Total Quality Management in an Automotive Supply Chain in the United States

Article excerpt

In order to compete in the world markets, American businesses are striving to improve their competitive edge, and one aspect of which is quality. Quality is not only an order winning criteria but also is an order qualifier for many companies, and total quality management (TQM) has been widely accepted as the ways and means for maintaining supply chain quality. Multitudes of businesses in manufacturing industry have already implemented or started implementing TQM for achieving a competitive edge in the world market place. From part suppliers to retailers or dealerships, businesses are accepting TQM approach for achieving quality excellence through out the supply chain management. This paper attempts to describe how a TQM approach can be implemented for achieving supply chain quality management in manufacturing industry and uses the automotive industry in the United States as an example.

Introduction

A supply chain includes a firm's internal functions which include all transformation processes, its upstream suppliers, and its downstream distribution channels reaching the end customers which includes distributors and retailers (14). In case of an automotive company, it includes the tier II suppliers of raw materials and parts, the tier 1 suppliers, the sub assemblers, and the original equipment manufacturers (OEMS) or the assemblers of automobiles, the wholesalers or distributors and the retailers or dealers of automobiles. The supply chain management involves a collaborative strategy linking cross enterprise business operations for achieving a shared vision of the market opportunity (8).This shared vision in automotive industry has been the improving the competitive edges, through cost cutting and continuous improvement of quality( 15).The supply chain quality management encompasses all quality management activities associated with the flow and transformation of goods from raw material stage through the end users(finished product) stage along with flow of all information related to quality(8) . Materials as well as information flow both up and down the supply chain. The operating environment of a supply chain includes customers demand and expectations related to product quality and delivery schedule (8). Product quality in a supply chain can be insured through total quality management while delivery schedule can be assured using demand forecasting, demand management, production planning and master scheduling (14).

Total Quality Management (TQM) in a Supply Chain

As advocated by A. V. Fiegenbaum in the U.S. and Kauro Ishikawa in Japan, Total Quality Management (TQM) involves management and control of quality throughout the entire organization or the entire supply chain (7), TQM emphasizes (1) top management commitment, (2) focus on customer satisfaction, (3) product design and manufacturing for quality, (4)continuous improvement, (5) extensive education and training of employees, (6) employees involvement and empowerment, (7) development and maintenance of an effective in house quality assurance system, as well as an effective suppliers quality management system(7).

Top management commitment and TQM

Top management commitment is essential for TQM. Top management must commit to quality by clearly stating quality objectives in mission statements and commit sufficient amount of resources for successfully accomplishing quality objectives. Top management commitment should be collaborative throughout the entire supply chain for achieving competitiveness in world market place using a common vision of quality excellence which starts with focus on total customers satisfaction.

Total Customers satisfaction and TQM

In a TQM approach most important goal is customers' satisfaction. Only satisfied customers come back and bring more business. Therefore, companies must design their products to satisfy their customers, Products should not only meet the needs but exceed the expectations of the customers, to make customers happy(7). …