The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience

Paper Info
Page count 15
Word count 4117
Read time 16 min
Subject Business
Type Critical Writing
Language 🇺🇸 US


The paper investigates, compares, and contrasts two philosophies of quality control, specifically, total quality management (TQM) and six sigma. Although they may seem to be similar, the difference between both the scopes to which they are applicable and the approaches that they utilize is non-negligible. Several automotive companies have experiences of adopting the methodologies, which provides practical evidence for analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of their use in the industry. Regarding the theoretical base, it includes a historical discourse as well as references to both academic experts and modern investigators of quality management. Generally, the research has revealed that the techniques under review have a range of drawbacks that can limit their helpfulness in the modern vehicle market. Consequently, there is a request for new strategies, which assumption sets the direction for further studies.


Quality is in the list of the core notions in business and economics, as it is the driver of customer satisfaction, which, in turn, is among the leading contributors to a company’s profitability. This encouraged entrepreneurs to control the quality of the goods and services that they produced throughout the history. The approaches to monitoring changed together with the specificities of the market as well as the relationships between manufacturers or providers and consumers. It is hardly possible, therefore, to specify which of the quality management methodologies that the humanity has invented is the most advanced since each can be relevant or not under particular circumstances.

Thus, the rapid increase in the volumes of production in the first half of the 20th century determined the need for a closer focus on the quality of the outputs. Control, meanwhile, had to be possible to exercise without discontinuing work because the demand was growing further. These two factors auspicated the idea of total control, which lied in examining every stage of production, not solely the final product; actually, it remains in active use. The paper explores, compares, and contrasts two currently popular philosophies, TQM and six sigma, and speculates on their applicability to automobile manufacture.

Defining Quality Management

Notion of Quality

The primary step to interpreting the concept of quality management is defining quality, which task may be difficult due to the dramatic subjectivity of the term. Although its meaning seems to be sufficiently apparent to need no additional explanation, this does not correspond to reality. In fact, it is critical to consider not solely the semantic interpretation of the word, but relationships between the producers of goods or services and their customers as well. Quality plays the leading role in those, which determines the need for a sufficiently broad and practical definition.

Even in business context, however, several perspectives on the term exist, each of which is typical of a certain position in the above relationships. Thus, Goetsch & Davis (2015) describe the essence of quality in the opinion of the producer, of the customer, and of the government. In accordance with the first view, quality means the degree to which a certain product or service meets the requirements. It is worth noting that the correspondence to the needs determines consumer satisfaction and, consequently, profit, which allows mentioning the latter among essential quality measures. From the customer’s viewpoint, the product or service should fulfil the functions for which it has been designed as appropriate and ideally be lasting. Finally, governments classify harmless and environmentally friendly items as well as activities as those of proper quality.

Notion of Quality Management

As apparent from the above formulations, the fundamental principle of quality is the priority of consumers and their needs in production decisions. Martin et al. (2020) illustrate this, highlighting the subjectivity of the term but insisting that it is customer-centric by nature, regardless of individual interpretations. Hence, the essence of quality management lies in adapting the production activities and tasks to the requirements of the consumers to maintain the desirable degree of excellence (Antunes et al., 2021; Silva et al., 2021). This is possible to do in a variety of ways, two of which the paper actually examines.

Views of Academic Experts

One of the reasons why both quality and quality management are difficult to define adequately is the relative newness of both concepts, due to which theoretical base presumably remains insufficient. In fact, academic speculations on the topic began no earlier than in the 20th century, when the ever-growing production volumes created requests for a systematization of the existing approaches as well as developing new. Feigenbaum (1961), one of the pioneers, states that the customer’s experience with a certain good or service can determine his or her requirements to similar products in the future, which frequently happens unconsciously. The conformance to those requirements, according to Crosby (1979), is the essence of quality, and enabling as well as maintaining it is the main purpose of quality management. An essential nuance, on which the author insists, is the reduction of losses that a properly designed and implemented quality program should enable.

