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Quality Gurus in Japan and the United States

Total Quality Management (TQM) is defined as the continuous improvement of processes by all employees in the organization to better meet the needs of both internal and external customers. In this case, continuous improvement entails ensuring that the right things are done the first time, and in seeing to it that all the sources of customer dissatisfaction have been eliminated (Powell, 2001, p. 45,). There should also be feedback systems in place to facilitate the isolation of the problems (Sitkin, Sutcliffe & Schroeder, 1994, p. 554). Quality control gurus are credited with the rise in the number of the organization that has thus far embraced quality management and for their contribution in a field less that was not known very well.

One of the famous gurus in quality management is Genichi Taguchi. He is credited with having developed both the quality loss concept and the robust design. He estimated that nearly 80 percent of all defective items were caused by poor design. His concepts are similar to the six sigma approach concept in many ways. The six sigma approach is a management system that was developed by Motorola in the United States in 1986. Its creation was inspired by quality control gurus like Taguchi. Like Taguchi’s quality loss function, the Six Sigma approach improves the quality of products by eliminating causes of errors and reducing variability in the manufacturing process. Both methods use statistics to improve quality and also reduce production costs by improving product quality.

It is not clear yet who between the American quality gurus and their Japanese counterparts introduced the concept of quality control and its subsequent spread. History indicates that the Japanese quality gurus were inspired by the preaching of American quality gurus. On the other hand, the idea of quality control is thought to have originated from the American quality gurus. There are many pioneers of the quality control concept, but Juran and Deming are regarded as the most influential American quality gurus (Powell, 2001, p. 45). Deming was invited to Japan in 1950 to train hundreds of engineers, managers, and scholars. The Japanese applied his teachings and as a result, they became a competitive force against Americans.

In Japan, Kaoru Ishikawa is regarded as a very influential quality guru. Ishikawa was very instrumental in helping to popularize quality in his home country, Japan (Watson, 2004, p. 54). Besides Ishikawa, there are also a couple of quality gurus in Japan who have played a pivotal role in the field of quality management. For example,

Shigeo Shingo borrowed heavily from the control processes of the American gurus and as a result, he managed to create his control processes.

Shigeo Shingo was a Japanese industrial engineer who was responsible for the growth of quality control in Japan. If there was a ‘Nobel prize’ for quality management, Shigeo Shingo deserves it the most. In 1951, he surveyed 300 companies in Japan to assess the applicability of the Statistical Process Control. He helped Mitsubishi’s shipyard to reduce the assembly time of a hull from 4 months to 2 months. His biggest contributions to quality control include the concept of ‘mistake proofing’ and that of single minute exchange of dies (SMED). With the use of SMEDs, he was able to reduce the set-up time of a 1000 ton press from 4 hours to 3 minutes. With this concept, he was able to implement just-in-time production. He also achieved ‘zero defect’ in making washing machines at Panasonic.

Shingo gave lectures in the US and provided consultancy for big international companies like Daimler Benz, Citroen, Daihatsu, Yamaha, Mazda, Sony, Hitachi, Sharp, Fuji, and Olympus. He wrote many books including one of the most popular known as, “A study of the Toyota Production System”. He also wrote many papers on manufacturing improvements. His lifetime achievements were recognized by Utah State University with the awarding of an honorary doctorate. Also, the “Shingo prize” was established to facilitate the identification of those companies demonstrating excellence in the field of industrial engineering. He came up with the system of catching errors during the production process using mechanisms he termed as Poka-Yoke. Poka-yoke devices sound an alarm if a worker misses a step in the assembly process. This ensures that defects are prevented from occurring.

The prevention of defects ensured that defective goods did not reach customers. There was also a reduction in costs incurred during sampling. Total quality management is beneficial both to the consumer and to the producer. The quality management process also involves the workers in the organization to improve their capability and work processes (Watson, p. 55 2004). The early gurus in the field of management realized how important it was to ensure perfection in quality and for this reason, they have played a crucial role in this area. Genichi Taguchi made a great contribution to industrial statistics by calculating the financial loss to society resulting from poor quality. Although American Gurus were not initially appreciated at home, nevertheless, they helped to start a revolution.

Reference List

Powell, Sarah (2001). Spotlight on Armand Feigenbaum. Measuring Business Excellence, 5(2),45-48.

Sitkin, S., Sutcliffe, K., & Schroeder, R. (1994). Distinguishing control from learning in total quality management: A contingency perspective. Academy of Management, 19(3),537-564.

Watson, G. (2004). The legacy of Ishikawa. Quality Progress, 37(4), 54-57.