The History of Quality

Juran Knowledge

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.

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 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

While Dr. Juran is often hailed as “the father of quality,” 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.

  1. 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 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.



Author: Juran

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