MANAGEMENT OF QUALITY
Quality refers to the ability of a product or service to consistently meet or exceed customer requirements or expectations. Different customers will have different requirements, so a working definition of quality is customer-dependent.
In order to rebuild its economy after the Second World War, Japan focused on quality improvement, making it a national imperative. This took place during a time when quality was not uppermost in the minds of business organizations worldwide. It wasn’t that quality was unimportant, it just wasn’t very important.
Partly because of that thinking, Japanese companies captured a significant share of the U.S. market. In the automotive sector, leading Japanese manufacturers Honda, Nissan, and Toyota became major players in the auto sales market in the United States. Both Honda and Toyota built a reputation for quality and reliability in their cars.
Many companies changed their views about quality after that, and changed them drastically. Stung by the success of Japanese competitors, they embraced quality in a big way. They hired consultants, sent their people (including top executives) to seminars, and initiated a vast array of quality improvement programs. Those companies clearly recognized the importance of quality and realized that quality isn’t something that is tacked on as a special feature but is instead an integral part of a product or service. Managing for quality is now a key element of competition.
THE EVOLUTION OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT
Frederick Winslow Taylor, the “Father of Scientific Management,” gave new emphasis to quality by including product inspection and gauging in his list of fundamental areas of manufacturing management. G.S. Radford improved Taylor’s methods. Two of his most significant contributions were the notions of involving quality considerations early in the product design stage and making connections between high quality, increased productivity, and lower costs.
In 1924, Bell Telephone Laboratories introduced statistical control charts that could be used to monitor production. Around 1930, H.F. Dodge and H.G. Romig, also of Bell Labs, introduced tables of sampling.
By the end of the 1940s, the U.S. Army, Bell Labs, and major universities were training engineers in other industries in the use of statistical sampling techniques. About the same time, professional quality organizations were emerging throughout the country. Over the years, the American Society for Quality Control has promoted quality with its publications, seminars and conferences, and training programs.
During the 1950s, the quality movement evolved into quality assurance. In the mid-1950s, total quality control efforts enlarged the realm of quality efforts from its primary focus on manufacturing to also include product design and incoming raw materials. One important feature of this work was greater involvement of upper management in quality.
During the 1960s, the concept of “zero defects” gained favor. This approach focused on employee motivation and awareness, and the expectation of perfection from each employee.
In the 1970s, quality assurance methods gained increasing emphasis in services including government operations, health care, banking and the travel industry. Also in this year, an embargo on oil sales instituted by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) caused an increase in energy costs, and automobile buyers became more interested in fuel-efficient, lower-cost vehicles. Japanese auto producers, who had been improving their products, were poised to take advantage of these changes, and they captured an increased share of the automobile market. The quality of their automobiles enhanced the reputation of Japanese producers, opening the door for a wife array of Japanese-produced goods.
Americans producers, alarmed by their loss of market share, spent much of the late 1970s and the...
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