Strategic role for quality


The Quality expert from US Juran’s concern for quality went beyond specification of products; and inspecting them for defectives. His strategic role for quality was implemented by taking the following steps:

1. Senior Japanese executives were placed in charge of this function.

2. Quality management training was imparted to the entire managerial hierarchy.

3. They did improve quality at revolutionary pace, and the pace was maintained year after year.

4. Deming’s (Japanese expert in quality) 1950 lectures inspired them to use SQC. They invented QC’s

5. Each company spelled out quality goals.

During 1950s US products were generally competitive with European and superior to Japanese products. The Europeans and Japanese held the advantage in price because the labor costs were lower. The Americans responded to this lower price by anti dumping laws and tariff barriers. ‘Buy American’ a patriotic appeal was used. The American mindset considered Japanese as copyists and not as innovators. They can do price competition, but never quality competition.

The quality function in the US was delegated to the quality control departmental, and the top management was divorced from the quality function totally.

The quality function in the U.S was delegated to the Quality control department and the top management kept itself aloof from quality management totally.

We are giving here an example of wrong priorities because of which the customers were not satisfied that too from as reputed a company like Xerox. Xerox revolutionized copying and was very successful in the 1950s. Xerox however had no mechanism to measure customer satisfaction. Their machines malfunctioned/broke down regularly. The response of the Xerox executives was to send technicians in the field to repair them. The customers did not want this curative maintenance. They wanted machines that did not break down in the first place. The Japanese rushed in to produce exactly the type of machines the customers wanted—machines that did not break down so often. In addition, the Japanese machines gave better copies and low cost copies. Xerox machine had the data of product failures but the same faults were not rectified by the design engineers which Xerox had in plenty. The causes of the failures were not rectified and model after model with additional features were pushed into the markets. Their priorities were wrong.

In the late 1980s when Japan was posing as a stiff competitor the U.S has made statutory regulations on the quality and quality standards were made essential. They have also instituted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NITS) administers this award.

U.S. companies which have attained world class quality insist on vendors developing the same quality for their supplies. The recruitment and selection policy will put more emphasis on a candidate’s mastering Total Quality Management from business schools.

By mid 90s Juran’s campaigning for Quality in U.S has impressed CEOs and now they could understand why Japan is ahead of U.S. in quality management. The critical variable in Japanese quality leadership is the extent of active participation by senior managers. The loss for America is the senior managers’ involvement. This is now rectified and to enable them to be globally competitive they also revolutionized their quality techniques in line with Japanese methodology which has more or less became universal.