TQM vs QMS: the difference between Total Quality Management and Quality Management Systems

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Total Quality Management (TQM) and Quality Management Systems (QMS) both represent popular approaches to enshrining quality into the efforts of organisations across the world.

But how do the two concepts compare, and do they conflict or complement each other? Find out in our guide to these two approaches to quality management.

What is a Quality Management System (QMS)?

A Quality Management System (QMS) is a clearly defined set of business processes that are geared towards delivering products and services to a consistently high standard. An effective QMS will align with a plan for continuous measurement and improvement, as well as a commitment to quality.

A QMS is often adopted across the entire organisation, bringing operations in line with the same requirements and standards to deliver consistency and quality at all levels.

Once they have implemented a QMS, most organisations are audited by a certification body which ensures their QMS is up to standards and issues them with certification such as ISO 9001.

You’ll find the key principles of QMS listed below.

  • Focus on customers
  • Provide strong leadership
  • Involve people
  • Adopt a process-driven approach
  • Adopt a systematic approach to management
  • Commit to continual improvement
  • Adopt a factual approach to decision making
  • Recognise that supplier relations are mutually beneficial.

What is Total Quality Management (TQM)?

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management approach to long-term success through customer satisfaction.

TQM initially came out of manufacturing, but its popularity saw it move into nearly all sectors. TQM was focused on improving processes to enhance customer satisfaction, often following a cycle of Plan, Do, Check, and Act (PDCA). TQM was often managed by individuals, rather than being implemented across entire organisations.

The principles of TQM are listed below. You can see that many of them are similar to those behind a QMS, with a few differences.

  • Focus on customers
  • Involve people
  • Adopt a process-driven approach
  • Integrate organisation systems
  • Adopt a strategic and systematic approach
  • Adopt a factual approach to decision-making
  • Ensure communication with stakeholders
  • Commit to continual improvement

TQM and QMS compared

Focus on customers tick tick
Provide strong leadership tick
Involve people tick tick
Adopt a process-driven approach tick tick
Integrate organisation systems tick
Adopt a systematic approach to management tick tick
Commit to continual improvement tick tick
Adopt a factual approach to decision making tick tick
Recognise that supplier relations are mutually beneficial tick

Do you need a QMS if you’ve implemented TQM?

If the principles of TQM and QMS are similar, and you’re already using TQM for a number of projects, you might think you don’t need a QMS. But your organisation can still benefit from the kind of standardised quality processes a QMS can bring to your entire organisation. A QMS offers a number of advantages which can boost your organisation’s success, elevate quality throughout, and help you win new business.

A QMS is standardised

Applying a quality approach to projects is laudable, but it can lead to conflicting approaches within the same organisation. But a QMS ensures everyone is working through the same processes and towards the same objectives because it is generally applied across the entire organisation.

A QMS is audited

Some of the greatest benefits of a QMS come into play when an independent auditor visits the organisation and conducts a gap analysis, helping your organisation identify areas for improvement.

Some of the greatest benefits of a QMS come into play when an independent auditor visits the organisation and conducts an assessment to verify that the requirements of the standard are being met. This assessment will also identify any areas for improvement (known as Opportunities for Improvement or Observations) for the client to consider that will help to enhance and continually improve the management system.

It’s easier to win new business with a QMS

Although TQM was very popular in the 1980s, its popularity has waned as more organisations have come to recognise the benefits of a QMS. As such, while implementing TQM still has its rewards, it does not command the authority it once did.

In order to get the recognition your organisation deserves for implementing TQM, you will need to include plenty of documentary evidence in your tender documentation. Whereas holding ISO 9001 certification is an immediately-recognised achievement that speaks to the quality of your QMS.

It’s easy to achieve other standards

Implementing a QMS via ISO 9001 makes it easy to achieve other standards. That’s because other ISO standards, such as ISO 14001, ISO 27001, and ISO 45001, all use the Annex SL framework. This means that working towards multiple standards at the same time involves much less work. Or, if you prefer to work towards a new certificate at a later date, your staff will already be familiar with the steps required of them.

Find out more about Quality Management Systems

Take our free online course to find out more about how a QMS and ISO 9001 can help your business, or contact us for a quote today.

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Written by Mark Nutburn

CTO - technology professional with over 20 years of IT experience building bespoke CRM systems and designing customised software solutions. A key part of the management team at The British Assessment Bureau for many years and a part of AMTIVO’s management team.