Quality Control (Encyclopedia of Small Business)
Quality control refers to the process, most often implemented in manufacturing, of monitoring the quality of finished products through statistical measures and an overall corporate commitment to producing defect-free products. Quality control principles can also be utilized in service industries.
DEMING'S FOURTEEN POINTS
The term "quality control" came into common use in the 1950s thanks to W. Edward Deming, whose "Fourteen Points" have become the bible for quality control proponents. With the post-war world returning to normal manufacturing patterns, Deming preached that inspecting products for quality after they were manufactured was unacceptable. Instead, he proposed a process known as "statistical quality control" that would use closely monitored performance measures to gauge quality as a product was being manufactured. The goal of statistical quality control was to gather data that would allow for the constant improvement of manufacturing processes, which would in turn improve quality control. Introducing such statistical controls could be expensive, but Deming argued that instituting quality measures ultimately saved companies money.
Another important tenet of Deming's beliefs was that upper management was largely to blame for quality failures. He firmly believed that, given the right tools and working environment, workers would strive to create the highest quality products possible. In Deming's own words, "the basic cause of sickness in American industry and resulting unemployment is failure of top management to manage." He believed that strong leadership led to an inspired work force that did not fear management and did not fear taking chances when seeking ways to improve quality.
If strong leadership is the buzzword for managers in a quality environment, then empowerment is the key concept for workers in Deming's system. Improved education and training are the key factors in reaching employees and making them believe that their increased participation in the work process is an essential part of improving quality. Involvement, participation, and teamwork are seen as absolute musts if a quality workplace is to be created.
The Japanese were the first to adopt Deming's Fourteen Points, and with great success. As an example, Deming learned of one Japanese factory that doubled production in just one year and was expecting to gain an additional 25 percent improvement the following year, with no increase in the amount of hours worked. All this occurred as a result of simply improving quality. What is most significant about this achievement is the year it happened951. Many American and European companies chose to ignore these dramatic results and nearly perished as a result. Critics contend that by the time American manufacturing plants realized that quality control was a significant issue, it was the late 1970s and Japanese firms such as Honda and Sony were taking over large portions of the American consumer market.
In the 1990s, most American firms have embraced quality control practices. Analysts indicate that when firms first began adopting these principles, many went too far, becoming bogged down in quality control charts and measurements of inconsequential operating factors. In too many cases, American industry went from ignoring statistical quality control to applying it to every single facet of a business, no matter how small. This overemphasis quickly disappeared, however, and has been replaced by a commitment to overall quality control that is unprecedented in the American workplace.
THE SCOPE OF JAPANESE INFLUENCE
Because they have been practicing quality management since the 1950s, the Japanese are still the leader in producing quality products in a number of industries and are still the role model for U.S. companies to emulate. For example, a study of the air conditioning industry in the early 1990s found that the worst Japanese air conditioning plant had an error rate that was less than one-half that of the best U.S. company.
This drastic difference is largely due to the Japanese adherence to one of Deming's most important ideashat quality should be "designed in" to a product instead of "inspected out." Japanese firms treat suppliers as equals, sharing information with them as if the supplier was an internal department of the company. This ensures that quality is already a part of the product before it is even manufactured.
Another common practice in Japan that has found its way to the United States are "quality circles." Workers are brought together on a regular basis to brainstorm about quality and manufacturing processes, all with an eye towards improving quality. The circles are a success if management follows through on its end of the deal and incorporates the suggestions made in the quality circles into operations. When workers see their suggestions implemented, it increases their confidence in management and in the company as a whole, which in turn increases their commitment to the company and to producing high quality goods.
A highly trained work force is one of the keys to producing quality goods, and the training programs of many American companies reflect this recognition, for they are allocating more time and money to this area. Still, many U.S. companies lag behind in this respect. Researchers have stated that a higher commitment to training and lifelong learning are needed if the commitment to quality is to continue.
Today, the key components of quality control that were preached by Deming and practiced by the Japanesencluding benchmarking, supplier partnering, and continuous improvementave found their way into American industry. Each of these components demands a closer look.
Benchmarking is a continuing process of measuring products, services, and practices against your strongest competitors. More simply stated, it means using the best companies as the yardstick against which your company measures itself. If your company comes up short, than improvements must be made to ensure that your products are just as high in quality as those of your competitor.
