Life and Contributions of A.V. Feigenbaum

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Armand V. Feigenbaum – Life and Contributions

Armand Feigenbaum was born in 1922. Feigenbaum was the first to define a systems engineering approach to quality. Feigenbaum’s concept of total quality control, known today as total quality management (TQM), combines management methods and economic theory with organizational principles. Feigenbaum’s career initiated his significant contributions to total quality management. He began his career with General Electric (GE) in 1937 as an apprentice toolmaker and management intern with the turbine, engine and transformer group. He entered Union College in Schenectady, NY, in 1938 to study engineering while continuing his work at GE. His coursework focused on mathematics, statistics, engineering and economics. When he graduated in 1942, he joined GE as a full-time design engineer. Later in 1943, he was named manager of quality control for the Schenectady Works plant in New York at 23 years old. He went on to graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was later promoted to GE’s corporate headquarters in New York City to serve as the executive champion for quality. Feigenbaum served as the American Society of Quality (ASQ) president from 1961 to 1963 and co-founded the International Academy for Quality with Kaoru Ishikawa of Japan and Walter Masing of Germany. After years of working for GE, in 1968 Feigenbaum established General Systems Co. (GSC) to further research technology management (Watson). GSC is an engineering firm that designs and installs operational systems for corporations in the U.S., Europe, the Far East, and Latin America. While working at GE, Feigenbaum applied the lessons he learned at MIT to examine observations about how productivity improvement could be achieved by driving quality in a different way from how it had been. He also introduced two new concepts to the quality management discipline that served as a defining moment for business: systems engineering and economic accountability. The systems engineering approach focused organizations on building an understanding of the effects of the flow of their business operation and how one operation had subsequent impact on downstream components. This systematic linkage among processes became the breakthrough concept for both just-in-time management in Japan and TQM. Just-in-time management is a very valuable concept. Many major corporations are implementing just-in-time management. This concept has proved to be not only a money saver but also a more effective and efficient way of managing. He also incorporated financial thinking into quality by conceptualizing the cost of poor quality. He integrated multinational thinking into quality by encouraging the development of quality organizations in Europe and Asia to help stimulate their economic recovery. He steered the structure of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award as a member of its inaugural board of overseers, the group that helped create an operational definition of total quality in terms that could be applied in today’s society. Feigenbaum’s next influential concept, economic accountability, was introduced through his emphasis on the cost impact of poor performance. He studied the economic effects caused by poor performance and characterized the relationship between widespread quality improvement performance in a nation’s leading businesses to quality’s long-term economic effect. He aimed to understand the underlying relationships among operating principles and systematizes this knowledge in such a way that it may be implemented and applied by others who have followed total quality (Kubiak). Feigenbaum’s nine points of quality are:

Make quality leadership a business center point for revenue growth and competitive strength. •Achieve complete customer quality satisfaction, which drives buyer acceptance. •Develop effective supplier and other business quality partnerships. •Maximize the...
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