The above assumption underlies the existing methodologies of quality control and, furthermore, determines the need for exercising it at all stages of the company’s performance. Deming’s (1982) theory of management rests on the principles of integrity as well. In addition, he highlights that consumer requirements are quite dynamic, for which reason firms have to be highly adaptable to satisfy them; this, meanwhile, may presuppose adjustments at any phase of their lifecycles. Therefore, quality control apparently should be total and never-ending, as occasional and selective checking does not allow for sufficiently productive interaction with consumers.

History of Quality Management

Before the 20th Century

It would be unreasonable to state that the correlation between the properties of goods and services, the satisfaction of those who consume them, and the profit is a recent discovery. Small businesses actually existed throughout the history, and attracting customers, especially wealthy, was their main task. Furthermore, good performance was critical for survival, frequently the only way of it, which resulted in seeking to meet a maximum of visitors’ needs.

In the vast majority of cases, the producer knew the consumer directly and designed the item or service personally for him or her. Such a scheme today is referred to as the customer-craft paradigm (Goetsch & Davis, 2015). Within it, craft workers themselves are responsible for quality control, due to which the level of excellence is strongly dependent on their competence as well as dedication. Notwithstanding the risks associated with the lack of centralized supervision, this approach to production has doubtless advantages, such as high variation of outputs and high customer satisfaction due to the maximal consideration of personal requirements.

With the time, manufacturers and providers realized the benefits of unions, notably, higher security and the possibility of more adequate price regulation in comparison with exclusively individual entrepreneurship. That gave birth to guilds and mass production, whose appearance, in turn, determined the need for the standards that each of the participants had to follow (De Munck, 2011). Otherwise, teamwork as well as support would have been impossible.

Production volumes grew predictably, while both the variety and the quality of the final products dropped due to the lack of room for individual approaches, which contributed to the necessity for monitoring. The earliest mass quality control, therefore, appeared in medieval Europe together with guilds in a form of regular inspections (Yang, 2008). Goetsch & Davis (2015) label such an approach as the mass production and inspection paradigm. Similar methods, which evolved into a variety of systems and techniques during the industrial revolution, remained in intensive use until the 20th century.

It is worth noting that the above paradigms predominantly are applicable to manufacture. In the service sector, it is difficult to develop any measurable quality standards because the final product is not material. Therefore, according to Hostage (1975), service businesses were always dependent on personnel’s qualifications as well as involvement in the production process. Dedication was of special importance, and it actually remains today, since the mood of employees and the atmosphere at the workplace are critical in building relationships with customers. In fact, each staff member in a provider is responsible for consumer satisfaction, which allows stating that the sphere of services has been a textbook example of total quality control since its formation.

The beginning of modern quality management occurred in the 1920s in response to the ever-increasing demand both for goods and for services. Simply stated, the productivity of manufacturers grew beyond the capacity of inspection committees that, consequently, became unable to supervise all firms as appropriate. That resulted in the requirement for more advanced techniques, the pioneer in which was Shewhart with his theory of statistical quality control (Best & Neuhauser, 2006). The most important change that actually determined the future of quality management was the shift from inspecting outputs to minimizing defects at the stage of production.

The transformation resulted from discovering that preventing issues allowed for higher quality of final products in comparison with solving problems after they appeared. In addition, it is critical to consider that consumers, not producers, should determine what exactly to manufacture and provide, which is the key to maximal satisfaction. Goetsch & Davis (2015) consequently call a paradigm of this kind customer driven. A brief summary on all of the three quality management schemes that the section describes is at the end of the paper.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

The need for improving the productivity of manufacture grew especially acute after the World War II; Japan predictably was among the societies that were experiencing the biggest deficiencies. Seeking to compensate for those as soon as possible, the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers created a special committee whose task was to increase the quality of life (Martinez-Lorente et al., 1998). That happened in 1949, which year subsequently is possible to regard as the beginning of total quality management (TQM). The term and the structured theoretical explanations of the philosophy, however, appeared several decades later.

The word “total” in the given context means the mandatory participation of all parts and levels of a company rather than a particular department. Such approach is quite logical, considering that adding to profitability is desirable for all employees since it determines their well-being; therefore, each of them has to contribute to it through improving quality. On the condition of maximal involvement, TQM allows for constant improvement, for which reason it qualifies as a process rather than a result. This principle underlies the known Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, following which is the distinctive feature of production in the country (Kaizen Institute, 2021). Simply stated, the methodology under review makes each employee responsible for his or her area of work and presupposes permanent interaction to avoid missing failures.