There are two types of benchmarking. The first, competitive benchmarking, entails benchmarking against direct competitors in the marketplace. This can include comparing specific numerical or statistical measurementseturn on assets used, market share, etc. The more detailed information that can be obtained about a competitor, the better.
The second method, noncompetitive benchmarking, can take two forms. The first is measuring your company against the best companies in the world, regardless of industry. Companies such as 3M, Coca-Cola, and General Electric are considered to be trendsetters and leaders in quality, so companies from nearly every industry study them and copy their best practices. Business analysts note that noncompetitive benchmarking is a broadernd sometimes more usefulnstrument of quality control. By only benchmarking against competitors, a company only ensures it will be as good as that competitor. By benchmarking against the best companies in the world, a company can aspire to be as good as those companies and can surpass the competition in its own industry. Additionally, companies may find it easier to gain access to information about companies they do not compete with because they are not seen as a threat to the well-being of the company.
The second type of noncompetitive benchmarking is internal benchmarking, which involves comparing functions or processes in different departments within the same organization. Internal benchmarking is often seen as a logical starting point for a business that is attempting to use benchmarking for the first time.
To successfully benchmark, a company must first look closely at its own practices and conduct a rigorous self-assessment. Once that self-assessment is completed, the company has a good idea of where it stands on each quality issue and can successfully compare itself to other companies. The self-assessment must be honest and thorough. It should identify weaknesses, but should also highlight strengths. Improving weaknesses that are identified should be tied to stated company strategic aims.
Supplier partnering is an increasingly common practice in the United States. Simply put, it means that manufacturers work directly with their parts and components suppliers to improve quality at the supplier's location. This can involve direct participation in the supplier's operationshat is, staff from the manufacturer might work on-site at the supplier's office or provide technical assistance and equipmentr simply a very close working relationship that more resembles a partnership rather than a simple business transaction between two unrelated companies.
One of the biggest methods of partnering with suppliers involves sharing the use of statistical controls. This is an underdeveloped area in the United States that should grow in the coming years. Most manufacturers have switched to outsourcing as a means of cutting the costs of production. This increased emphasis on outsourcing means that the companies that supply the parts or components must place just as much emphasis on quality as the manufacturer if the finished product is to be high quality.
Among the quality issues that still need to be addressed in the manufacturer-supplier relationship are:
- Inconsistent quality levels from suppliers, even from different plants of the same supplier.
- While most first-level, or Tier 1, suppliers have made a commitment to quality control, that commitment has yet to be made by Tier 2 suppliers (those companies that supply smaller parts or raw material to the Tier 1 supplier). The importance of quality must trickle all the way down the supply chain to be meaningful.
- In many industries, mergers are occurring at a record pace. Whenever a merger of two suppliers occurs, there is the chance that quality will suffer while the details of the merger are hammered out.
In many industries, especially the auto industry, manufacturers are overcoming these supplier problems by helping the suppliers meet quality standards.
The other facet of supplier partnering means that the manufacturer also actively seeks out feedback from the supplier on how the former's operations can be improved. Suppliers often have a unique perspective on the industry they work in and on the companies they supply and can provide valuable advice on how to make changes for the better. When this happens, it is important that the two companies have a framework in place to manage the partnering system. This can mean that the manufacturer's purchasing department would be deemed as the intermediary between the two companies, passing information from the supplier back to the appropriate internal customers.
Continuous improvement (CI) is a method for improving every facet of a company's operations and increasing competitiveness by developing a company's resources. The improvement can involve many goalsroducing products with zero defects or achieving 100 percent customer satisfactionut CI has the same basic principles no matter what the goal:
- Involve the entire company at all levels
- Find savings by improving existing processes, not by investing more money
- Gather data about company operations and quantify that data, which becomes the baseline against which improvements will be measured
- Do not forget that common sense is perhaps the most important component of CI
- Do not just give lip service to improvementmplement or practice ideas.
Continuous improvement most often involves creating a team that includes representatives from all areas of the company. The team first spends time learningbout the company they work for (looking at it in new ways) and about other companies (benchmarking is common during this phase). The necessary quantitative data is created. The team then proposes solutions to management and begins to implement those solutions. Once that is achieved, follow-up mechanisms must be put in place that seek additional improvements as time goes by. The team might change members with the passage of time, but hopefully it will become an established and accepted part of the company even as its roster changes. If the endeavor works as planned, the team will have improved quality to show as a result of its initial efforts. This can make even skeptical employees buy into the concept, which in turn leads to the continued search for even more improvementsence the term continuous improvement. Follow-up mechanisms can include regular audits or regularly scheduled meetings to evaluate progress.
