The quality chain is a vital concept in Total Quality Management, and is all about the capacity to meet customer requirements, both within an organization, as between two different organizations. In practically every office, every department, and even in every household there exists a series of customers and suppliers. Is a typist meeting the requirements of her boss, who is her supplier? Is she delivering to him error free work exactly whenever and however he wants it? If the answer to that question is yes, then she is delivering a quality service with respect to typing. Similarly for an air hostess in an airline: is her supplier delivering the food trays when she needs them, and in the correct quantity?
All the way through and beyond any type of organization – whether or not they are hotels, universities, manufacturing companies, retailers, or banks – just one piece of equipment or one person can break a series of quality chains when the external or internal customer requirements are not met. It is quite common for that breakage of the quality chain to manifest itself on the line of interaction between the customer and the organization, and the employees who work in that area are most often the ones who tend to feel the implications: the salesperson or the air hostess.
Motivating employees is a subject that has been heavily discussed as a distinct matter. A key attribute to motivation of employees and quality is clear ownership of customer, i.e. each employee should have a well defined customer. It is important to understand that a customer in this respect is not just an external party, but in essence anyone who receives and uses a service, a product, or information.
Quality will not just happen like that, it has to be carefully managed. It has to be applied in the entire organization, and it has to involve every employee. Someone working at the customer service department nowadays is not likely to touch, experience or even see the services and products that their organization is purchasing. All they see are the invoices. Suppose that one out of every five invoices that a supplier sends holds errors? Would that convey and represent quality?
Is it important to understand that if certain requirements somewhere in the quality chain are not met, it will multiply and create another problem somewhere else in the chain. This in effect leads to even more problems and failures. In order to achieve real quality, not only the requirements need continual examination, but also the capacity to meet those requirements. This will subsequently lead to a attitude and vision of continuous improvement.
So the concept and the anchor of TQM is the cooperation and working together of suppliers and customers. This will create a mutual benefit. And if the interfaces and the quality chains extend beyond the direct suppliers and customers, it then in effect becomes total quality.