Total quality management, or TQM, was a production-system management system that made its way to the United States as an answer to Japan’s famous Toyota Production System (TPS) (or The Toyota Way). Its goal was to eliminate waste and mistakes in all phases of production. The goal, of course, was to have perfect products at the end of the cycle.
Originally applied to the U.S. auto industry, its principles have seeped into other businesses. Now Strata Solar, North Carolina’s largest developer of utility- and commercial-scale solar projects in the state, is applying TQM principles to its solar installations through a program called “First Time Right.”
pv magazine could only find one other solar installer that publicly touts a TQM program, and it is located in Pakistan. Strata has spent two years designing, implementing and refining the system.
According to the company, “First Time Right” includes industry best practices down to the smallest construction details, which it hopes will allow all its projects to be done without mistakes. It also incorporates one of the key tenets of TQM: As improvements to process and efficiency are developed on one site, those lessons learned are fed back into the training programs across all sites on a real-time basis.
The company’s training program is also designed to help its workers gain the skills necessary to advance to positions of ever-increasing responsibility within the company. Studies have shown that companies that offer clear career paths have higher employee-retention levels, thereby lowering business’ hiring costs.
“No other solar company is putting this kind of investment toward quality in its business practices,” said Markus Wilhelm, Strata’s founder and CEO. “We’ve learned from experience that it’s more important to avoid fires rather than just put them out.”