TQM versus Six Sigma
Six Sigma has been used for several years to reduce product defects. It was designed to make businesses become more profitable through the implementation of behavioral changes and product changes. Like Six Sigma, TQM focuses on the same thing although it focuses more on the needs of the customers. What makes Six Sigma different from TQM is the way management implements the program.
TQM does not provide detailed and specific guidelines for management whereas Six Sigma has strong rules for managers. Individuals are trained to become Master Black Belts, Black Belts, Yellow Belts, and Green Belts. They are all part of a team effort to improve the manufacturing process. TQM does not have a hierarchy order like the belt system.
Six Sigma is used for the purpose of continuous quality improvements to produce zero defects. TQM also focuses on quality improvements but it doesn't focus on continuous improvements. TQM is also focused on conforming to the internal requirements of the company. Six Sigma is given direction by a handful of different people which happen to be your customers, stakeholders, shareholders, and your employees.
The unique thing about TQM and Six Sigma is that they both achieve the same thing in the end, it is just a matter of how they both get there. If you are focused on additional things like operational costs, you may want to use Six Sigma because it requires additional training and certification compared to TQM. Six Sigma focuses more on reducing cycle time variations that cause product defects. Finding and solving these problems will save the company thousands of lost production dollars along with raw material costs.
TQM normally is implemented at operational levels and it aims to improve single processes rather than the entire picture. Six Sigma aims to improve everything to make the business run more efficiently and effectively. This is when the belt system comes into play because the Black Belts and Green Belts have different roles to fulfill here.
Depending upon your company, you may have some employees that only work part-time. Their only job duties may include Six Sigma implementation. TQM allows them to cross-train and be involved in multiple business processes. However, both methods focus on using employee time to its maximum potential by setting goals for them to achieve and they align the goals with the needs of the company and the organizational structure. The difference with the employees is that TQM does not require employees to be certified in lean manufacturing methodologies. This allows the company to use their regular managers to implement TQM and monitor its success.
Six Sigma members have to work on small and large projects and 100% of their time must be devoted to the project. TQM goals are created to improve quality within the company without 100% devotion to it all the time. As long as the goals correspond with the company criteria, the projects will be undertaken by the right individuals and they will implement them at the proper time.
If you use Six Sigma, you will have a series of pre-planned projects that come with targets. You must meet these targets in order to have any financial benefit from implementing the system. Quite often the TQM projects do not come with targets you need to meet to have financial gain. The TQM projects concern themselves with improving the customer's satisfaction.
Both systems work great to improve quality standards within the company. The difference is in how your employees go about meeting those standards. For most companies, Six Sigma is the logical choice because it has a distinct set of tools to use. It all boils down to your management and the way they implement and manage the program.