OCW047: Bureaucratic and Quality Control Tools and Techniques

Bureaucratic Control

The quality control cycle improves processes through a continuous cycle of planning, doing, checking, and acting.

Learning Objectives

Use the four central components of the quality control cycle as a quality control (QC) tool

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The quality control cycle is a repeating cycle that evolves around the production process. In the PDCA model, this incorporates four elements: Plan, Do, Check, and Act.
  • This process is essential for products developed through continuous production.
  • The quality control cycle does not stop after a process has been improved. Once a product is updated, the cycle begins again for the updated product, which is subjected to the same rigorous quality control process.

Key Terms

  • PDCA: The cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act, four-step problem solving process typically used in quality control.
  • continuous improvement: An ongoing effort to make products, services, or processes better.
  • quality control: An activity, such as inspection or testing, introduced into an industrial or business process to ensure sound processes and products.

The Quality Control Life Cycle

The quality control life cycle is an ongoing cycle of planning, monitoring, assessing, comparing, correcting, and improving products or processes. It is designed to improve the quality of a product or process through continuous reinvention. Quality control is used to develop systems that ensure that the goods and services customers receive meet or exceed their expectations.

Quality control both verifies the delivery of good quality and identifies gaps and failures that need to be addressed within the process. Ultimately, it is a process that continuously evolves within the production process.

PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

PDCA (plan–do–check–act or plan–do–check–adjust) is a four-step management method used in business to control and continuously improve processes and products. It is also known as the Deming circle/cycle/wheel, Shewhart cycle, control circle/cycle, or plan–do–study–act (PDSA). Another version of this PDCA cycle is OPDCA. The added “O” stands for observation or, as some versions say, “Grasp the current condition.”


PDCA cycle: Plan, Do, Check, Act

The Four Steps

  1. Plan: In this step of the quality control cycle, a business establishes the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the expected output (the target or goals).
  2. Do: In this step, a business implements the plan, executes the process, and makes the product. It also collects data for charting and analysis to be used in the following “check” and “act” steps.
  3. Check: A business then compares the actual result against the expected result to find any differences.
  4. Act/Adjust: After comparing results, a business takes corrective actions on any significant differences between actual and expected results. In this step, the business analyzes the differences to determine their root causes, then determines where to apply changes that will improve the process or product.

It is important to keep in mind that this quality control process is continuous and specifically designed to improve the quality of business processes on an ongoing basis. The theory underlying this is the scientific method, where observations are made and hypotheses generated, which are then tested in the next cycle.

The Quality Control Cycle

Quality control is used to evaluate and address the quality of the goods a business provides.

Learning Objectives

Describe effective quality control processes as they are employed in the business environment

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Quality control is used to evaluate an organization ‘s products or services.
  • Standards of quality need to be established first, using a set of quality criteria created by the manufacturer or by the requirements of the client/customer.
  • Quality assurance is preventive and process-oriented while quality control is reactive and product-oriented.
  • Quality control emphasizes process, control, competence, and personal integrity.
  • Quality control is very important to increasing customer satisfaction and the success of the overall business.

Key Terms

  • quality control: A procedure or set of procedures intended to ensure that goods adhere to a defined set of soundness criteria or meet the requirements of the client or customer.
  • quality: The degree to which a man-made object or system is free from bugs and flaws, as opposed to scope of functions or quantity of items.
  • locus of control: A theory in personality psychology referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they can effect or dictate how events affect them.

Quality control is a business procedure used to assess the quality of a company’s products or services against benchmarks determined by the company, industry standards, or clients/customers. Quality control includes inspecting a product before it enters the marketplace to make sure it is defect-free.


Quality Checking: A U.S. Navy Aviation Electrician’s Mate performs a maintenance check during the course of his duties.

Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA)

Quality control and quality assurance have different purposes. Quality control emphasizes product testing to discover defects and report them to management, which decides how to respond (by delaying the product release date, for example). Quality assurance attempts to improve and stabilize production to prevent defects. In this way, QA is preventive and process-oriented while QC is reactive and product-oriented.

Guidelines for Quality Control

To maintain an effective quality control program, a business must follow these important guidelines:

  • Decide on a specific standard for the product or service.
  • Determine the extent of quality service actions.
  • Collect real-world data to improve product quality and adjust the QC process.
  • Submit the result to management. If the percentage of defective products is too high, management should take corrective action to improve quality.
  • Most importantly, a quality control process should be an ongoing process.

Three Major Aspects of Quality Control

  1. Elements, like controls, job management, defined and well-managed processes, performance and integrity criteria, and identification of records.
  2. Competence, such as knowledge, skills, experience, and qualifications.
  3. Soft elements, such as personnel integrity, confidence, organizational culture, motivation, team spirit, and quality relationships. Deficiency in any of these three aspects increases the risk of inferior products or services getting to market. Quality control is one of the most important procedures for any business because it lowers that risk of customer or client dissatisfaction and prevents losses for the business.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total quality management (TQM) is the continuous management of quality in all aspects of an organization.

