A Quality Timeline in Quality thinking - Quality Management

Figure indicates the new ideas which arrived in quality at various point in history. the advent of a new era does not necessarily mean that the practices and principles espoused by earlier eras died out; in fact many examples of craftsmanship or quality assurance can be found today. Nor is the beginning of each era meant to represent the first articulation of theories or approaches, but where they became mainstream. the bands indicate, broadly, times when those ideas were pre-eminent in the quality domain.

A Quality Timeline

A Quality Timeline

The Craftsmanship Era (Up to 1900)

Before the Industrial Revolution it was usual that people who made things also sold them directly to their customers who were generally from the same vicinity. Services also were less sophisticated and the person providing the service dealt directly with the customer. If a craftsman were particularly good at his work, he would sometimes attract custom from other localities through word of mouth advertising. Quality - meeting the needs of the customer - was very personal in those days and because of a lack of far-reaching distribution systems, it was particularly important to achieve and retain a local reputation for good work at a fair price. he development of Guilds of craftsman developed this thinking further with established ‘masters’ assessing candidates for membership.

Standardisation, Mass Production and Quality Assurance (1900 - 1930)

With the formation of factories and increasing automation, work became progressively de-skilled and more repetitive.The supplier/end-user relationship was lost and with it the pride in workmanship associated with the skilled craftsman.This became a self-sustaining cycle; the less factory jobs required the skills of traditional craftsmen, the more they attracted unskilled people.In America in the early 20th century the concentration of semi and unskilled workers in the factories was compounded by the diversity of the spoken language of immigrant workers.The solution to communication problems and only paying piecework rates for good product was to employ inspectors who could differentiate between conforming and non-conforming items. Figure shows the general situation in which inspectors check the output of an operation and decide whether the product is good, consigned to scrap or returned to the manufacturing operation for rework.

The Introduction of inspection to the business process

Introduction of inspection to the business process

The effect of the introduction of inspection was to prove dramatic. This system tells the individual worker that if they are not sure whether or not their work is conforming, it does not really matter because the inspectors’ job is to make that decision.Thus, responsibility for the quality of work is removed from the individual and placed with the Quality Department that employs the inspectors. The worker is being paid for the amount of product produced and, therefore, the primary aim of the production process is to manufacture the volume of product required by management. The inspector becomes the barrier between the production operation and the customer - the part of the operation that ensures that the customer receives a quality product. he last vestiges of worker self-respect are removed when management discuss production problems with supervisors and inspectors, but not the workers who are part of the process under discussion.

It was the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor in the early 1900s that legitimised the use of inspectors to ensure adequate quality of finished product. He was to become known as the father of the so-called Scientific Management; his emphasis was on work output, labour deficiency and the introduction of work-study. With the accent purely on output, labour deficiency and the introduction of Work Study and Work Measurement, quality was treated as an afterthought. In his book, Taylor describes the answer to poor quality of output as the rigorous application of more and more inspectors, who in themselves were now seen as specialists. He was hugely successful at what he did and, it could be argued that he met the needs of his time. this is, of course, not to suggest that ‘Quality Assurance’ has died out. he Make-Test-Deliver process is still with us and is, arguably, the dominant approach to delivering quality products in the world.

Quality Control Era (1930 - 1950)

A number of thinkers began to see that Scientific Management and associated approaches de-humanised the work place; workers were not paid to think, but to carry out to the letter the work instructions of supervision and management. After a while the workers gave up any attempt to correct things that were wrong in the production operation and began to disassociate themselves from the success of the organisation. Apart from the human aspects of the inspection-based organisation, routine 100% inspection quite simply does not work. It is inevitable that an inspection process will lead to products that should have been scrapped or returned for rework being dispatched to the customer, and good products will be scrapped or returned for rework. Each of the adverse outcomes of inspection is serious; customers quite rightly do not like to receive sub-standard products and if sufficiently upset will take their business elsewhere. Rework lines receiving good or scrap product believe that the hapless inspectors deserve the poor reputation that they have on the shop floor. The key issue is that inspection is an activity that takes place after a defective product is made. At best the defective product is not dispatched to the customer. However, quality cannot be inspected into a product - quality has to be built into each process.

By as early as the 1920s, Walter A Shewhart, an American statistician who worked for the Bell Telephone Company, became involved in the manufacture of millions of telephone relays, and he realised that inspection after the event was not a good way of ensuring quality. He studied how the manufacturing process could be monitored in such a way as to prevent non-conforming items being produced and in 1924 he invented the control chart. In 1931 he published the world’s first book on quality control “Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product” (Shewhart, 1980) and his work forms the basis of all teaching on Statistical Process Control today.

Dr William Edwards Deming had been a student of Walter Shewhart and he spent his early years as a Government employee, mainly in the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Census. Following the Second World War the US Government played a significant role in rebuilding Japanese industry, and Deming was invited to apply his statistical knowledge to the Japanese situation. He taught them to apply the statistical method and team approach to quality improvement that has transformed Japan into market leaders of virtually every form of manufactured goods. He has been referred to as the father of the Third Industrial Revolution.

The principal focus of the quality control era was to replace inspection with more informative process control systems which aimed to reduce variation in outputs (be they product or service) and deliver more consistency by focusing on inputs. Its modern day incarnation is Six Sigma.

The Total Quality Management (TQM) Era (1950 - 1970)

In addition to his work with SPC, Deming was strongly convinced of the need to build the human element into quality. His 14 points are an attempt to define the transformation of Western style of management to accomplish the necessary change.

Also in the early 1950s, Dr Joseph M Juran participated in the quality movement in Japan and, like Deming, has been bestowed with Imperial honors in recognition of his contribution to Japan’s industrial success. Juran believed in the management of Quality and thus concentrated his efforts on executive and senior management who he believed to be responsible for the majority of quality problems. In 1951 he published the first edition of he Quality Control Handbook; it is now in its 6th edition (Defoe and Juran, 2010) and it still is regarded as the practitioners Quality Bible, being full of management and planning techniques as well as the technical aspects of quality.

Another well respected American quality specialist, Dr Armand V Feigenbaum, first published in 1961 a book entitled Total Quality Control which was the first to express the view that quality was not just about manufacturing, but could be applied to departments such as Engineering, Development, Sales and Service. “Quality is from the cradle to the grave, from the womb to the tomb!” He also developed the technique of measuring the cost of quality, showing that by adopting preventive techniques an improvement in Quality Costs can be achieved.

More recently, and also from America, came to prominence Philip Crosby, ex Vice President for Quality with ITT who founded a Quality College in Florida and later one in Europe. He is thought to be the world’s leading consultant on quality improvement; his view is that quality is free and he promotes the concept of “Right first Time” as a way to change the management culture of an organisation. His four Absolutes of Quality Management are seen as a good starting point for any company embarking on quality improvement action.

The enduring strength of the humanist approach to quality sees it now enshrined in most companies’ vision and mission statements (“people are our most important asset”), and much that was originally heretical- involvement, empowerment, trust and respect are now seen as the norm; in theory if not always in practice.

Standards and Awards (1970 - 1990)

The strength of TQM was in the principles it laid down for how to transform an organization. Its weakness was the need for interpretation and the wide range of approaches from the good to the bad, and even the ugly which it spawned. The variability of results seen by customers attested to this.

Over the years a need for standardisation was felt; to homogenise not the approach, but at least the principles. BS5750 and ISO 9000 Quality Systems Standards have been the most successful elements of this approach.They are externally audited and accredited standards which have been joined in more recent years by Quality or Excellence Awards which are recognitions of company approaches and performance relying more on self-assessment.

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