OTHER QUALITY BUZZWORDS
Quality control and literature about it have become a huge cottage industry in the business world. In addition to the terms outlined in this article, there are several other popular concepts and terms associated with quality control that are actually offshoots of the larger issue, or separate issues altogether. Among the most popular are:
- ISO 9000his is a series of international standards that set out requirements and recommendations that specify how management operations are to be conducted at a company to ensure that quality is the end result. ISO 9000 is part of the "conformance to specifications" school of quality control that believes that, by setting standards for companies to follow that the consumer is aware of, and ensuring that those standards are never deviated from, then quality is achieved. Essentially, its goal is to prevent nonconformity. Companies must undergo a comprehensive program to apply for ISO 9000 certification, reviewing and documenting management procedures, creating job descriptions from the ground up, preparing a quality manual, and submitting to periodic standards checks by an external body. The process is not cheap, but it does give a company that qualifies for the certification a badge to demonstrate its commitment to quality.
- Six Sigmahis defect-reduction program was pioneered by General Electric's Jack Welch. A sigma is a mark on a bell curve that measures standard deviation. In American industry today, most companies average between 35,000 and 50,000 defects per million operations; GE followed this trend by averaging 35,000, or 3.5 sigma. Welch determined that this was unacceptablee wanted the error rate reduced to an almost nonexistent 3.4 errors per million operations, or "Six Sigma," a concept first introduced by Motorola in the early 1990s. Motorola was able to achieve six sigma quality, but it took eight years to go from three to six. Welch mandated that GE reach the mark in five years. More and more companies are expected to follow the lead of GE and Motorola, since both companies are considered world leaders.
- Quality awardss quality control grows in popularity, companies strive to prove to customers that quality is their most important concern. One way they do this is to compete for the plethora of quality awards that are now available. The most famous of these is the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, but others such as the European Quality Award and the Deming Award also exist. Additionally, there are hundreds of state, regional, and local quality awards. The awards, which are given to both large and small companies, carry a rigorous set of quality standards that a company must meet or exceed before it can even be considered for an award. Some companies coincide the launch of new quality control programs with announcements that they will be seeking one of the awards as a means of giving employees an incentive to improve quality and as a means of demonstrating to customers their commitment to quality.
- Mistake-proofing, or poka-yokePoka-yoke" is a Japanese term that comes from two words that mean "avoid error." The concept was created by a Toyota engineer who felt that workers should always strive to avoid making any mistakes. The concept most often refers to "designing in" methods of avoiding mistakesor example, putting guards on drill presses that prevent the machine from drilling a hole too deep and ruining a part. As a result, poka-yoke has come to have a second meaning. In addition to referring to the broad concept, it refers to any tool or process used to prevent a mistakes. Mistake-proofing is one of the easiest ways for small companies to reduce errors. It is easy and relatively inexpensive to perform an audit of existing poka-yokes and to draw up a flow chart of a production process to identify where other poka-yokes might be installed. Once the initial work is done, adding new poka-yokes can be an ongoing and continuous process. One warning to business ownerssing the terms "mistake-proofing" or "fool-proofing" can anger workers, who may view the terms as being disparaging.
Finally, there is one term associated with the quality control movement that is too broad and too important to cover here. Total quality management, or TQM, has become an important quality movement in its own right and is fully explained in a separate entry in this book.
THE FUTURE OF QUALITY CONTROL
Despite the growing importance of quality control in the United States, there is still room for improvement in many areas. One of the most important is the attitude towards teams, especially cross-functional ones. Teams are recognized by quality experts as one of the best ways to increase speed to market and improve quality. Slowly, as American firms adopt other quality measures, they are also adopting the team philosophy. Still, improvements must be made. Too many firms still rely on the old styles of product development and production, handing off responsibility for a product from one department to the next with no interaction between the departments.
Another problem to be overcome in the future is downsizing. One of the key business principles of the 1990s, downsizing means improving technology and work processes so that the same amount of work can be done with fewer employees. While the move to downsize has improved the bottom line at many companies, it has also raised quality concerns. Some believe that there has been a marked reduction in the quality of some products because too many firms engaged in downsizing without making sure that their internal processes and infrastructure was adequately equipped to handle the loss of employees.
