TQM in services: True or False?

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    Patrick Waddick

    My experience with TQM has been limited largely to the classroom and second hand knowledge, so I cannot attest to the success of TQM being deployed in many service companies. For a good historical reference, try looking up the Florida Power & Light case study.

    Having worked as a quality professional in both service and manufacturing industries, I can assure you that Six Sigma, which is based on many TQM tools and concepts, would bring enormous benefits to a service company, large or small. Because the Six Sigma, and TQM concepts have, historically, been rarely applied in service industries, there is generally much more potential for breakthrough, and even quantum leap, improvements, when compared with manufacturing.

    The difference between the successful companies, who embrace change and use Six Sigma – and the TQM tools and concepts – to improve their performance, and the unsuccessful companies, is the leadership at the top. When the top levels of management understand Six Sigma (or TQM), and what it potentially means to a company’s bottom line, that’s the first step in transforming an organization from a fast follower, or also ran, into a leader.

    The buy-in at the top must be accompanied by active involvement, beginning at the top, to educate and deploy quality. The overriding disciplines for the company must be to maintain a strong customer focus and be process oriented, relentlessly.

    More on this later, but there is so much to be gained from understanding and applying Six Sigma, and TQM, particularly in service industries.


    Manolis Psarros

    The service industry in general, presents a lack of TQM implementation methods. The truth is that quality thinking started from the manufacturing industry and it seems that it is the only sector that TQM can be applied effectively. From a small research, it derives that the service industry, and more specific the hospitality industry (as a representative example) appears to have huge difficulties and barriers when a TQM program is applied. Is it possible to measure intangible terms? Is it possible to treat your employees as internal customers? Is it possible to measure customer satisfaction by the customer surveys?. The answer is ‘negative’ or at least ‘not quite possible’. The quality management concept can be totally applied only at small businesses and not at multinational companies with bureaucratic procedures.
    My conclusion is that TQM is an academic term without practical hypostasis. Any argument or agreement on this subject will be welcomed…



    I have used Six Sigma in service industries for the past four years. The success of Six Sigma (as a version of TQM if you like) is outstanding, and has greater potential for success and reward than in manufacturing.
    Six Sigma has all the elements necessary to introduce and maintain successful process improvement and management, based on statistical analysis of key metrics. We had some difficulty at first with almost every aspect, but after a while it all fitted in to place.
    I would now go as far as suggesting that manufacturers stop using Six Sigma to improve manufacturing processes, and look at their service and transaction processes. That is where the real gains are to be made!

    I have just returned from a conference in London – Six Sigma is now being actively and successfully used in almost all of the banking institutions, and is moving into hotels and other service and utility companies. I am also supporting a manufacturer, who is using Six Sigma for a service process, with more success than the manufacturing projects!
    The book I have written on Six Sigma – now in print – is titled correctly “Six Sigma: SPC and TQM in Manufacturing and Services”, although in two years time the Manufacturing might well follow Services.

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