Critical Contrast of TQM and Six Sigma

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, TQM gained popularity in various countries, having adopted certain region- as well as culture-specific features. Thus, another widespread approach to quality management, whose name is six sigma, is believed to have developed from it (McAdam & Lafferty, 2004). This is not necessarily true, however, as the two techniques have a range of dissimilarities parallel with the points where they resemble each other.

In one respect, meeting customer requirements is the main purpose of both six sigma and TQM; in other words, those needs are the key reference point of production decisions within each of the two philosophies. Both seek to maximize the satisfaction of consumers, which, in turn, presupposes constant alignment of production processes with the participation of the employees at all level, especially the highest (McAdam & Lafferty, 2004). This similarity, in fact, is sufficient to assume that six sigma originates directly from TQM.

On the contrary, the scopes of the methodologies and, consequently, the tasks that they are to perform do not coincide. Notably, total quality management means never-ending concentration on the quality of the final product, hence eliminating errors before they actually occur. Six sigma, meanwhile, focuses at particular faulty processes that do happen (Hayes, 2021). The strategy comprises 5 steps, specifically, defining, measurement, analysis, improvement, and control, which labels form the acronym DMAIC. The cyclicity of the management process is apparent from the below diagram that also includes the comments regarding the search for appropriate solutions.

Figure 1. DMAIC (Chaitanya et al., 2018)

The initial stage involves the exploration of the goals and requirements of a particular business to reveal the existing problems. In the given context, the latter word stands for the processes that are not happening as appropriate and consequently can compromise the productivity. Then, it is essential to measure the process and calculate the deviation of its actual performance from normal (Goetsch & Davis, 2015). To identify the root cause or causes of the non-conformity is the next step; this presupposes examining each input of the process separately, so that they do not influence each other. The origin of the issues actually determines the necessary improvements and the most relevant ways of control, which are the two next stages.

Measuring is another difference between six sigma and TQM; the latter apparently lacks precision and is qualitative rather than quantitative. Simply stated, it targets particular issues, seeking to eliminate their impact on the production process, but does not assess the degree of that impact. Six sigma compensates for this drawback, which favors its popularity in the given industry since car production, similar to any manufacture, requires maximal accuracy as the main factor of the output quality.

In statistics, the Greek letter sigma is the symbol of the variable that reflects the degree to which a certain process is deviant from the desirable perfection. It, in turn, means the presence of maximally 3.4 defects per million opportunities, in other words, the situations where non-conformance is probable (Goetsch & Davis, 2015). At this level of quality, 99.7% of all units produced bear no defects. Such percentage equals six sigma, from where the name of the methodology actually originates. The following figure provides an illustrative presentation of the given approach to quality measurement.

Upper and lower control limit
Figure 2. Upper and lower control limit (Goetsch & Davis, 2015)

Applicability of TQM and Six Sigma to Automotive Industry


Toyota Motor Corporation, one of the most famous Japanese car manufacturers, presumably is the first brand to be associated with total quality management, as it has been loyal to this approach for decades. The company’s main principle of customer priority presupposes relying on the feedback from consumers as the key reference point; collecting it is among the responsibilities of assistance centers. In addition, the above philosophy of kaizen rests on never-ending advancement, which means in practice that every participant of the production process should make “constant and small improvement efforts” (Toma & Naruo, 2017, p. 575). Such common involvement is expected to allow not solely for an easy adoption of the newest technologies, but also for identifying the roots of the existing issues and their elimination in the future.

This process normally is gradual and possible to present as a chain of causal relationships between a certain problem and the production failure that eventually leads to it. For instance, “Why is there an oil slick near the machine? Because it is losing oil. Why […]? Because the oil pump broke down. Why […]?” (Toma & Naruo, 2017, p. 575). Finding a relevant solution, therefore, requires involvement of employees at all of the levels that the chain comprises. This presupposes communication, provides integrity, and favors teamwork, which three phenomena Padhi (2010) mentions among the key elements of TQM. Another essential component is trust; without it, the above types of interaction are impossible.