Beard, Thomas L. "The Maturation of American Quality." Modern Machine Shop. April 1997.
Buttle, Francis. "ISO 9000:Marketing Motivations and Benefits." International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management. July 1997.
Calingo, Luis Maria R. "The Evolution of Strategic Quality Management." International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management. December 1996.
Conlin, Michelle. "Revealed at Last: The Secret of Jack Welch's Success." Forbes. January 26, 1998.
Davenport, Jerry Lee, Jr., and Thomas Li-Ping Tang. "Learning from Japanese Companies and Japanese Transplants in the United States." Employment Relations Today. Spring 1996.
Heller, Robert. "Fourteen Points that the West Ignore at Its Peril." Management Today. March 1994.
Henricks, Mark. "Make No Mistake." Entrepreneur. October 1996.
Hinckley, C. Martin. "The Quality Question." Assembly. November 1997.
Joiner, Brian L. "The Future of Quality in the United States." National Underwriter Property & Casualty-Risk & Benefits Management. December 16, 1997.
Kinni, Theodore B. "Lofty Goals: Superstructuring With Quality Standards and Awards." Industry Week. September 4, 1995.
McManus, Kevin. "Is Quality Dead?" IIE Solutions. July 1999.
Morgan, James. "The New Look of Quality." Purchasing. January 11, 1996.
Murphy, Elana Epatko. "Communicate Quality Standards on Every Level." Purchasing. January 11, 1996.
Murphy, Elana Epatko. "Look to Production for Tips on Boosting Quality." Purchasing. November 27, 1997.
Porter, Anne Millen. "In Some Companies Quality Culture Is Tangible." Purchasing. January 16, 1997.
Prado, J. Carlos. "Increasing Competitiveness with Continuous Improvement." Industrial Management. July-August 1997.
"Quality Revolution Not Over Yet." Purchasing. March 6,1997.
Songini, Marc. L. "Setting Sights on Perfection." Industrial Distribution. August 1997.
Van de Vliet, Anita. "To Beat the Best." Management Today. January 1996.
"What Is Benchmarking?" Food Manufacture. May 1996.
Wilkinson, Adrian, and Hugh Willmott. "Quality Management, Problems and Pitfalls: A Critical Perspective." International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management. February 1996.
Wright, Richard B. "Why We Need ISO 9000." Industrial Distribution. January 1997.
SEE ALSO: ISO 9000; Total Quality Management
Quality Control (Encyclopedia of Business)
The American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), in its Glossary and Tables for Statistical Quality Control, defines quality control as:
the operational techniques and the activities which sustain a quality of product or service that will satisfy given needs; also the use of such techniques and activities the aim of quality is to provide quality that is satisfactory, e.g., safe, adequate, dependable, and economical.[This requires] integrating several related steps including proper specification design of the productto meet the requirements; production [processes that] meet the specification; inspection to determine [the degree of conformance] to specification; and review of usage to provide for revision of specification [if necessary].
These steps are required for a firm to design, produce, market, and profit from a quality product. Control charts are one technique used in implementing, sustaining, and improving quality control. Statistical process studies are also an important tool in improving quality by reducing process variation. Other important techniques are experimental design and Taguchi methods. Total quality control (TQC) or total quality management (TQM) refers to quality control beyond the "sustaining" of quality. These last two concepts may lead to continual increases in quality.
Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa (1915-), recipient of many awards, including the Deming Prize, defined total quality control as a system of introducing and implementing quality technologies into various departments of a company, such as engineering, production, sales, and service, for the purpose of satisfying customers. He stated that viewed chronologically, TQC is only the first stage of company-wide quality control (CWQC). CWQC incorporates quality function deployment (QFD), whereas TQC does not. QFD is a design procedure that introduces quality control in product development. It is a formal mechanism that guarantees that "the voice of the customer" is heard throughout all the phases of manufacturing a product or providing a service.
As Dale Besterfield stated in his book Quality Control, the deliverance of a quality product or service requires the responsible integration of all the firm's departmentsarketing, product engineering, purchasing, manufacturing engineering, manufacturing, inspection and testing, packaging and shipping, and product service. TQC or TQM is far more than sustaining quality, as it may include control systems, employee relations and organizational behavior, statistical process control, and Japanese management techniques.
