A Structural Approach to Integrating Total Quality Management and Knowledge Management with Supply Chain Learning

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The success of supply chain management (SCM) depends largely on the firm's efficiency in managing its processes. SCM is regarded as a powerful vehicle in cost reduction overall and performance improvement. It can also increase a firm's competitiveness if it is well-managed. The origin of SCM is perceived to derive from logistics management (Lee, Kincade 2003; Cox 1999; Tan et al. 2002) and Romano and Vinelli (2001) referred it as integrated logistics management. SCM has evolved from a functional focus to cross-functional collaborations. This collaborative strategy has gained popularity among supply chain firms particularly due to the need for global market presence and increased customer demands. Effective collaboration are useful for capturing cost savings, enhancing customer satisfaction, facilitating synergies, adding value to all supply chain partners and ultimately remaining competitive in the industry. Slack, Chambers and Johnston (2004) argued that supply chain activities consist of purchase and supply management, physical distribution management, logistics and material management. Overall, SCM includes the sourcing of raw materials, productions, new product development and commercialization, sales and marketing, product returns and recycling, and managing supplier and customer relations (Lockamy, McCormack 2004; Mills et al. 2004; Talib et al. 2011).

Networking and collaboration enhance firm's performance. Literature within SCM documented the need for cooperation due to the emergence of quality management philosophies. Therefore, this has resulted the study on the linkages between adoption of total quality management (TQM) practices and organizational outcomes such as learning and knowledge transfer. Interestingly, Sohal and Morrison (1995) highlighted that TQM initiatives can only lead to organizational learning if such quality efforts are supported with a conducive environment that can help firms to emerge as learning organizations and continuously to acquire new knowledge about customers, suppliers, processes and employees. A recent study by Vanichchinchai and Igel (2009) suggested that TQM and SCM share similar characteristics which both involve internal function participations and external partnerships. They added that while the main focus of TQM is on participation from all internal function, the SCM put emphasis on continuous collaboration with external partners.

TQM and SCM are said to be the most important strategies for many different companies: from small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to giant manufacturers and servicing companies. TQM are often applied for process variance reduction which is directly linked to supply chain performance measures such as cycle time, order fulfillment and delivery dependability. Embracement of quality initiatives within SCM practices aims to achieve better product quality and development (Carmignani 2009). According to Dick (2000), firms with a strong commitment to TQM have better business performance improvement than firms who only possessed QCert (e.g. ISO 9000 certification). Kuei, Madu and Lin (2001) found that supply chain quality factors have positive impact on organizational performance. To a certain extent, SCM relies on TQM to effectively integrate suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and customers. Improvements in supplier quality management, customers' relations and supplier selection contribute to increased organizational performance (Kuei et al. 2001).

The quality perspective of supply chain management claims that focuses on quality management practices is a critical success factor to the firm because better product would lead to new customer attraction and retention of existing customers (Kordupleski et al. 1993; Kuei et al. 2001). Since TQM, learning and knowledge management (KM) drawing from a common notion--organizational development (Zetie 2002), it is logical to examine if there is a linkage exists between these concepts, and if so, what would be the direction of the relationships. …


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