It is quite apparent that the philosophy of TQM gives substantially more power to employees in comparison with inspections as the main or the only quality control method. Specifically, they acquire not only responsibility, but also the authority to improve, in other words, the right to utilize quality tools. Among those is the Deming wheel, also known as PDSA or PDCA, which are the possible acronyms of the cycle of four stages that the technique involves. The graph below presents all of those in a comfortable and illustrative form.

The Deming wheel
Figure 3. The Deming wheel (The Deming Institute, n.d.)

In the acronyms, P stands for planning, that is, identifying the existing issue and the actions that are necessary for solving it, which the above cause-end-effect chain actually represents. Before implementing the solutions, however, it is critical to test them and assess their effectiveness, which happens at the following two stages (Deming, 1986). After a successful utilization in a particular case, the improvement needs institutionalizing, that is, integrating in the firm’s quality strategy, which happens at the stage of Act.

The Deming Wheel is a bright illustration of the reasons why total quality management never ends. In brief, the need for solving a certain problem determines that for updating the production standards, which can allow for minimizing the issues of the given type but not necessarily the other. Furthermore, implementing new approaches may have problematic consequences that launch the cycle from the beginning. It is also worth noting that particular phases can be repetitive, as identifying and eliminating the cause of the issue frequently requires more than one attempt. Therefore, according to Goetsch & Davis (2010), problem solving in Toyota Motor Corporation as a textbook example of TQM looks practically as follows.

Toyota’s problem solving
Figure 4. Toyota’s problem solving
  • Advantages. Toyota, however, is not the only car manufacturer to have adopted the philosophy of total quality management; thus, Ford and General Motors appreciate it as well. This is quite reasonable since the approach has a range of benefits, particularly when it applies to such a complex and multistage process as assembling vehicles. Primarily, it requires close communication on a constant basis among the employees who are responsible for different operations (Chary, 2009). The probability that a failure at one stage will affect the further increases together with the amount of stages; the importance of permanent interaction in process, subsequently, grows as well. Therefore, TQM doubtlessly is in the list of the most appropriate quality management strategies for conveyor manufacture. Other benefits of this methodology are its long-term strategic perspective and good chances for customer loyalty due to seeking to meet a maximum of their needs, which never ceases. The above employee empowerment is worth mentioning as well because it fosters not only trust, but also dedication and diligence at workplace, adding to the resulting productivity of the company (Chary, 2009). In addition, TQM combines multidisciplinarity of knowledge with standardization of quality parameters and control techniques, which enables development without reorganizing the production process on a constant basis. This nuance is especially important for big businesses, as the probability of successful reshaping is inversely dependent on the broadness of the scope of performance.
  • Disadvantages. Notwithstanding the benefits, following the principles of TQM may bear certain risks that can be serious obstacles to its implementation. Primarily, it requires substantial investments, not solely of money, but of time and energy as well, in training employees, so that they are able to utilize quality tools as appropriate (Chary, 2009). Simply stated, creating competent and productive teams consumes resources, which may be unacceptable, for instance, in case the company seeks to overcome a crisis. The emphasis on customer, another underlying principle of total quality management, also is in the list of the reasons why this methodology faces criticism. Notably, according to Chary (2009), consumers not necessarily have a sufficiently clear understanding of why exactly they need certain products or services and which of those are proper. Their opinion consequently should not serve as the only reference point for quality standards since not all of the demands are technically possible and economically reasonable to satisfy.

In addition, as said above, requirements can change, sometimes spontaneously and dramatically. Thus, General Motors that also follows the principles of TQM was facing problems in 2018 because of the rapid decrease in the “demand for small and mid-size cars in the U.S.” (Shih, 2018, para. 3). Another risk of relying on customer feedback as the key measure of quality is the increase in the expectations, due to which they can become difficult to meet.

