Total Quality Management is an approach that seeks to improve quality and performance within an organisation, to ensure the best level of service for customers as well as effectively preventing and handling nonconformities. As such, quality management is something that no business can do without and therefore should have a vital role in organisations of all sizes and types.

A Total Quality Management program requires that problems be identified and resolved. In this context it is always easier to correct a known problem rather than anticipating one and putting the necessary preventive measures in place to prevent it from happening. Human nature is such that we can deal with a known problem as we can clearly define it, determine its impact and quickly find a solution. Generally, there is a known cost to the problem and to the solution that is developed to resolve it. With a known percentage occurrence of problems that require corrective measures a clear “cost of quality” can be identified and these corrective costs can be added onto the final cost of the product. It’s all predictable and easily planned into our operations.

But according to Sub-Clause 8.5.3 of the ISO 9001 requirement standard: “The organisation shall determine action to eliminate the cause of potential nonconformities in order to prevent their occurrence. Preventive actions shall be appropriate to the effects of the potential problems.”

So correcting known problems is not sufficient, we also have to identify potential problem areas and implement solutions so that they do not occur. But why should we do that? How can we do it?

The “Why” is easier to answer as a problem free product means a better manufactured product and a lower cost product, as the costs of correcting are greatly reduced or non-existent. So while identifying areas of potential nonconformity with a Total Quality Management system can take a long time, the cost is always less than the correcting of a non-conformance.

The “How” is more difficult to ascertain as the “here and now” dominates our business life and many of us do not have the time or the knowledge to identify potential problem areas. But there is no clear scale to say that we prevented “A” from occurring or that “B” did not take place because we put in a procedure to prevent “XYZ”. However, what we get is a default free product and customer compliments rather than customer complaints. There is no statistical method that will help us to prevent nonconformities but there is human experience and then human intuition that arises from this experience that can help identify them. There must also be a formal process for identifying potential nonconformities and this is most likely best done through the vehicle of a brain storming session.

Then, once the potential nonconformities are identified, preventive action requests must be sent out to specific individuals with clear instructions and deadlines for implementing the required measures that will prevent the potential issues from occurring. It is a good idea to have an automated reminder system in place to ensure that once the deadline is exceeded the recipient of the preventive action is focused on completing the task. Finally, clear proof of implementation should be received before a preventive action is closed.

By following this approach, Total Quality Management can be achieved, as nonconformities are effectively prevented or handled with the appropriate action. Making use of a Quality Management System will ensure that the process runs smoothly and without additional headaches. It is only through consistent quality management practices that companies can begin to ensure a higher level of quality towards their customers and throughout the workplace.

Guest Post by Christopher Stainow, Chief Executive of Lennox Hill & creators of isoTracker Total Quality Management System & hosted Document Control Software.