Essay: TQM Initiatives at Ford Motors

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¶ … TQM initiatives at Ford Motors. Ford Motors adopted the concept of TQM in 1980 and since then has adopted other more efficient techniques of quality and performance management such as Six Sigma. The company has however retailed key elements of TQM approach with a user-centric approach. This approach is described together with its merits and demerits.

Total quality management (TQM) is noted by Ahire (1997) as integrative form of philosophy of organizational management which is used for the continuous improvement of the quality of the products as well as services being delivered. The concept of TQM functions on the idea/premise that the level of quality of the products and services is the responsibility of the individuals who are involved directly or indirectly in the creation as well as consumptions of the various products and services that are being offered by a given organization. This is to say that the concept of TQM effectively capitalizes on the level of involvement of the firm's management, employees, suppliers as well as customers in an effort to meet and even exceed the expectations of the customers. The work of Cua, McKone, and Schroeder (2001) indicated that there are a total of nine conventional TQM practices that are employed in most industries and they include cross-functional design, customer involvement, employee involvement, strategic planning, process management, information and feedback, strategic leadership, and supplier quality management (Cua, McKone, and Schroeder, 2001).In this section, I describe and reflect on my experience at Ford Motors and the TQM initiatives that I saw in use at the company.

TQM practices at Ford Motors

While working at Ford Motors, I was lucky to learn how the concept of TQM was implemented by the company to reduce cost as well as improve the quality of products as well as services that are offered by the company. The TQM practices at Ford were introduced in 1980s when the company's slogan was still "Quality is Job 1" (Scheid,2011).I must however indicate that at Ford Motors, the application of TQM initiatives have been majorly been replaced by the more efficient system or rather method of Six Sigma.

A review of the manufacturing practices at Ford Motors indicates that the company's success scan be attributed to its implementation of several quality principles as well as tools that are associated with the TQM technique. This is usually carried out via Ford Q1 Award system (Stephens,1997).

The Q1 Award is an certification system which independently assessed by Ford's World Headquarters and is an internally conferred system. The system even though is used at Ford lacks the external credibility that the other third party certification systems such as ISO 9000 series enjoys (Stephens,1997).

The company has ensured that most of its departmental functions are ISO certified. For instance the sales and marketing function is ISO 9002 certified, the product design and development function is ISO 9001 certified as well as other parts of the organization.

In short, I realized that the management at Ford Motors made a conscious effort to gradually transform the company's corporate culture to one team-based with a sharp focus on the customer. The concept of quality in this regard is therefore user-based (Kelemen,2003).Therefore by default, certain key principles of TQM were continually being encourage through the staged introduction of very specific systems of management that were aimed at the improvement and increasing of efficiencies via a conscious process of re-engineering.

A review of the efficiency of Ford Motor's TQM strategies via Kelemen's eight part framework

The efficiency of the TQM initiatives at Ford Motors is really not an easy concept to determine because of the very complexity that surrounds the concept of quality. Kelemen (2003,p.7) categorically indicated that the concept of quality is multifaceted and complex and this makes it to escape a definitive form of definition. In this section we are going to evaluate the TQM strategies via Kelemen's eight part framework and then effectively identify which approach to quality seems to be at work in this initiative with a justification of our selection.

Kelemen's eight part framework

Kelemen (2003) proposed a total of eight approaches that can be used in the analysis and re-definition of the concept of quality. Each of these approaches has an advantage and a disadvantage from the point-of-view of the shareholders. The approaches include; the product-based approach, manufacturing-based approach, user-based approach, the transcendental approach, social constructivist approach, discursive approach, slogan approach and value-based approach. Among these perspectives, there are four managerial perspectives on then concept of quality and they include the manufacturing-based approach, the product-based approach, the user-based approach and the value-based approach. The remaining four provides the critical perspectives on quality and they include, the social constructivist approach, the discursive approach, the transcendental approach and the slogan approach (Kelemen,2003).The managerial perspective are noted by Kelemen to view the concept of quality as one which is self-contained and a process which can adequately be planned, controlled as well as managed with the assistance of the managerial and technical staff/knowledge. The critical perspective maintains that the concept of quality is both multifaceted and complex and lacks a definitive definition.

The contradictory understandings of the concept of quality arises from the fact that it posses cultural, social and political attributes as opposed to having operational and technical ones. Since the management at Ford Motors made a conscious effort to gradually transform the company's corporate culture to one team-based with a sharp focus on the customer. The concept of quality in this regard is therefore user-based (Kelemen,2003).The TQM initiative is pegged on the realization of quality on the basis of a user-based approach.

User-based approach

The user-based approach is based on adage that quality indeed lies in the very eyes of the beholder (Garvin,1984,p.27).The individual consumers according to this approach are assumed to harbor different needs and wants. These consumers therefore tend to regard the goods that effectively satisfy their preferences to be the ones with the highest quality. This view on quality is regarded by Garvin (1994) to be an idiosyncratic one that suffers from too much subjectivity. By effective combination of the necessary product attributes that can elicit the greatest level of satisfaction to the client, Ford Motors is able to maintain its client base by the intelligent and timely matching of their perceived levels of quality and satisfaction. Generally it is important to produce or deal in products that are beneficial to the client. These products must be able to satisfy the needs of particular client. The managerial view on quality is noted to have a sharp focus on the ability of a good or service to adequately satisfy and even exceed the needs of a given client.

Quality is generally defined as the meeting as well as exceeding of the client's expectations (Parasuraman et al., 1985).

The importance of the end-user to the process of quality determination started in the 1960s (Kelemen,2003). Feigenbaum (1961, p.13) defined quality as the degree to which a given product meets the client's expectations. Juran et al. (1974, p. 22) on the other hand defined quality as the extent to which a given product can successfully meet the expectations of the users. Even though some of the quality experts like Shewhart, Juran and Feigenbaum have reiterated the importance of paying attention to customer needs, they have also failed to provide sufficient advice on how the client's wants are effectively translated into the appropriate specifications for products and services. The difficulty of the translation process is further exacerbated with the consideration of the specific instances or variables that determines satisfactions. Satisfaction is therefore indicated to be a subjective concept which varies according to the specific tastes of different customers. An individual's personality as well as environment are pointed out by Abbott (1955) to greatly affect their preferences. There is therefore a need for manufacturers to perform 'preference tests' on their customers in order to allow them to know whatever is significant for their consumers as noted by Bayton (1958)

It is therefore important for the client's perceptions of quality to be incorporated into the product design and production processes. This means that design researchers must closely collaborate with the customers in realizing their goals. In order to adequately understand the client's perception of quality, a focus group technique was employed by Ford Motors. Neff (2008) mentioned the use of such a focus group in arriving at a decision to reintroduce Ford Taurus SHO into the American market.

McDonagh-Philp & Bruseberg (2000) investigate the suitability of the concept or technique of focus group in the support of the design process. They did this by the investigation of the various perceptions that the designers had as well as with active interviewing of the same designers.

Via consultation, it became very clear that the design process is quite flexible as well as diverse as a result of the different projects and product types that must be designed.

A user-centric design approach must therefore involve appropriate adaptation to a wide range of approaches with the intuitive… [END OF PREVIEW]

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