With the advent of mass production and assembly line production and complexity of production processes, the quality of output product became more variable and less dependable. This was in complete contrast to the craftsmanship of the 18th and 19th centuries when production volume was small and each item was produced with substantial care so that the quality of the product was the natural result of the work ethic.
Serious attention was started to be given to the process of quality control during the mid-1920, when Walter Shewhart, a statistician with Bell Laboratories recognized that some variation in manufactured product was inevitable. He also proposed that such variation could be recognized and controlled by statistical methods and procedures.
The Second World War brought the quality control concept into sharp focus. There was great need for vast quantities of war material of high quality and it led to the wide acceptance of statistical quality control methods.
Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who had worked with Walter Shewhart at Bell Laboratories, developed a philosophy of quality management and quality improvement which was adopted by the Japanese in the 1950s and the rest is history.
Japanese goods are considered to be of such high quality that they are preferred by the consumers over similar American goods even in America. On the basis of quality and to some degree price, Japan had overpowered the consumer market all over the world, especially in cars, televisions, cameras, watches and other electronic goods.
Dr. Deming’s philosophy regarding quality, expressed in 14 principles of quality improvement is narrated as follows:
1. Create constancy of purpose towards improvement of product and service with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business to provide jobs. Such objectives should be made clear to all employees and they must work together to achieve such objectives.
2. Adopt a new philosophy. This philosophy should be a continuous quality improvement philosophy where the quality is built in the product. We no longer accept the commonly accepted levels of delays, mistakes and defective workmanship.
3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Prevent defects rather than inspect for defects. This can be done by designing quality into products.
4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. This means that you should not buy from the supplier on the basis of low price alone. Price should be combined with the quality of the product.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service to improve quality and productivity, thus constantly decreasing costs. The system includes design, quality of incoming material, maintenance, training, supervision and so on.
6. Institute modern methods of training on the job. Make sure that the people who are training the new workers are themselves highly skilled and well trained.
7. Institute leadership. Supervisors should help the workers in every facet of operations and be attentive to the needs of workers and provide them with the necessary tools and instructions.
8. Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company. People perform their best when they feel secure in their work environment. The workers should not be afraid to ask questions or bring problems to the attention of the management.
9. Break down barriers between departments. People in various departments such as research, design, production and marketing must work as a team to foresee problems of production and find solutions to such problems.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and arbitrary numerical goals and targets for the work force to achieve new levels of productivity and quality. Simply asking the workers to improve their work is not enough. The whole system must be refined so that the workers understand how to improve the quality.
11. Eliminate work standards that prescribe numerical quotas. Quotas are purely quantitative. When the workers are expected to meet the quota and they attempt to do so at any cost, then quality can become a matter of lower priority and can be sacrificed.
12. Remove barriers that rob employees of their pride in their workmanship. People must be treated as human beings rather than simply machines for doing a job. The conceptual environment of work must be such that the workers not only take pride in their performance but also develop their affiliation with the company.
13. Institute a vigorous programme of education and self-improvement. Continuous improvements require continuous learning. Top management and down to workers must all be continuously learning new methods of quality improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to take all necessary steps to accomplish the transformation from the old system of thinking to the new work ethic as described in the guidelines. Develop a plan and. an organizational structure that will facilitate and enhance this transform at on.
Deming’s basic philosophy is that quality is a “predictable degree of uniformity and dependability at low cost and suited to the market.” The idea is to create a “quality culture” which is customer responsive, eliminates waste, has a motivated “quality aware” workforce and is ever improving.