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Prioritizing quality problems in SMEs: a methodology

Humberto Nuno Teixeira (Department of Production and Systems, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
Isabel Lopes (Department of Production and Systems, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
Sérgio Sousa (Department of Production and Systems, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to propose a new methodology to be used by small and medium enterprises to characterize their performance in quality, highlighting weaknesses and areas for improvement. The methodology aims to identify the main causes of quality problems and help to prioritize improvement initiatives. This is a methodology that intends to be easy to implement by companies with low maturity level in quality.


Based on the literature review a methodology for diagnosing and prioritizing quality problems is proposed. Then two longitudinal case studies are performed to refine and validate the proposed methodology. The methodology is organized in six different steps which include gathering information about predetermined processes and sub-processes of quality management, defined based on Juran’s trilogy, and about predetermined results categories.


The application of the methodology was successful in two case studies and a report was produced on the quality state of each industry, including a prioritization of the causes of poor performance.

Research limitations/implications

The methodology may have to be adapted to better suit the needs of companies from different sectors, either by reviewing the processes, by integrating new tools or refining the existing ones.

Practical implications

This paper presents a new methodology for identifying and prioritizing quality problems.


Due to its simplicity and comprehensiveness, it is believed that the developed methodology can be applied periodically by companies as self-diagnostic and prioritization tool, aimed at continuous improvement.



This work was financed with FEDER Funds by Programa Operacional Fatores de Competitividade – COMPETE and by National Funds by FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, Project: FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-022674.


Teixeira, H.N., Lopes, I. and Sousa, S. (2015), "Prioritizing quality problems in SMEs: a methodology", The TQM Journal, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 2-21.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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