Learning Objectives

Employ the total quality management (TQM) perspective to identify how to improve quality and efficiency on a continuous basis

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • TQM asserts that quality improvement never ends. Quality is a strategic advantage to an organization, and zero defects is the quality goal that minimizes total quality costs.
  • TQM is rooted in the belief that preventing defects is cheaper than fixing them. In other words, total quality costs are minimized when managers strive to reach zero defects in the organization.
  • The seven basic elements of TQM are: customer focus, continuous improvement, employee empowerment, quality tools, product design, process management, and supplier quality.
  • There are several awards for outstanding TQM, such as the Malcolm Baldrige Award and the ISO 9000 award.

Key Terms

  • TQM: Total Quality Management; a process improvement method that promotes the importance of quality improvement on a continuous basis.

Quality management is the study of improving the quality of a company’s products and services. Total quality management (TQM) promotes the importance of improving quality on a continuous basis. TQM asserts that quality improvement is a consistent source of strategic advantage because it eliminates waste and creates higher consistency. TQM involves all levels of staff and management as well as facilities, equipment, labor, supplies, customers, policies, and procedures.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

An important basis for justifying TQM is its impact on total quality costs. TQM is rooted in the belief that preventing defects is cheaper than fixing them. In other words, total quality costs are minimized when managers strive to reach zero defects in the organization.

The four major types of quality costs include:

  • Prevention costs are costs created from the effort to reduce poor quality. For instance, a company may train its employees to do an effective job the first time or conduct preventive maintenance on its equipment.
  • Appraisal costs include costs associated with conducting quality audits and the inspection and testing of raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods.
  • Internal failure costs include the lost productivity and waste associated with having to scrap or rework a product.
  • Finally, external failure costs occur when the defect occurs after the product has reached the customer. This is the most expensive category of quality cost as it results in returns, repairs, warranty claims, and potentially lost business.

The Seven Basic Elements of TQM

These seven elements of TQM are:

  1. Customer focus: Identifying customer needs and measuring customer satisfaction are key first steps for any business. Managing quality begins with delivering precisely what the customer wants.
  2. Continuous improvement: There is no perfect system. Process improvements must be continuous. Constantly identifying and improving on processes to increase quality and/or lower costs is a primary responsibility of operations teams.
  3. Employee empowerment: Employees are observers: ensuring familiarity with the individual components and the broader process as a whole is integral in empowering effective operations professionals.
  4. Quality tools: Quality tools are mostly model-based (i.e., flowcharts, cause and effect diagrams, scatter plots, etc.) and involve manipulating output data to identify weaknesses and/or areas for improvement.
  5. Product design: Design and delivery of a product is also an evolving process where product design can substantially impact costs and customer satisfaction. Operations professionals are in an ideal position to suggest design changes that will improve quality.
  6. Process management: This is often seen as a the heart of TQM because improving the process itself is a goal everyone in operations should be working towards all the time. Simple process improvements like enhancing the organization of inputs or the design of the plant can have enormous cost implications.
  7. Supplier quality: Finally, most companies are also customers. This means that many of the inputs for a given good will be coming in as goods themselves. Who organizations buy from significantly impacts costs and quality. This makes supplier management is a complex and highly relevant component of TQM.

All of these elements emphasize the importance of improving quality by empowering employees, providing adequate training, and building a continuous organizational culture of improvement. The idea here is to improve while continuing to fulfill customer needs through effective use of internal resources and process management.

Quality Awards Associated with TQM

There are several quality awards and standards for organizations to strive towards. Most of the organizations involved in these programs see them as tools to help improve their quality processes and move toward implementing successful TQM. Two examples are:

  • The Malcolm Baldrige Award is a United States quality award that covers an extensive list of criteria evaluated by independent judges. In many cases, organizations use the Baldrige criteria as a guide for their internal quality efforts rather than competing directly for the award.
  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sponsors a certification process for organizations that seek to learn and adopt superior methods for quality practice (ISO 9000) and environmentally responsible products and methods of production (ISO 14000). These certifications are increasingly used by organizations of all sizes to compete more effectively in a global marketplace due to the wide acceptance of ISO certification as a criterion for supplier selection.

The RATER Model

RATER is a service quality framework that highlights five important business areas customers use to analyze strength or weaknesses.

Learning Objectives

Apply Gap Analysis to the RATER model to measure current and potential performance

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • RATER assumes that customers evaluate a firm’s service quality by comparing their perceptions with their expectations.
  • RATER highlights the five areas of a business: Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, and Responsiveness. Gap analysis of RATER results measures the difference between perception and expectation.
  • RATER allows businesses to improve an individual service variable by analyzing customer data.

Key Terms

  • SERVQUAL: SERVQUAL or the RATER model is a service quality framework.
  • Gap Analysis: A tool that helps organizations compare actual performance with potential performance. The thought process is: “Where are we now and where do we want to be?”
  • reliability: The quality of being dependable or trustworthy.