Quality control techniques and standards, affecting almost all aspects of a business, have now been adopted at both national and international levels. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award exemplifies the former. President Ronald Reagan signed the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act on August 20, 1987. The act was the culmination of a national campaign to improve the quality of goods and services in the United States. The award represents the highest level of recognition that an American company can receive.
On an international level, the ISO 9000 series of quality standards was first published in 1987. These standards reflect the importance of quality and reliability as critical factors for achieving and maintaining worldwide competitive advantage. Another example is the international environment management standard, ISO 14001. Companies worldwide use this standard as a blueprint to develop and refine internal environmental management systems.
Beginning in the Middle Ages, the maintenance of quality was generally guaranteed by the guilds. They required long periods of training, which instilled in craftsmen a strong pride in the quality of their work.
The Industrial Revolution initiated the specialization of labor. Consequently, workers no longer produced the whole product, only a part. This transformation led to a decline in workmanship. At first, quality was not greatly diminished since manufacturing processes were simple in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. As manufacturing processes became more complicated and work more specialized, however, the trend toward post-manufactured product inspection began.
During the 19th century, modem industrial systems arose. At this time in the United States, Frederick W. Taylor's (1856-1915) "scientific management" dominated. His philosophy placed work and production planning exclusively in the hands of management and industrial engineers. (The ultimate expression of Taylorism was Henry Ford's (1863-1947) moving assembly line.) Before scientific management, quality was manufacturing's responsibility. Since meeting production deadlines became the production manager's main priority, the responsibility for quality was placed increasingly in the hands of the "chief inspector" and the quality control department.
In 1924, at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Walter A. Shewhart (1891 1967) developed statistical control charts. These charts pinpointed the sources of variation within processes and were used to control the quality of, and to improve the processes that delivered, the output. It is a total quality management principle that, generally, quality is maintained and improved through the detection and reduction of process variation. Of course, it is assumed that the target value of the process has been obtained and maintained.
The introduction and implementation of Shewhart's control charts inaugurated statistical quality control. The value of statistical quality control became obvious during World War II. Unfortunately, American management failed to understand this value, and its brief and limited application was abandoned after the war as many companies viewed quality control as a wartime effort only. It seemed unnecessary in the booming postwar years when quantity was deemed to be all that mattered.
In 1946 the ASQC was founded. Under its auspices, quality professionals developed failure analysis methods to problem-solve, quality engineers became engaged in early product design, and a number of companies began to test the environmental performance of products.
In 1950 W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993), a statistician who had worked with Shewhart at Bell Labs, was invited by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) to speak to Japan's leading industrialists. Deming presented a series of lectures on statistical quality techniques and on the responsibilities of top management for delivering quality products and services. The Japanese industrialists and engineers embraced Deming's teaching, and Japanese quality, productivity, and competitive position significantly increased. Under Deming, Joseph M. Juran (1904), and Armand V. Feigenbaum (1920-), the concept of quality control, no longer viewed as principally a corrective activity, was extended to all areas, from design to sales.
During the last four decades Japanese management and engineering professionals such as Ishikawa, Masaaki Imai, and Genichi Taguchihe latter having formulated new statistical designs of experiment for qualityave expanded the theories of Deming, Juran, and R. A. Fisher. And in turn, American managers and statisticians have advanced the contributions of their Japanese counterparts.
SUSTAINING QUALITY: KAIZEN TECHNOLOGY
A crucial aspect of CWQC is maintaining the quality of existing processes, of processes pertaining to new products or services, and of processes resulting from innovative technologies (discoveries based on new scientific principles). Of course, design of experiments can assure that the new product has quality built into it. Then the problem becomes one of maintaining and improving the quality. An example of an innovative technology is computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD CAM). These projects have revolutionized production systems.
A Japanese approach of improving and sustaining the quality of processes is known as kaizen (continuous improvement) technology. The activity of improving is included because kaizen technology assumes that any process based on innovative technology or other technology, is subject to steady deterioration (entropy) unless constant efforts are made to maintain and improve the process's standards. Kaizen technology is the accumulation of small technological improvements continually made upon the production or service process.
