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