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Total Quality: A Strategy for Long Time Competitiveness

December 14, 2021
 

Quality as defined in its broadest sense, is the absence of defects. This applies to everything, not only the products, services and the processes but also the work put in to eliminate defects in planning, communication, motivation, material, equipment and people.

Total Quality Management (TQM) can be summarised as a management system for a customer-focused organisation that involves all employees in continual improvement. It uses strategy, systems, processes, data and effective communication to integrate Quality improvement activities and culture in the organisation.

In today’s economy, we compete for our market share and our economic well-being, on the basis, Technology and Efficient utilisation of resources. Efficiency is the by-product of Quality and is the way to build a future-ready organisation. Technological growth has been the mainstay of competitive success, but technology of today can become a commodity tomorrow, to be bought and sold around the world. The expanding world economy and the ensuing growth has increased the rate of technological changes and customer expectations for product and/ or service performance. The advent of more competitors has subtle implications for the way a business is managed. Given more choices, customers are becoming more discerning, products/ services will have to be of higher quality, greater utility and lower cost with higher value. The changes in technology, products/ services, and product/ service value, challenge the management systems of the industry to become more efficient. Efficiency need becomes more amplified with focus now on sustainability: Resource efficiency by minimising waste.

Efficiency improvements come from the reduction of waste in rework and underutilisation of resources and must be achieved in every aspect of the business. This is the driving force for quality as a strategic weapon, in the world’s economic future. Successful organisations, while working on new technologies are eliminating waste and improving efficiency in every process, thereby improving their competitive fitness. Productivity can be improved by evolving the physical attributes of a business through capital investment in technology and by improving the efficiency through waste elimination. Competitive fitness measures how effectively the assets are utilised, such as the improved use of technology applied to our products/ process or how material and labour relate to waste. While businesses usually have been effective in utilising technology, they have not been very effective in minimising waste.

Adoption of a Total Quality System is an effective strategy to achieve such competitiveness. The system focuses on how effectively the business utilises its resources to meet its customers’ and stakeholders’ needs. Quality has become today’s best investment in worldwide competitiveness. The aim of quality management is to ensure that all constituents of the organisation and connected stakeholders work together to improve the processes, products, services and culture; leading to customer and stakeholders satisfaction and thus  achieving long-term success.

Tata Steel has been pursuing TQM for business excellence, since the late 1980s, with the vision of becoming a world-class steel company. Tata Steel has adopted various popular and also some first of its kind improvement initiatives.  This resulted in recognition by various agencies, like, accreditation on ISO standards for quality systems, business excellence awards based on Malcolm Baldridge model- JRDQV award, EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) model- CII Exim Bank award, JIPM (Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance) – TPM Excellence award and PM’s trophy for Best integrated Steel Plant to name a few. Further pursuing deeper and more customer focussed application of TQM, Tata Steel embarked on the Deming journey in 2004-05. As a result of this continuous endeavour, Tata Steel was awarded the Deming Application Prize in 2008 and subsequently went on to win the Deming Grand Prize in 2012, becoming the first non-Japanese steel company to win this prestigious award.

Tata Steel’s TQM journey has acknowledged the fact that the sure way to prosperity in the long run is to ensure value creation for the system, starting from the customers to the suppliers and ensuring high level of employee engagement in improvement activities. The journey has been in progress for the last three decades and the company has embedded the culture of Total Quality/ Continuous Improvement in its DNA.

For Quality interventions, data has always been the cornerstone and now, given the company’s fast-paced progress and innovation in data capture, visualisation and analytics , Tata Steel is aspiring to become a ‘GenQ’ company that is driven by Technology, Data, Processes for Standardisation, Innovation & Improvement and People.

Author:

Vice President, TQM and Engineering & Projects

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