Dairy Excel: Total quality management has benefits

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The three hallmarks of a successful dairy (or any business) are: knowing the quality goals of the dairy, understanding the system so that work can be described and organized to meet the dairy’s goals, and managing the herd and workers so that goals are met.

These three processes are interdependent so that quality goals dictate how work is organized, which results in a management tool for the producer and dairy consultants.

One method for doing this is Total Quality Management.

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an approach to managing a business, including a dairy business. The approach is directed at attaining quality in both production and process.

Although in the dairy industry quality is often thought of as an attribute of the milk produced and sold, quality also includes all parts of the farm and the people that make up the farm.

TQM is not just a change in process. Rather, it represents a commitment to continual improvement of quality. The success is dependent on identifying and communicating your quality goals, understanding the systems on your dairy, defining the processes and work to achieve your quality goals.

In addition, it is necessary to collect information and monitor the process to verify you are meeting your quality goals, and making changes in processes and goals to reflect your progress toward quality.

The obvious benefit of TQM to a dairy producer, regardless of herd size, is that it simplifies your work life because it defines the important farm quality goals, how they will be achieved, and what needs to be done to produce the quality product.

The following example may help illustrate the use of TQM in a dairy farm business.

John and Heather are third generation dairy producers milking 75 cows. They raise their own heifers and grow forages and corn. John and Heather are hard workers, but are experiencing problems.

Production is not as high as it could be, the reproductive program is not working well, and improvements could be made to the facilities.

Heather and John knew they were ready for a change and saw the most important area as the reproductive program. Too many cows were open more than 120 days and John knew it was because he made the program too complicated.

As John and Heather met with their veterinarian to begin work on correcting the problem, they developed a flow chart describing the breeding and conception process. They also developed goals they wanted to achieve and recorded those goals on paper.

As they developed their plan for improving reproductive performance, John and Heather made sure to build in several areas where they could simply and effectively monitor progress.

Simple graphs were used to chart progress toward achieving goals. The monitoring and records that were kept resulted in positive changes to the work process and improvement in reproductive performance.

The continuous improvement through monitoring and evaluation is the essence of TQM.

Some people believe employee motivation to do a quality job is more a function of providing the tools an employee needs to accomplish the tasks or work and less a matter of psychological efforts.

A good employee will fail if they do not understand what they are trying to achieve and how they should do the work to meet the goals.

TQM provides structure to the job so employees can function successfully with less frustration. To make this work, it is essential that employees become part of the planning team for the systems they are responsible for and receive the feedback and guidance for accomplishing their job.

This TQM structure changes attitudes on the dairy from simply working to finish a job to working to achieve an outcome.

If you hire a person to manage your dairy’s reproductive program, or any other program, it will be easier for you and the hired employee if you can agree on the goals of the program, how the program will be done, and how it will be monitored.

A TQM plan will establish exactly who is responsible for work and the approach allows constant feedback on job performance. A TQM plan will establish exactly who is responsible for work and the approach allows constant feedback on job performance.

Importantly, the employee becomes part of the team and can provide important insights on the day-to-day operation which you as a supervisor may not appreciate. The TQM plan becomes part of an employees’ job description and is the standard operating procedure for the dairy.

Effectively hiring and supervising employees is more complicated than developing a TQM plan, but the implementation of TQM short circuits a common failure in employer-employee relationships: poor communication of job expectations.

The approach helps everyone on the dairy focus on the important issues of defining and achieving outcomes.

Total Quality Management is an effective tool to help you simplify and organize your dairy. It requires that you as management (whether you own 40 or 4000 cows) define your enterprise goals and organize the dairy into systems.

When you define your dairy systems, then you and your employees (this includes your veterinarian, AI technician, nutritionist, crop advisor, and anyone else you contract or pay for services) will define the processes and work to meet goals.

Once the programs are implemented you must have records and monitors to follow your progress. The process is continual with constant feedback and communication with all members of the team.

The most difficult part of the program is setting up the time to plan and outline the approach. Ultimately, the time spent will result in a more satisfying experience for both owner and employees.

Part of this material was adapted from a paper by William Sischo, The Pennsylvania State University.

(The author is an agricultural extension agent in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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