Dr. Donald J. Wheeler, coauthor of Understanding Statistical Process Control, further describes entropy: "Entropy is relentless. Every process will naturally and inevitably migrate toward the state of chaos. The only way this migration can be overcome is by continually repairing the effects of entropy." Having the ability to repair a process assumes that its effects are known. This knowledge can be achieved through control charts and process capability studies. Unlike today's common U.S. management practices, which are based on the Taylor model, kaizen technology requires virtually every employee's personal contribution and effort to quality. This requires a substantial management commitment of time and effort; infusions of capital are no substitute for this investment in time, effort, and people. Unlike the Taylor model, kaizen technology assumes that all employees can contribute to the improvement of the production processes both in terms of quality and productivity.
Taylor argued that all-important knowledge and information was known by management, and it was the exclusive responsibility of management to use "science" to establish an optimal production system. This optimal system was to be based on the close supervision of all work procedures. Workers were to follow, without deviation, the procedures proscribed by management. Their performances were to be judged on the basis of the standards of these procedures.
Cooperation within such a system meant that the workers would adhere to the directives of management. Taylor argued that if any deviations occurred, they were caused by the worker's failure to adhere to his job specifications. Many in management believe this is not "science" because there are sources of variation outside of the worker's control.
It is the opinion of a number of managers and scientists that management based on the Taylor model is incompatible with achieving, as kaizen technology does, long-run and long-lasting (but undramatic) quality improvements because such improvements come about only when workers are actively involved in the production processes. The kaizen approach asserts that those closest to the work have a great deal of skill, energy, and knowledge that must be tapped. Many believe the Taylor model ignores this workforce potential; it does not support the empowerment of employees. The kaizen approach stresses gradual and consistent changes and improvements as a result of both labor and management slowly learning more and more about the processes and systems in which they are involved. Kaizen technology has affected many other areas of business practices. In the field of accounting, Y. Kato has developed three cost categories to analyze and measure kaizen improvements. Such interactions among a company's departments are an essential element of CWQC.
Consequently, Japanese firms are committed to the notion that the customer comes first. For most U.S. firms, however, there is considerable doubt that this is so. Authors Kenneth Delavigne and J. Daniel Robertson state that, "despite lip service to the importance of the customer, observations still show that most companies concentrate on what they can get from customers (money, profits) than on what they are going to provide to the customer (the quality of the product, and extensions to the product such as spare parts, courteous support, a product line that grows with the customer's needs, and so on)."
Delavigne and Robertson use the term "neo-Taylorism" in describing current U.S. management practices, and conclude that "the state of management was even worse at the end of the 1980s than when the decade began." During the 1990s there was some improvement overall in U.S. management practices. At this time, however, all the evidence is not in to adequately evaluate U.S. management practices in the 1990s.
SUSTAINING AND IMPROVING QUALITY: TWO ILLUSTRATIVE CASES OF KAIZEN TECHNOLOGY
The first case is the Calsonic Corporation. Calsonic manufactures a "uniquely-designed flat motor" for automobiles. Instead of wire-wound magnetic cores, Calsonic uses laminated copper sheets that are perforated by high-speed stamping machines to form the electromagnetic circuitry. A French engineer conceived this technology used by Calsonic more than 25 years ago. He sold the rights to an American firm that was not able to commercialize it. Calsonic then purchased the rights and through a joint venture with the Yaskawa Electric Company found a way to manufacture the motor.
Calsonic feels that this manufacturing success was possible only due to kaizen technology. Many Calsonic employees made technological improvements on the original idea, especially in the areas of production engineering, precision stamping technology, product quality, assembly design, and machine maintenance.
The Calsonic Corporation's application of kaizen technology underlines Imai's observation that kaizen technology "includes those actions which make the best use of the resources at hand (such as people, machines, facilities, technology and so forth) to improve little by littlehe point is not to use money (unnecessarily)." Sustaining and improving the quality of output means quality control. For a firm to have the ability to do so requires TQM, and the application of such techniques as control charts and process capability studies. This is different from the common American managerial approach of attempting to find a quick fix, e.g., the attempt to find a new optimal situation by some new capital expenditure.
In the Calsonic example, employee involvement was critical. Kaizen technology, however, does not assume that workers and management have identical roles. Certainly, both labor and management spend time on quality improvement activities, with first-line supervisors and middle management spending the most time. But the kaizen approach asserts that workers spend the most time on maintenance activities that sustain quality. As one moves up the management ladder, that time decreases. Middle and top management spend far more time on innovative technology and new product development.
