowered managers and employees must continually look for new ways to increase product competitiveness and efficacy.
  7. Involves fact-based decision-making. You must gather data on performance in order to know how well you’re doing. You also need to analyze this data to constantly improve and refine how you do things.
  8. Facilitates seamless communication. Managers, employees, and owners need to communicate routinely and effectively to help maintain morale and boost motivation.

3 popular TQM processes

Now that you know what total quality management is, it’s time to dive deeper into three new processes that build on its original principles: ISO 9000, Lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma.

1. ISO 9000: Focuses on people

ISO 9000—first published in 1987 by the International Organization for Standardization—encompasses an entire family of quality management systems standards. ISO 9000 is based on seven quality management principles:

  1. Customer focus. Companies should focus first and foremost on meeting customer expectations.
  2. Leadership. Good leaders are necessary to maintain the right internal environment and drive companies toward their objectives.
  3. Engagement of people. Employees must be empowered to take full advantage of their abilities.
  4. Process-centric. All activities and resources should be managed as a system-wide process.
  5. Improvement. Companies must continuously and actively seek improvement.
  6. Evidence-based decision-making. Decisions should be based on analyzed data.
  7. Relationship management. Companies should maintain healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers, contractors, and service providers.
 Key difference from TQM:  While ISO 9000 shares many of TQM’s principles, it focuses more on leadership in an organization and people management.

 Use this process when:  you believe your operation needs better leadership.

2. Lean manufacturing: Focuses on waste

Lean manufacturing is a systematic method of eliminating waste and inefficiency within manufacturing while continuing to produce products at the same (or even higher) level.

Developed in Japan by automobile manufacturer Toyota, it focuses on overburden (“Muri”) and unevenness in work loads (“Mura”). Lean manufacturing seeks to identify things that add value, as well as those that don’t, so the latter can be eliminated.

Lean manufacturing focuses on seven types of waste:

  1. Transport: Moving around things that aren’t necessary for production.
  2. Inventory: Anything that isn’t involved in production.
  3. Motion: People or equipment moving more than is required for production.
  4. Waiting: Inactivity before the next production step.
  5. Overproduction: Producing more than is required.
  6. Overprocessing: Using more activity than is necessary to produce the end product.
  7. Defects: Expending too much effort fixing problems with the finished product.
 Key difference from TQM:  Lean manufacturing focuses more on identifying inefficiencies in the manufacturing process, rather than promoting an organization-wide focus on quality management.

 Use this process when:  you believe that production inefficiencies are decreasing your revenue.

3. Six Sigma: Focuses on process

Six Sigma, developed in the 1980s at Motorola, is a set of techniques for improving on processes in an organization. This method aims to improve product quality by identifying and eliminating variability that can cause defects.

The name “Six Sigma” is derived from the sigma rating system for the proportion of defects to total products created, with six sigma being the very best possible.

Six Sigma projects follow two methodologies, each with five phases: DMAIC and DMADV.


  1. Define the system. Figure out what the customer wants.
  2. Measure key aspects of the current process. Collect the data.
  3. Analyze the data. Determine the cause of a defect.
  4. Improve the current process. Create a new future state process.
  5. Control the future state process. Put control systems in place and constantly monitor the process.


  1. Define design goals. Figure out what the customer wants.
  2. Measure and identify characteristics that are critical to quality. Collect the data.
  3. Analyze the data. Figure out how to develop and design alternatives.
  4. Design an improved alternative. Fix the problem.
  5. Verify the design. Implement the production process and then monitor it.
 Key difference from TQM:  Six Sigma focuses more on the manufacturing process, rather than taking a holistic view of the organization as TQM does.

 Use this process when:  you think your manufacturing process is what needs the most attention and improvement within your company.

Take action now

If you aren’t using TQM or any of the above processes at your small business, now is the time to get started.

Follow these three steps to get the ball rolling:

  1. Choose which process is best for your organization based on the problem you need to solve. Are your processes fine but your leadership lacking? Pick ISO 9000. Could your operations be streamlined and refined to create a better end product? Choose Six Sigma.
  2. Set up a meeting with key members of your team and go over the list of principles for whatever process you picked. Then, begin brainstorming ideas on how to implement the principles at your business.
  3. Look at your list of brainstormed ideas and choose the easiest/simplest one to implement right away. Track whether it helps by collecting data and comparing it to output before you began. Once you’ve successfully implemented this first step, gradually introduce additional changes over time.

Want to learn more about streamlining your logistics? We’ve got a few great resources you can dive into right now to explore the concepts discussed above in even more detail:

Looking for Logistics software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Logistics software solutions.

About the Author

Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor

Dan is a content writer at Capterra, specializing in hotel management, construction and real estate. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, catching up with the latest offering from HBO or paying a visit to a new place.


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