Magazine article Management Today

Why We Need TQM-PDQ

Magazine article Management Today

Why We Need TQM-PDQ

Article excerpt

Japan. One word guaranteed to sent tremor of fear through any self-respecting European car industry manager. With its relentless improvements in productivity, quality, and sheer value for money, the Japanese car industry is reckoned to be set to massacre the European industry.

Only one revolutionary concept can, it is believed, prevent this massacre: Total Quality Management (TMQ), as a practised, naturally, by the Japanese themselves. Once a fashionable buzz-word, it is now seen as essential to survival. It means a total commitment to continous improvement throughout the organisation, and for most British car manufacturers, that means a transformation in motivation, working practices and not least, management structures.

The importance attached to TQM was highlighted, last September, when Raymond Levy, chairman of Renault, became president of the European Foundation for Quality Management, a body formed by 15 leading Continental groups in 1987. It now has 150 members.

Renault runs a major TQM training programe, spear-headed by Japanese guru Massaki Imai. During 1991 it completed initial training for all its managers and carried the revolution through the other grades. Already, the company is claiming dramatic, measured improvements with its newer models. 'The Clio quality index was markedly superior to the R19, which itself was conceived in total quality,' Levy maintains.

Quality in the eye of the beholder and of the measurer. Each manufacturer has its own method of assessing quality. However, some car industry leaders are dubious about TQM, Japanese-style: 'There is no reason to believe tha the future of the European industry will depend on copying Japanese systems,' Bob Eaton, president of GM Europe, said recently. If he's referring to the caricatures of Japanese methods, such as singing the company song and exercise every morning, he's probably correct. But in reality, most established car makers are adopting the elements of TQM and passing it off simply as good pratice. It was, after all, the Americans who invented the concept and took it to Japan, 40 year ago.

With TQM there is a commitment to improved training and motivation, individual responsibility and involvement. It stresses teamwork, and needs fewer middle managers. This is the thinking at Unipart's Coventry subsidiary, Premiere Exhaust Systems. The 23 million pounds sterling a year turnover company has 190 psychometrically-tested employees who work in 10 teams, with team leaders reporting directly to the MD. Two months ago, the teams making catalytic converters for Honda decided that they could cut down from the three shifts proposed by the company, to two, saving 300,000 pounds sterling a year net.

TQM also means getting the planning right, to minimise waste. Design integrates with production and the manufacturer links with suppliers, at an early stage. No part of the operation exists in isolation, instead it links with the company as a whole. Most famously, TQM demands a commitment to continous improvement, and getting it 'right first time'. All this is designed to reduce costs and increase the quality of products, in the sense of that word which customers understand, and they are all being adapted by European manufacturers in one form or another. Until recentlly, large sections of Britain's car industry would have failed hopelessly on virtually every count. Workers were de-motivated and kept their ideas to themselves; managers might as well have charged tolls at the departmental boundaries and 'right first time' was dismissed as unattainable, undesirable, or both.

Yet there are signs of quality-led rennaisance, even at plants once seen as UK's lamest ducks. The Peugoet Talbot factory at Ryton, Coventry, was written off by most pundits in the early 1980s, when it took a week to assemble 600 pretty awful Alpines. Now it builds up to 2,600 Peugoet 405s a week to the same quality, and at the same bottom line costs as PSA's main 405 line in France. …

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