Japan Quality Management Model (TQM)

Total quality management in Japan has been discussed in different studies and still attract a lot of researchers, (Muhammad et al. (2020), Ahmad et al. (2018), Miyagawa and Yoshida (2010), Miyagawa and Yoshida (2005), Phan et al. (2011)).

During 1990, the Japanese economy faced a strong recession. Consequently, Japanese companies as well suffered a lot from this recession. They witnessed a decline in their businesses. However, many companies managed to overcome this situation. These companies were applying Total quality management principles. They see fast development in different manufacturing activities such as the automotive industry, electronics, Jea et al. (2017). Methods like the quality circle, Deming cycle are widely used in Japanese companies.

Muhammad et al. (2020) lead a comparative study between different quality models in the USA, Europe, and Japan. They find significant differences between Baldrige criteria for performance excellence (BCPE), European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) model, and Deming Prize (DP) model, representing American, European, and Japanese excellence models, respectively. Their findings reveal that the Japanese model focus on processes improvement as a means to excellence.

Total quality management in Japanese companies:

Ahmad et al. (2018) conducted an extensive literature review in order to find the factors that contribute to business performance in Japanese firms; they find that Japanese firms focus on the application of tools, techniques, and human resource development to achieve business performance.

Miyagawa and Yoshida’s (2010) study focuses on the relationship between TQM practices and performance in Japan. In sum, they find that TQM practices affect positively the business performance of Japanese manufacturers even if they are located in the USA. Furthermore, the authors have similar findings for Japanese companies operating in China, (Miyagawa and Yoshida (2005)).

Phan et al. (2011) studied the relationship between Total quality management practices and competitive performance in Japanese companies. They found Japanese companies use total quality practices as a weapon to maintain competitive advantage.

Total quality management as part of Japanese firms culture

Japanese culture meets the Total quality management philosophy; this makes its implementation easy and successful. Japanese firms take advantage of the benefit of TQM and witness results faster than companies in the west. In order to better understand the benefits and the implementation of TQM in Japan, we went through different companies using TQM.

Also, decisions in Japanese firms are the result of discussions, consensus rather than being the decision of only managers. Employees from different hierarchy levels could take part in the decision-making process. The key behind the success of Japanese companies is the commitment to quality and continuous improvement. Total quality management is present in every single detail of the production process. Japanese companies are the first to use Total quality management techniques (Quality Circles, Deming cycle and statistical methods including Pareto Principle, Scatter Plots, Control Charts, A flowchart, Cause and Effect diagram also called Ishikawa Diagram, Histogram or Bar Graph, Check Lists, Check Sheets).

Total quality management adoption stage in Japan:

Lascelles and Dale (1993) in their study proposed a classification of TQM adoption stages. Six adoption stages are identified:

  • Level 1-Uncommitted This level is characterized by ignoring TQM; their effort consists of adopting some TQM techniques or getting an ISO certification under the pressure of customers. Quality system audits by third-party agencies will be considered a success.
  • Level 2- Drifters The company is already engaged in a total quality program for more than three years, however, Management starts questioning TQM benefits and they look for other methods instead of focusing on the same program. They consider quality management programs as a fad.
  • Level 3- Tool Pushers A total quality program for tool pushers lasts a bit more than drifters; these companies have already ISO certification and use some of the TQM techniques. However, after 5 years these companies are no more using TQM techniques.
  • Level 4- Improvers Improvers are engaged in TQM program for between three to eight years, during that period, important achievement has been realized. They know the importance of culture change to be able to achieve improvements. They witness as well the impact of TQM on performance. At this level, there is a risk of loss of all advancement in case the management changed, business mergers, restructuring, or trading or economic conditions become difficult. TQM practices are well established, however, improvement culture is not self-sustaining.
  • Level 5- Award winners They are companies that can compete for a quality award like Deming Prize for example. In these companies, continuous improvement and employees’ involvement are part of their culture.
  • Level 6 -World-class Very few companies reached this level, where continuous improvement becomes part of their operations. Companies’ values are shared and understood by all employees; waste is not tolerated.

According to Lascelles and Dale (1993), Japanese companies reached ‘award winners’ and ‘world class’ levels in TQM adoption. Moreover, Yong and Wilkinson (2001) consider Japanese companies as an early adopter of TQM practices.

  • Ahmad, M. F., Zakuan, N., Chin, T., Wei, C. S., Rasi, R. Z. R. M., Hamid, N. A. A., & Rahman, N. A. A. (2018). The Strength of Japanese Companies: A Proposed TQM Framework using Atlas. Ti. Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology (JAMT), 12(1 (1)), 431-440.
  • Muhammad Din, A., Asif, M., Awan, M.U. and Thomas, G. (2020), “What makes excellence models excellent: a comparison of the American, European and Japanese models”, The TQM Journal.
  • Lascelles, D. M., and Dale, B. G. 1993. The road to quality, Oxford, England: IFS.

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