The Quality Revolution Comes to the United States

The push for increased quality began in American manufacturing companies in the 1980s, following in the footsteps of Japanese manufacturers. Japanese companies found themselves with a distinct competitive advantage over American companies with their ability to produce much higher quality products with fewer defects.

The Ford Motor Company was the first to invite Deming to help the company transform itself into a quality-oriented organization. As a result, Ford was able to achieve higher quality standards than any other American automotive manufacturer and substantial sales growth in the late 1980s even when the rest of the U.S. automotive market was declining. Ford attributes the ability of its Taurus to overtake the Honda Accord in annual sales to the high quality standards set by the company.

The U.S. Congress, seeing the need for American companies to strive for increased quality, established the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, modeled after Japan’s Deming Prize. This spawned a substantial increase in the resources American businesses allocated for quality improvement, and within 10 years an American organization, Florida Power and Light, was able to capture Japan’s Deming Prize for quality.

Since the early 1980s and on into the twenty-first century, quality issues have surfaced in every industry and almost every organization in the United States. The quality movement started in manufacturing and then moved to service industries. Initially service organizations did not feel quality systems would transfer very easily from manufacturing, but today service companies are reaping substantial rewards from implementing quality programs.

Throughout the history of the quality movement there have been several approaches to quality and even the development of several organizations dedicated solely to setting standards for quality .

Standardized Systems

ISO 9000 is a series of quality management systems (QMS) standards created by the International Organization for Standardization, a federation of 132 national standards bodies. The ISO 9000 QMS standards are not specific to products or services, but apply to the processes that create them. The standards are generic in nature so that they can be used by manufacturing and service industries anywhere in the world.

An organization that would like to have ISO certification needs to meet all the criteria stated in the ISO standards and pass a detailed audit performed by an ISO auditor. In some industries ISO certification has become necessary; for example, some large manufacturers require all suppliers to be ISO certified. While ISO certification is highly respected, if it is not a trend in your specific industry, the additional cost of certification is a deterrent to most managers. It is very possible to reach the desired quality level within an organization with a well-planned quality system and without going through all the additional steps for ISO certification.

QS-9000, released in 1994, is the ISO 9000 derivative for suppliers to the automotive Big Three: DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors. This quality management system standard contains all of ISO 9001:1994, along with automotive sector-specific, Big Three, and other original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customer specific requirements.

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