Quality management has been a part of many different cultures throughout history. It is nothing new and can be traced as far back as 2000 BC in Babylonia. King Hummurabi of Babylon introduced the concept of product quality and liability into the building industry of the times. In the time of Egyptian pharaohs, the burial of the nobility was documented systematically. The manner of carrying out the necessary rituals and the funerary goods to be buried with the deceased are stated in each Book of the Dead. A systematic document is one of the fundamentals in quality management to ensure consistency. The same steps will be followed by different persons performing the same task. In doing so, the deviation from the requirements can be minimized.
The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, decreed that all goods supplied for use in the imperial household should carry a mark so that any maker who produced goods with faults could be traced and punished. During the Middle Ages, merchant guilds were established to guarantee the quality of workmanship and to define the standards to be expected by the buyers. The emergence of mass production in the twentieth century increased the demand of control of product quality. In addition, the demand of consistency in ammunition in war times pushed the need for more stringent product quality. If we look back at this brief history of the development of quality management, it can be seen that we have gone through various phases from quality control to quality assurance and ultimately to total quality management.
(i) Quality Control
Quality control is basically concerned with complying with requirements by inspecting the products and eliminating nonconforming items. It does not address the root causes of nonconforming. This type of control was developed during World War II to ensure the consistency of ammunition being produced.
(ii) Quality Assurance
Similar to quality control, quality assurance originated from the military’s need for consistency of military hardware. The success of Japanese manufacturers during the 1960s and 1970s shifted the focus from quality control to quality assurance. In comparison to quality control though, quality assurance focuses on the procedure of compliance and product conformity to specification through activities such as vendor appraisal, line or shop floor trouble shooting, laboratory work, field problems and method development in the production process. However, quality assurance is still basically an inspection process, though it checks more than just the product.
(iii) Total Quality Control
Total quality control is an expansion of quality control from manufacturing to other areas of an organization. The concept was introduced by the American scholar Dr Armand Feigenbaum in the late 1950s. The Japanese adopted this concept and renamed it as company-wide quality control (CWQC). It tries to look for long term solutions rather than responding to short term variations. It focuses on pursuit of quality through elimination of waste and non-value-added process. Also, the concept is to expand quality control beyond the production department. Quality control should be covered all the other departments of an organization such as marketing, design, accounting, human resources, logistics and customer services. Quality is not just the responsibility of production.
(iv) Total Quality Management (TQM)
Total quality management (TQM) evolved from the Japanese after World War II with the inspiration from quality experts like Juran and Deming. As it evolved, it changed from process driven by external controls to a customer oriented process. Quality is achieved through prevention rather than inspection. It shifts the main concept from control to management. No matter how stringent the control there is still a chance to have mistakes or defectives. The concept of management is to have a strategic plan starting from identifying customer requirements to after-sales services to producing product meetings or exceeding the customer requirements.
From the evolution of quality management, we can also identify some key attributes of quality. We start by producing product in a consistent manner by meeting the necessary requirements. It is important to trace and isolate defective items preventing further usage. If it is found that a certain batch of products has safety problems after being sold in the market, it is important that it can be identified and recalled. Means are developed to control quality at the initial stage.
This is primary achieved through inspection. Later, the scope was shifted to quality assurance. That is, mechanisms are developed to ensure the production process conforms to the requirements of producing good products. The concept of control was extended beyond the production department to include all departments of an organization. To deliver quality product, it requires cooperation and integration of all departments. If the logistics department does not ship the products on time, the customer will not be happy. At the final stage, quality should not rely on control only. Quality is built upon by customer focus, defect prevention and so on. This is total quality management.