History Of The Quality Movement

As early as the 1950s, Japanese companies began to see the benefits of emphasizing quality throughout their organizations and enlisted the help of an American, W. Edwards Deming, who is credited with giving Japanese companies a massive head start in the quality movement. His methods include statistical process control (SPC) and problem-solving techniques that were very effective in gaining the necessary momentum to change the mentality of organizations needing to produce high quality products and services. Deming developed his 14 points (Appendix 14.1) to communicate to managers how to increase quality within an organization.

Deming believed that 85 percent of all quality problems were the fault of management. In order to improve, management had to take the lead and put in place the necessary resources and systems. For example, consistent quality in incoming materials could not be expected when buyers were not given the necessary tools to understand quality requirements of those products and services. Buyers needed to fully understand how to assess the quality of all incoming products and services, understand the quality requirements, as well as be able to communicate these requirements to vendors. In a well-managed quality system, buyers should also be allowed to work closely with vendors and help them meet or exceed the required quality requirements.

According to Deming, there were two different concepts of process improvement that quality systems needed to address: (1) common (systematic) causes of error, and (2) special causes of error. Systematic causes are shared by numerous personnel, machines, or products; and special causes are associated with individual employees or equipment. Systematic causes of error include poor product/service design, materials not suited for their use, improper bills of lading, and poor physical conditions. Special causes of error include lack of training or skill, a poor lot of incoming materials, or equipment out of order.

Another influential individual in the development of quality control was Joseph M. Juran, who, like Deming, made a name for himself working in Japanese organizations focusing on improving quality. Juran also established the Juran Institute in 1979; its goals and objectives were centered on helping organizations improve the quality of their products and services.

Juran defined quality as “fitness for use,” meaning that the users of products or services should be able to rely on that product or service 100 percent of the time without any worry of defects. If this was true, the product could be classified as fit for use.

Quality of design could be described as what distinguishes a Yugo from a Mercedes-Benz and involves the design concept and specifications. The quality of a product or service is only as good as its design and intention. Thus, it is important to include quality issues in the design process, as well as to have in mind during the design phase the difficulties one might have in replicating the product or service with the intended quality level.

Quality of conformance is reflected in the ability to replicate each aspect of a product or service with the same quality level as that intended in the design. This responsibility is held by individuals to develop the processes for replication, the workforce and their training, supervision, and adherence to test programs.

Availability refers to freedom from disruptive problems throughout the process and is measured by the frequency or probability of defects—for example, if a process does not have a steady flow of electricity and this causes defective parts, or when an employee must complete two jobs at once and is therefore forced to make concessions on the quality of both products or services.

Safety is described by Juran as calculating the risk of injury due to product hazards. For example, even if the product or service meets or exceeds all quality standards and expectations, but there is a possibility that if it is not used properly it could injure someone, the product will not be considered high-quality.

Field use refers to the ability of the product to reach the end user with the desired level of quality. This involves packaging, transportation, storage and field service competence, and promptness.

Juran also developed a comprehensive approach to quality that spanned a product or service’s entire life cycle, from design to customer relations and all the steps in between. Juran preached that an organization should dissect all processes and procedures from a quality perspective and analyze for a “fitness for use.” Once this is completed the organization can begin to make changes based on the “fitness for use” model.

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