Quality Control and Quality Assurance
- Checking goods as you make them or when they arrive from suppliers to see if anything is wrong with them. It's often done by specially trained quality inspectors.
- Assumes that errors are unavoidable.
- Detects errors and puts them right.
- Quality control inspectors check other people's work, and are responsible for quality.
Introducing measures into the production process to try to ensure things don't go wrong in the first place. It assumes you can prevent errors from being made in the first place, rather than eliminating faulty goods once they've been made.
- Assumes that errors are avoidable.
- Prevents errors and aims to get it right first time.
- Employees check their own work. Workers are responsible for passing on good quality work to the next stage of the production process.
- Quality circles meet a couple of times a month to discuss quality control issues.
- They include employees from various departments and all levels of the organisation.
- Quality circles aim to identify and solve specific quality problems that arise.
Strengths of Quality Circles
- Quality circles can be very effective because they use the knowledge and experience of factory floor staff.
- Quality circles are a good way of making staff feel involved and increasing motivation.
- Quality circles often lead to an increase in productivity as well as quality.
Weaknesses of Quality Circles
- Factory staff might make unrealistic suggestions if they don't know what kind of measures the business can afford to introduce.
- Quality circles are only useful if management actually listen to the suggestions and make changes accordingly.
- Only works if participation really is voluntary - staff who feel pressured into taking part are unlikely to make useful suggestions.
Total Quality Management (TQM)
- TQM means the whole workforce has to be committed to quality improvements. The idea is to build quality in every department and not let quality get squeezed out. It's QA on wheels.
- With TQM, every employee has to try to satisfy customers - both external customers that the business sells things to, and internal customers within the business.
Advantages of TQM
- Because all employees are involved with maintaining quality, TQM can help them bond as a team.
- TQM boosts a company's reputation for providing quality services or products.
- TQM usually leads to fewer faulty products being made - so the business creates less waste.
Disadvantages of TQM
- It can take a long time to introduce TQM - so the company might not see immediate improvements in quality.
- TQM can demotivate staff - it can seem like a lot of effort to think about quality in all parts of the business.
- TQM is usually expensive to introduce - it often means investing in training for all employees.
- Benchmarking studies other businesses with excellent quality standards, and aims to adopt their methods. Companies can sometimes do this by joining benchmarking groups, where firms agree to share information about their way of doing things.
- Businesses can benchmark internally, by studying similar activities in different departments.
- It's also possible to benchmark across different industries - for example, an electronics manufacturer buys different raw materials than a food producer does, but the food producer might still find it useful to benchmark the purchasing methods and negotiation techniques used by the electronics company.
- Benchmarking tends to motivate staff. It's more encouraging to introduce something that you've already seen being used successfully somewhere else than it is to introduce something completely unknown.
- Another advantage is that it provides early warnings to businesses about technology or methods that might allow their competitors to overtake them.
- One of the disadvantages of benchmarking is that the firm whom you're most keen to benchmark may not want to share their methods. Competitors are unlikely to release information if they're not part of a benchmarking group.
- Another downside is that working practices can't always be transferred between different corporate cultures.
- The kaizen approach means that employees should be improving their work slightly all the time, instead of making one-off improvemenets when management tell them to.
- The 5 whys are also important in kaizen. Whenever there's a problem, companies need to ask 'why?' five times. For example, the firm's reputation seems to be getting worse. Managers investigate why and discover that an unhappy customer has talked about her poor experience. Further investigation shows that she didn't receive an order on time. The reason for this is that it took more than a week to process her order, which was due to a lack of call centre staff. Asking why there aren't enough call centre staff shows that business has increased 10%, but no extra staff have been recruited. So the real solution to the problem lies in recruitment, not in PR to improve the firm's image.
- Workers are also responsible for keeping their equipment clean, their work area tidy, and making sure that everything is kept in the right place. For kaizen to work, they need to do this every day, not just occasionally.
- For kaizen to work, employees at the bottom of the hierarchy have to be given some control over decision-making so that they can actually implement quality improvements.
- Kaizen helps workers feel involved in quality assurances. It's also cheap to introduce.
- The downside of kaizen is that, because it makes small changes over time, it's not great for businesses that urgently need to improve quality. It needs the firm to be willing to commit to the method in the long-term.