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The Return of Quality Improvement
A decade ago, total quality management (TQM) was a true hot-button issue. Manufacturing organizations were undertaking quality-improvement programs left and right. At the same time, executives and managers in institutional and commercial organizations were giving the concept a good long look to see if it could help them improve the performance of their organizations.
The quality movement has waned since then as many other more pressing issues have emerged. Today, few commercial and institution facilities have formal TQM programs in operation, though some of the concept's basic ideas remain in place - efforts to improve customer satisfaction, for instance.
All of this is not to say that quality improvement as a viable management concept is dead. In fact, in a small number of maintenance and engineering departments in institutional and commercial facilities have embraced what might be seen as the next generation of TQM.
Accreditation under ISO 9001:2000 offers an maintenance and engineering department an opportunity to demonstrate that it is committed to continually improving the quality of its performance and services. Though the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) traditionally has developed internationally recognized quality standards for industry and manufacturing organizations, ISO 9001:2000 requirements are designed to help both product- and service-oriented organizations improve their quality and performance. For more information, visit www.iso.org.
A quick internet search found that facilities departments at two major universities have earned the certification. In addition, the maintenance department for the Clark County (Nev.) School District, which includes Las Vegas, also has earned the certification.
Earning ISO certification is not an easy process, and its scope and focus might not benefit all institutional and commercial organizations. But the latest version of the ISO standards offers the best evidence yet that quality improvement remains a viable - and practical - strategy for managers looking to improve their departments' performance.