The phrase "Total Quality Management" is a catch-all term that refers to the practice of improving products and processes through the use of various performance-quantifying tools such as Statistical Process Control, the 6-Sigma philosophy, and the guidelines issued by standardization organizations such as ISO
(International Organization for Standardization).
The TQM of today movement is the evolution of Japanese Management Principles. Oddly enough, the father of the JMP was an American, Dr. W. Edward Deming. His 14 Principles revolutionized the Japanese economy in the time of Emperor Hirohito and turned it into the powerhouse it is today. For more on Dr. Deming and his 14 Principles, go to http://www.lii.net/deming.html.
I`m with you; the subject is fascinating. It encompasses a very wide range of philosophies, methodologies, and possible applications. Due to that fact, the astute businessman who is interested enough to put together his own TQM program can reap a multitude of benefits--not the least of which are:
1. trackable cost savings through an variety of avenues (i.e. streamlined workflow processes; a decrease in incidental losses due to off-spec raw materials and/or production; the protection of capital assets through more effective monitoring, diagnostics and maintenance; improved labor performance resultant from improved efficiency and safety practices, etc.),
2. standardized training programs resulting in the consistent training of labor force,
3. increased production capability through increased efficiency and decreased losses,
4. possible increase in sales as the result of increased production output and improvement in the quality of the manufactured products
What I think is so cool about TQM is that, when applied with a little common sense, each improvement just dovetails into and facilitates the next. One of the coolest jobs I ever had was preparing a plastics plant for ISO certification--the owner was amazed at the range of benefits the program generated. It was one of the very few times in my life that I actually felt respected and appreciated!
"Ask not, know not." --Me