Six Sigma

  • Advantages. A quantitative approach to assessing the results of the work requires that to measuring employees’ competence as well, otherwise it is impossible to delegate the tasks in a way that enables minimizing deviations from perfect. Six sigma presupposes grouping the participants by their expertise, in particular, into so-called Black Belts and Green Belts, which labels determine their responsibilities (Goetsch & Davis, 2015). In a combination with employee empowerment that the philosophy involves such specialization improves the flexibility of the production process. Notably, a clear understanding of the scope of each worker’s activity allows for immediate response to emergencies, and the right to take measures enables their quick elimination. This is essential in such a highly competitive and rapidly changing sphere as automobile industry.
  • Disadvantages. Similar to TQM, six sigma presupposes training, which may require quite long time as well as considerable financial investments; this compromises the applicability of this methodology to crises. Another reason why its implementation is not always desirable is the so-called silver bullet syndrome (Goetsch & Davis, 2015). This psychological phenomenon lies in excessively strong belief that adopting a certain approach is sufficient for immediate and noticeable changes. In fact, meanwhile, very few companies succeed in reaching six-sigma quality since it presupposes substantial effort, which frequently causes frustration. It can also derive from the need to delegate important production decisions to lower levels of workers, as this is risky due to their qualifications that are probable to remain improper even after training.

Need for New Methodologies

Today, due to outstandingly rapid technical progress as well as globalization, the quality of goods and services has gained special importance. Notably, the wide assortment makes the customers more discriminating, simply stated, adds to the strictness of their requirements, due to which those become more difficult to satisfy (Goetsch & Davis, 2015). This along with the above imperfection of TQM and six sigma contributes to the relevancy of more innovative approaches to quality management. The below recommendations may be useful for improving the flexibility of the production process and/or maintaining it at the desirable level; hence the possibility of adjusting it to changes.


Primarily, it is essential for producers, including car manufacturers, to remain critical about their current quality strategies. This assumption derives from the variability of the modern market and the resulting importance of quick response; as mentioned above, both are especially high in automotive industry. Therefore, it is not reasonable to stick to certain characteristics or approaches since they are probable to become outdated in a relatively short period.

A complete absence of standards, however, is equally destructive because it prevents the production process from structuring and makes it chaotic. A well-balanced solution, subsequently, lies in regarding practicality as a priority (Goetsch & Davis, 2015). This means the need for a regular assessment of all techniques, approaches, materials, and other components of manufacture through the lens of their usefulness in maintaining appropriate competitiveness.


Although total quality management and six sigma are similar, there are no reasons for identifying these two methodologies with each other. Notably, TQM is descriptive rather than specific, notwithstanding its resting on cause-and-effect relationships, due to which it helps to identify the problem but not measure it. Regarding six sigma, it applies quantitative methods that allow for precision in assessment, hence more effective standardizing. The main peculiarities of both are the emphasis on customer and control at each stage of production rather than inspecting the output. These aspects are advantageous in terms of customer satisfaction but disadvantageous from the security viewpoint, as consumers not necessarily have an adequate understanding of what to produce, and not all workers can solve problems properly. Considering this as well as the frequent turns in the market that require higher adaptability of production, none of the philosophies is universal.

Regarding automotive industry as an example, it is outstandingly competitive and rapidly changing, which limits the applicability of both TQM and six sigma in it. The main obstacle is the need for investing money, time, and energy in the implementation of these approaches. This is quite reasonable in remote strategic planning but less desirable in a short-term perspective, where quick response is a main determinant of the survival of a business. In addition, many managers believe adopting new quality control philosophy, for instance, six sigma, to be a universal solution of the issues that the firm is experiencing, which does not correspond to reality. Finally, it is not always reasonable to rely on customer needs in decision-making since the consumers may lack competence to assess the technological as well as economic relevance of their requirements.


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EduRaven. (2023, February 21). The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience. Retrieved from


EduRaven. (2023, February 21). The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience.

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EduRaven. (2023) 'The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience'. 21 February.


EduRaven. 2023. "The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience." February 21, 2023.

1. EduRaven. "The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience." February 21, 2023.


EduRaven. "The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience." February 21, 2023.


EduRaven. 2023. "The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience." February 21, 2023.

1. EduRaven. "The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience." February 21, 2023.


EduRaven. "The Use of Quality Management Initiatives to Improve Products and Consumer Experience." February 21, 2023.