The History of Quality Management System

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It’s easy to think of the concept of quality management as strictly a modern-day phenomenon. In fact, some of the core concepts of quality control can be traced back as far as medieval Europe, where 13th-century craftsmen’s guilds developed stringent product quality standards, with compliant goods being marked with a special symbol by inspection committees. Similar quality control methods remained in use for centuries, and were embedded into many systems throughout the Industrial Revolution from the mid-1700s to the early 19th century. As traditional craftsmen increasingly found employment as factory workers, quality in the workplace was measured through audits and inspections, with defective end goods either scrapped or reworked.

The Early 20th Century

Quality management systems, as we now think of them, first started to be developed in the 1920s, as statistical sampling techniques were introduced into quality control methodology, pioneered by Walter A. Shewhart – sometimes referred to as the father of statistical quality control. During this period an ever-increasing demand for greater and greater productivity saw a breakdown in quality control, and it was clear there was a requirement to develop a more robust, structured and logical approach to quality. Crucially, this would involve a shift from simple end-product inspection to the development of quality practices aimed at actively preventing defects by implementing checks and controls earlier in the production process. Key to the development of the total quality management techniques that industries still rely on today were experts such as Joseph M. Juran and W. Edwards Deming.

Joseph M. Juran

Dr. Joseph M. Juran is considered by many to be the father of many of the quality management techniques still used in industry today. Born in Romania in 1904, after his family emigrated to the United States he gained a degree in electrical engineering. In the years following World War I he began working for the Bell System, which saw his introduction to statistical sampling and quality control. During World War II, Juran served as an administrator in the government’s Lend-Lease Administration, and at the war’s conclusion opted not to return to Bell, in favor of furthering his work in the field of quality.

After taking a position at New York University’s Department of Industrial Engineering, Juran spent the following years refining his theories on quality control while lecturing and consulting extensively for businesses. He also began writing what would become his acclaimed Quality Control Handbook, which was first published by McGraw-Hill in 1951. Juran’s handbook is still in print – currently in its seventh edition and considerably expanded from the book’s original publication – and is still widely regarded as the go-to text on quality control.

Dr. Juran’s reputation in the field of quality management spread not just nationally, but worldwide. In 1954, the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers invited Juran to Japan to discuss the theories and techniques he had developed over the years. While there, he held sessions with senior and middle managers from various Japanese firms, explaining how to incorporate quality control activities into their processes.

Juran’s visit to Japan helped to kick-start a change in attitude to quality control in the nation’s industries, creating a culture within which, over the following years, quality processes became ever more integrated into management thinking and everyday working practices. This allowed Japanese industry to produce higher-quality exports at lower prices, giving it a considerable advantage on the world stage. From the mid-1960s, Juran was highly influential in spreading Japanese attitudes to quality to more widespread application in the United States.

Dr. Juran’s quality management approach is based on three key principles. The first is application of the Pareto principle – also known as the “80/20 rule.” In the context of quality, this means identifying “the vital few and the trivial many” – in other words, the small percentage of root causes in manufacturing or service processes that account for the largest effect in terms of defects or cost.

The second principle of Juran’s approach to quality is management theory. This involves a change of thinking away from mere focus on the quality of the end product, to a wider examination of the human dimension of quality management. Education and training for managers in the workplace is as important as the nuts and bolts of the manufacturing process, while other human factors such as resistance to change also need to be accounted for. Juran’s management theory was fundamental in expanding quality management principles beyond the factory floor to principles that could also be applied to service-related processes.

The final principle consists of three processes often known collectively as the Juran Trilogy. These three elements are quality planning (the design stage), quality control (ongoing inspections to ensure that processes are in control) and quality improvement (including proactive refinement of processes to improve processes).

In addition to many decades of work on quality management and consulting with organizations worldwide, in 1979 Dr. Juran founded The Juran Institute, with a mission to “create a global community of practice to empower organizations and people to push beyond their limits.” Still operating today as Juran, the institute he founded remains focused on equipping organizations with the tools they need to achieve long-term solutions to everyday problems.

W. Edwards Deming

Quality management as we understand it today would likely not exist without the contributions of another key figure – W. Edwards Deming. Deming was born in 1900, and by the age of 28 had gained degrees in in engineering, mathematics and physics, and a doctorate in mathematical physics from Yale. He spent the next decade writing and lecturing in the fields of math, physics and statistics, and during this time became interested in the statistical quality control principles of Walter Shewhart. Specifically, Deming was interested in expanding Shewhart’s techniques beyond manufacturing, to administrative and management activities.

Deming worked with the US Census Bureau from 1939, and his development of Shewhart’s statistical process control innovations resulted in a six-fold increase in productivity. After World War II, Deming was posted to Japan as an adviser to the Japanese Census. In common with Dr. Juran, Deming became involved with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, and his contributions directly led to the development of what we now recognize as total quality management becoming widespread in Japanese industry. His work is believed to have contributed greatly to the reconstruction of Japan’s post-war economy, and in 1960 he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure for his services to the nation’s economic resurgence.

While Deming’s management principles weren’t widely adopted in the United States over the next couple of decades, by the early 1980s it was evident that there was a gap in quality between Japanese and American products. One of the first US companies to seek Deming’s input was Ford Motor Company, which between 1979 and 1982 had incurred $3 billion in sales losses. As a consultant, Deming asked tough questions about the company’s organizational and management culture – ultimately claiming that management actions were responsible for 85% of quality problems. As unwelcome as this message may have been, by 1985 the changes that Deming had introduced contributed to Ford becoming the most profitable US auto company.