The RATER model is a service quality framework. It was created by professors Valarie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard Berry, who introduced the framework in their 1990 book Delivering Quality Service. The model highlights five areas that customers generally consider important when they use a service, and focuses on differentiating between customer experience and expectation.


Delivering Quality Service: A book by Valarie Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and Leonard Berry

Five Areas of RATER

  • Reliability: did the company provide the promised service consistently, accurately, and on a timely basis?
  • Assurance: do the knowledge, skills, and credibility of the employees inspire trust and confidence?
  • Tangibles: are the physical aspects of the service (offices, equipment, or employees) appealing?
  • Empathy: is there a good relationship between employees and customers?
  • Responsiveness: does the company provide fast, high-quality service to customers?

By measuring the quality ratings for these five areas, a business can improve areas that are lagging. RATER uses a multidimensional approach to pinpoint service shortcomings, which helps a business understand why they are happening and how to correct them.

Gap Analysis

Gap Analysis can be applied to each of the five RATER areas. Gap Analysis is a tool that helps companies compare actual performance with potential performance. The five gaps that organizations should measure, manage, and minimize are:

  • Gap 1: The management perception gap, or the difference between the service customers expect and management’s perception of customer expectations. If management thinks customers expect one level of service when they really expect another, this indicates that management does not fully understand the market.
  • Gap 2: The quality specification gap. This is the difference between management perception and the company’s actual specification of customer experience.
  • Gap 3: The service delivery gap. This is the difference between customer-driven service design and standards and service delivery.
  • Gap 4: The market communication gap. This is the gap between the experience that customers are promised and the experience they actually have.
  • Gap 5: The perceived service quality gap. This is the gap between a customer’s expectation of a service and their perception of the service they received.

Addressing gaps is the ultimate goal of this process because the deviation between customer expectations and actual quality is where quality control and process improvements take place.

Total Quality Management Techniques

Six sigma, JIT, Pareto analysis, and the Five Whys technique are all approaches that can be used to improve overall quality.

Learning Objectives

Classify the different methods of TQM available to organizations and leaders

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Total Quality Management ( TQM ) is an integrative management philosophy for continuous improvement of the quality of an organization ‘s products and processes in order to meet or exceed customer expectations.
  • Six Sigma focuses on improving the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects while minimizing the variability in manufacturing and business processes.
  • Just-in-Time is a production strategy for improving return on investment by reducing in-process inventory and associated carrying costs.
  • Pareto Analysis is a statistical technique used to identify a limited number of tasks that combine to produce a significant overall effect.
  • Five Whys is a question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.

Key Terms

  • Pareto Analysis: A statistical technique that is used to select a limited number of tasks that produce significant overall effect.
  • Six Sigma: A process improvement method that focuses on statistical methods to reduce the number of defects in a process.
  • JIT: Just-in-Time; to perform an operation (usually compiling).

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an integrative management philosophy for continuous improvement of the quality of an organization’s products and processes in order to meet or exceed customer expectations. There are several TMQ strategies used to improve business management systems. Considering the practices of TQM as discussed in six empirical studies, Cua, McKone, and Schroeder (2001) identified the nine most common TQM practices as:

  1. Cross-functional product design
  2. Process management
  3. Supplier quality management
  4. Customer involvement
  5. Information and feedback
  6. Committed leadership
  7. Strategic planning
  8. Cross-functional training
  9. Employee involvement

The following sections describe some other important and widely used techniques that drew inspiration from TQM in their focus on quality and control.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma drew inspiration from the quality improvement methodologies of preceding decades, including quality control, TQM, and Zero Defects. It focuses on improving the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects while minimizing the variability in manufacturing and business processes Like TQM, the Six Sigma philosophy asserts that achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly top-level management.


Six Sigma: The Six Sigma management philosophy drew inspiration from the quality improvement methodologies of preceding decades, including TQM.

Just-in-Time ( JIT )

The Just-in-Time (JIT) method is a production strategy for improving business return on investment by reducing in-process inventory and associated carrying costs. JIT focuses on continuous improvement to maximize an organization’s return on investment, quality, and efficiency. The JIT inventory system focuses on having “the right material, at the right time, at the right place, and in the exact amount” and defines inventory as a cost factor.

JIT programs often include a focus on Total Quality Control. For example, when a process or parts quality problem surfaces on Toyota’s production line, the entire production line is slowed or even stopped while the problem is dealt with. JIT must be organization-wide and consistent.

Pareto Analysis

Pareto analysis is a statistical technique used to select a limited number of tasks that produce significant overall effect. It uses the Pareto principle: most problems have a few key causes. Pareto analysis also concludes that 80% of the result can be generated by focusing on 20% of the key work.

Five Whys

The Five Whys is a question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem, which points toward a process that is not working well or does not exist. The technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used by Toyota Motor Corporation as it evolved its manufacturing methodologies. It is now used within Kaizen (continuous improvement), lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma.

Source: Management