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Operations Management – Key Concepts

Over recent years, a small number of key concepts have become very significant to Operations Managers.  Four of these concepts are:

  • Customer Care
  • Kaizen
  • Just-in-Time
  • Total Quality Management

Customer care has been identified as a vital component of success or companies and “a commercial must” (McAtersney, 1999). Effective customer support and care is an important aspect of businesses irrespective of whether a company is related to the manufacturing or services sector (El Sawy and Bowles, 1997). Researchers have found that companies are giving increasing importance to their customers and are looking for more ways to create value for them with the intention of changing their relationship with customers from “one of selling and order taking” “into one of solution finding and partnering” with the intention of facilitating long term customer relationships through customer care, support and services (El Sawy and Bowles, 1997).


Kaizen refers to “continuous improvement” of employees and organizations, and is the foundation “for all lean initiatives” in which the primary objective is to facilitate productive changes in workplaces with the help of “solid planning and smart implementation (Ortiz, 2006). Kaizen focuses at commencing transformation by bringing about improvements which could sometimes be minute and unobvious but aim at having clean and organized workplaces. A kaizen program is initiated to make certain changes in the company processes for an increase in profitability by eliminating anything that is waste and unnecessary. The Kaizen approach is similar to customer care which is also based on commencing enhancement at the workplace by valuing customers as potential sources of information which serve to enable managers to bring about improvements. Both, Kaizen and customer care seek improvements of the workplace and employees but the former approach involves the elimination of all kinds of wastes and facilitating change through lean, whereas in the case of customer care, change takes place with the help of relationship building with clients which are the ultimate resources for change.


Just-in-Time refers to the philosophy which was first originated in Japan with regard to management and has been popularly used in Japanese organizations since the early part of 1970 (Cheng et al., 1996). The Just-in-Time philosophy was initiated and utilized by Toyota owner Taiichi Ohno, who is the initiator of this approach and has ever since been used a successful model of  business in organizations in Japan and worldwide. Just-in-Time philosophy was originally invented and put into practice for meeting the needs and demands of customers of Toyota without causing any kind of delays or inconveniences to them (Goddard, 1986). This approach implies several requirements including having the precise items necessary in accurate quantities appropriate to a particular given time, so that there is elimination of all wastes and focus on lean manufacturing.

Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management (TQM) refers to a philosophy in management which aims to improve the performances of businesses so that they can gain advantage over their competitors through a strategic approach of fulfilling the needs and requirements of all customers (Agus, 2005; Pino, 2008). Total Quality management focuses on the quality of goods and services being offered to customers, thereby directly improving the performance of the company. As such, the primary objective of quality management practices “is to produce improvement in operative and business performance”, where operative performance relates to “customer satisfaction or the optimal quality of products and services while business performance is enhanced by improved financial results (Pino, 2008). By adopting the TQM philosophy or approach, organizations seek to undertake fundamental changes and paradigm shifts in the manner in which they conduct business and several alterations are made with regard to the business being managed as a complete system rather than separate processes.