This is in contrast to the Taylor model, which asserts that workers must spend their time exclusively on maintenance and none on improvement. Therefore, management based on the Taylor model, according to many administrators, fails to tap the tremendous pool of information, knowledge, skill, and energy of workers.
The second example of sustaining and improving quality is dynamic random-access memory chips (DRAMs). Most of the technology for this high tech product was developed in the West, but today Japanese companies hold 75 percent of the world market.
The most important break-even factor for the manufacture of this product is the defective percentage. To control this factor, kaizen technology is necessary since any minor change in the manufacturing environment must be checked with great care to guarantee uniform production. At one Japanese plant, a small increase in the defective rate was noticed for a few hours one day. But, at first, no abnormal manufacturing conditions were discovered. Further investigation revealed the problem. A truck had parked by a ventilation tunnel for the DRAM plant's air conditioning system. The defective chips were caused by particles from the truck's exhaust. A new standard was introduced at the plant that prevented the problem from recurring. This new standard, obviously, resulted in sustaining and improving the quality of the output.
For quality control to occur, the top management of any company must have totally committed itself to TQC, and then CWQC. Sustaining and improving the quality of manufacturing or service processes require such tools as control charts, process capability studies, experimental designs, business ethics, organizational change and development, and excellent employee relations. Finally, to compete internationally a company has to adopt international quality standards.
[Peter B. Webb, Ph.D.]
Aeppel, Timothy. "More, More, More: Rust-Belt Factory Lifts Productivity, and Staff Finds It's No Picnic." Wall Street Journal, 18 May 1999, Al.
American Society for Quality Control. Statistics Division. Glossary and Tables for Statistical Quality Control. Milwaukee, WI: American Society for Quality Control, 1983.
Besterfield, Dale H. Quality Control. New York: Prentice Hall, 1990.
Bossert, James L. Quality Function Deployment: A Practitioner's Approach. Madison, WI: ASQC Quality Press, 1991.
Box, G. E. P., William G. Hunter, and J. Stuart Hunter. Statistics for Experimenters: An Introduction to Design, Data Analysis, and Model Building. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1978.
DeCarlo, Neil J., and W. Kent Sterett. "History of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award." Quality Progress, March 1990, 21-27.
Delavigne, Kenneth T., and J. Daniel Robertson. Deming's Profound Changes: When Will the Sleeping Giant Awaken? Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PTR Prentice Hall, 1994.
Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Studies, 1986.
DeVor, Richard E., and others. Statistical Quality Design and Control. New York: Macmillan, 1992.
Feigenbaum, Armand V. Total Quality Control. Madison, WI: American Society for Quality Control, 1991.
Gitlow, Howard, and others. Tools and Methods for the Improvement of Quality. New York: Irwin, 1989.
Hemenway, Caroline G., and Gregory J. Hale. "The TQEMISO Connection." Quality Progress, June 1996, 29-32.
Imai, Masaaki. GEMBA Kaizen: A Common Sense, Low-Cost Approach to Management. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.
-Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Economic Success. New York: Random House Business Division, 1986.
Ishikawa, Kaoru. Guide to Quality Control. Boston: Asian Productivity Organization, 1987.
. "Quality and Standardization Programs for Economic Success." Quality Progress, January 1984, 16-20.
Kato, Y. "Target Costing Support Systems: Lessons from Leading Japanese Companies." Management Accounting Research, April 1993, 43-44.
Lochner, Robert H., and Joseph E. Matar. Designing for Quality: An Introduction to the Best of Taguchi and Western Methods of Statistical Experimental Design. Madison, WI: ASQC Quality Press, 1990.
O'Neil, James P. "Using ISO 9000 to Go beyond Industrial Norms." Quality Progress, December 1998, 43-44.
Taylor, Frederick W. The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper & Row, 1911.
Thurow, Lester C. "A Weakness in Process Technology." Science, 18 December 1987, 1659-63.
Wheeler, Donald J., and David S. Chambers. Understanding Statistical Process Control. Knoxville, TN: Statistical Process Controls, 1986.
Wilson, Lawrence A. "Eight-Step Process to Successful ISO 9000 Implementation: A Management System Approach." Quality Progress, January 1996, 37-40.
Yoshida, Shuichi. "Two Technological Developments." Kaizen Communique, January 1990, 3.