Mount Isa Mines Limited is a company in transition, struggling against declining profitability. The impetus within Mount Isa Mines Limited to achieve positive change has resulted, amongst other things, in new management approaches being tried. One such initiative was to commence the implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM) on the Copver Smelter plant. Surprise resignations of top managers deprived TQM of its champion, at a time when more immediate concerns were with survival issues and industrial conflict, and the TQM implementation was halted for lack of commitment and resources. The purpose of this study is to consider the whether or not that TQM implementation should proceed at the present time.
This study takes the opportunity to examine the requirements for the successful implementation of TQM, by reference to implementation of TQM, both successful and unsuccessful, at other sites. Additional understanding is acquired both from the writings of specialists in the field and from applicable material from management and other experts.
In order to see how these requirements might compare with the conditions to be found on the Copper Smelter, the circumstances of that plant were reviewed in detail. This review included consideration of the broadest context of the remote location of the site; the history, recent trends and current situation of Mount Isa Mines Limited; and specific details of the Copper Smelter plant itself. Insights into the culture and motivations within MIM were provided by six attitude surveys which have been conducted since 1990. Together, these provided a good basis for determining whether or not TQM implementation might be successful at the present time.
Comparison of the actual conditions with those determined to be appropriate for successful implementation of TQM indicates that MIM in general, and the Copper Smelter in particular, are far from the ideal conditions required to implement TQM. This study indicates that considerable changes are required in the organisation, its culture, and its approach to "people" issues such as leadership and trust before TQM would have any chance of succeeding. It is not known to what extent the new Chief Executive Officer and the new Executive General Manager will support TQM in any case, given the time and commitment of resources which would be required to succeed.