Edwards Deming died in 1993, but in the years before his death he continued consulting, and authored a number of seminal books, including Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position – later retitled Out of the Crisis – which outlined his critical “14 Points for Management.” Shortly before his death, Deming founded the W. Edwards Deming Institute, which continues to honor his legacies today.

The Quality Revolution

The modern quality revolution began in the 1970s, when the quality of Japanese goods surpassed those of the US and Europe. Action was taken to combat the imbalance and the 1980s saw a big emphasis on quality improvement, plus the adoption of new practices such as Just in Time (JIT).

By the 1990s, quality improvement methodology that had proved successful in manufacturing was being applied to the working practices of organizations. Toward the end of that decade, Motorola developed the concept of Six Sigma, which asserts that all products and processes must strive for perfection, and Juran’s method had been employed to create the data-driven improvement cycle, DMAIC.

The 2000s saw the combination of Lean and Six Sigma, plus other continuous improvement methods.

Finally, in the 2010s, Continuous Improvement and Quality 4.0 were introduced.

Evolution of Quality Management Certification Systems

The following is a timeline of key dates and events in the evolutionary process of quality management certification systems.

  • 1959: U.S. Dept. Defense MIL-Q 9858 Standard is established.

  • 1969: MIL-Q 9858 is revised into the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) AQAP (Allied Quality Assurance Publications) series of standards for quality assurance systems.

  • 1974: BSI (British Standards Institution) publishes the BS 5179 “Guidelines for Quality Assurance.”

  • 1979: BSI publishes the BS 5750 series of standards.

  • 1987: ISO – the International Organization for Standardization – publishes the ISO 9001 standards, based on the BS 5750 series.

  • 1994: ISO releases the first revision of the ISO 9001 standards.

  • 2000: ISO releases a second revision and merges ISO 9002/3 into 9001.

  • 2008: The third revision of ISO 9001 is released.

  • 2015: ISO 9001:2015 is released and becomes a guideline for organization-level quality management systems, and closer to a TQM model.

The First Gurus of Quality


William Edwards Deming is recognized as the leading management thinker in the field of quality. His philosophy espouses cooperation, and continual improvement for both individuals and organizations. An essential element is that it avoids apportioning blame, but instead recognizes mistakes as opportunities for improvement.


Dr. Juran has a well-deserved reputation as the founder of a range of quality management techniques. His quality management approach is based on three key principles: the Pareto principle; quality management principles; and the Juran Trilogy – quality planning, quality control, and quality improvement.


Armand V. Feigenbaum is known for his work on total quality control, and quality costs. He is the originator of the concept of the “hidden plant,” the assertion that a proportion of the capacity of every factory is wasted due to not getting things right first time.


Walter A Shewhart honed his skills while working at Bell Telephone, where his work focused on reducing variation in a manufacturing process. He was recognized as the originator of statistical quality control (SQC) and also created the “Shewhart cycle”, or “Plan-Do-Check-Act” (PDCA).


Shigeo Shingo was a frontrunner in continuous process improvement and operational excellence. He developed the concept of the Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), aimed at cutting waste in manufacturing processes. His ideas have impacted Lean Six Sigma principles such as increasing operational efficiency, and nurturing a culture of continuous process improvement.


Philip Crosby found fame on publication of his book Quality is Free, in 1979. In addition to that, he is known for the principle of “doing it right the first time” (DIRFT) and the Four Absolutes of Quality. (The performance standard of “Zero Defects” is the third absolute.)


Genichi Taguchi’s methodology pushes the concepts of quality and reliability back to the design stage. It constitutes an efficient technique for designing product tests prior to the commencement of manufacturing, so ensuring quality, not defect, is designed in. In 1960 he was awarded the Deming Application prize.


Kaoru Ishikawa introduced the concept of quality circles and was a fervent believer in the need for quality to be company-wide. He is arguably best-known for the Ishikawa Diagram – also known as the fishbone or cause and effect diagram – used to identify the root cause of an event and commonly employed in quality defect prevention initiatives.

Driving Quality Today

Joseph A. DeFeo

Dr. Joseph A. DeFeo, Past Chairman and CEO of Juran, is one of the world’s leading experts on transformational change and breakthrough quality management. He has been at the forefront of his field for over 35 years and has advised numerous businesses and business leaders, helping them to increase sales, reduce costs, and improve customer experience.

Noriaki Kano (Kano Model)

Noriaki Kano recognized that different attributes of a product or service had different levels of value to a customer, meaning some created higher levels of customer loyalty. From that he developed the Kano model – a ranking system that distinguishes between essential and differentiating attributes related to concepts of customer quality. He is the author of books including Guide to TQM in Service Industries.

The Present and Future of Quality Management

To this day, individuals and organizations are benefiting from the work and teachings of both Dr. Joseph M. Juran and W. Edwards Deming, alongside other thought leaders such as A. V. Feigenbaum, Philip Crosby, and Kaoru Ishikawa. Quality management systems used by modern organizations incorporate, but have also evolved beyond, the fundaments developed by the key 20th-century quality pioneers.

Mature quality control systems such as continually developing ISO standards, as well as key process improvement tools such as Six Sigma, continue to perform as guiding principles across the world. Organizations such as Juran’s continuing commitment to sharing knowledge through training, certification and consultation help to contribute to the ongoing development of quality management skills and techniques across the world.

More information about the Juran Trilogy, contact us to discuss and discover how we can help you design and implement quality initiatives that get real, measurable results.

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