total quality management
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total quality management (TQM)a business philosophy which seeks to instil in all employees of a firm an individual as well as a collective responsibility for maintaining high QUALITY standards, in respect of both the products supplied by the firm and the attention paid to customer services and requirements. TQM has both an internal and an external dimension. Fundamentally the success or failure of the firm will depend on its ability to satisfy the demands of its external customers. Product quality may well be the most important source of a firm's COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE over rival suppliers. TQM emphasizes that the firm's ability to generate and sustain quality advantages stems from the totality of its internal operations. The firm is made up of a network of interrelated departments, each one standing in a customer or supplier relationship with others in terms of the internal flow of raw materials and components, processing and assembly operations, through to final product, stockholding and dispatch. TQM seeks to establish a unity of interests and commitment to the maintenance of the highest possible quality standards at each of these interfaces.
TQM in particular attempts to minimize the amount of time and money spent on QUALITY CONTROL by the PREVENTION of quality problems (e.g. component and product defects and waste) arising in the first instance, thus shifting the focus of quality control away from merely detecting and rectifying cases of failure and waste. Individual commitment to quality can be reinforced by the operation of QUALITY CIRCLES and various EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION schemes. See QUALITY ASSURANCE, EUROPEAN FOUNDATION FOR QUALITY MANAGEMENT, ACCEPTANCE SAMPLING, ACTIVITY CHART, FISHBONE CHART.