Quality management in Kentucky 2009.

Author:Reid, Maurice


In early 2000 research was conducted using manufacturers with Kentucky operations to determine how they used the popular quality practices of the day, particularly Total Quality Management (TQM). Davig, Brown, Friel and Tabibzadeh (2003) determined that Kentucky manufacturing firms had launched many new quality programs but did not embrace the core concepts of TQM. Davig et al. specifically concluded that there was minimal emphasis on employee training, process measurement, the quality of customer service or process control. In this survey we revisit the "emphasis" that Kentucky manufactures place on quality practices and compare them to the current definition of TQM. We seek to identify changes in perspectives and approach to implementing quality programs in 2009. The importance of quality to the Commonwealth of Kentucky is exemplified by the fact that in 2007, the Commonwealth ranked 17th in the nation based on the value of its manufacturing exports. Our objective was to answer the question: Have Kentucky manufactures shifted their focus to a true Total Quality Management perspective?

We address this issue by beginning with a brief definition of quality and total quality management as developed in the literature and compare and contrast how these terms and

concepts have evolved over time. In the next section we describe the current data collected to inform on the practices in use today by Kentucky manufacturers. With an understanding of how the more recent data was collected, we make comparisons with the older sample to identify what differences exist between the samples. This discussion is followed with the implications of the comparison and suggestions for future research.


Although a number of definitions of quality have emerged and been debated over the years there is still no universal agreement on one good definition (Sila & Ebrahimpour, 2003). From a philosophical perspective C. I. Lewis (1926, 1946, 1956) developed the epistemology of scientific method which subsequently provided the foundation for quality (Cunningham, 1994). Another foundation of quality was initiated by Walter Shewhart an early pioneer who has become known as the "father of statistical quality control". He originally proposed Continuous Quality Improvement or CQI (Shewhart 1931) which is often defined as a linear incremental improvement within an existing process. The notion of variability, the distinction between assignable and common causes of variation, and control charts are some of Shewhart's most important contributions to the field.

Quality was defined as "value" by Feigenbaum (1951) and Abbott (1955). Levitt (1972) defined it as "conformance to specifications". Juran et al. (1974) viewed quality as beginning with knowing what customers want and applied "fitness for use" as a definition. Crosby (1979) developed the concept of zero defects and referred to "conformance to requirements" while Taguchi (1981) offered "the losses a product imparts to the society from the time the product is shipped" as a definition. Gronroos (1983) and Parasuraman et al. (1985) defined it as "meeting and/or exceeding customers' expectations".

Garvin (1987) defined product quality in terms of eight dimensions: specifically, performance, conformance, reliability, durability, serviceability, aesthetics, special features, and perceived quality. Service quality was subsequently defined by Zeithamel et al. (1990) and included seven dimensions; convenience, reliability, responsiveness, timeliness, assurance, courtesy, and tangibles. In 1994, The American Society for Quality identified accountability, curricular alignment, assessment, and student satisfaction as the four dimensions of quality in education. Over time a much greater emphasis has been given to customer satisfaction (Sila & Ebrahimpour, 2003). One of the most commonly used definitions is "the extent to which a product or service meets and/or exceeds a customer's expectations" (Reeves & Bednar, 1994). With all of these contending definitions vying to be the most generic and applicable explanation of quality, a more inclusive and more complex term was evolving and gaining application in the literature and in practice, Total Quality Management (TQM).

TQM is reported to have its origins in the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers who formed a committee in 1949 to improve Japanese productivity and enhance their postwar quality of life. (Powell, 1995) In the 1980's as the quality of Japanese products began to meet or exceed that of US companies is when the philosophy began to spread in this country and by 1992, 93% of America's largest firms had adopted TQM in some form. (Arthur D. Little, 1992) The pervasiveness of TQM practices has continued to grow and evidence of this growth is contained in the Malcolm Baldrige Framework, where the factors supporting high quality, high performing organizations are rooted in many TQM activities.

It is generally agreed that much of the existing TQM thinking and the contemporary TQM literature evolved from the philosophies and principles originally pioneered by quality gurus/leaders such as Crosby, Deming, Feigenbaum, Imai, Ishikawa, Juran, and Shingo among others. It is noteworthy that these pioneers concentrated on quality-related issues of manufacturing as distinct from a service economy. Given the growth of the service economy in developed nations, the concept of TQM has been successfully applied to services and is also being applied to the emerging knowledge/information economy (Hough, 2004).

Ishikawa (1976, 1985) was the first to draw attention to the "internal" customer, emphasizing training and quality circles. He also showed that the best results are generated by the combination of a variety of quality tools rather than their isolated use (Ishikawa, 1987). Crosby (1979) stated that "quality is free", stressed prevention and defined a 14-step program for quality improvement by means of a zero-defect philosophy. Deming (1982, 1986) argued that the cause of poor quality is the system rather than the employee, and that top management must view and understand the company as a complex system to successfully improve its structure. He emphasized the use of statistical techniques for quality control and proposed 14 principles/points for effective quality management in organizations. Feigenbaum (1983, 1991) described the idea of total quality, recognizing that quality was not just a collection of tools and techniques but supports the integration of statistical techniques and processes into the firm's standard operating systems. Additionally, he prescribed 10 fundamental benchmarks for successful implementation of total quality control, and identified customer satisfaction as its ultimate goal. Juran & Gryna (1988) advocated the breakthrough concept, in other words, an approach that is based on improvement of quality performance to unprecedented levels. Juran (1989) offered three sets of processes, quality planning, quality improvement, and quality control as a general framework for TQM. He was also one of the first to measure the cost of quality.

Mohrman et al. (1995) define TQM as "An approach to managing organizations which emphasizes the continuous improvement of quality and customer satisfaction, entails the application of systematic tools and approaches for managing organizational processes with these ends in mind, and involves the establishment of structures such as quality management teams and councils for maintaining focus on these ends and enacting organizational improvement processes". For Ho (1997) "Total = everyone associated with the company is involved in continuous improvement (including its customers and suppliers if feasible), Quality = customers' expressed and implied...

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