movement can trace its roots back to medieval
Europe, where craftsmen began organizing into
unions called guilds in the late 13th century.
Until the early 19th century,
manufacturing in the industrialized world tended
to follow this craftsmanship model. The factory
system, with its emphasis on product inspection,
started in Great Britain in the mid-1750s and
grew into the Industrial Revolution in the early
The Industrial Revolution
American quality practices evolved in the 1800s
as they were shaped by changes in predominant
In the early 19th century, manufacturing in the
United States tended to follow the craftsmanship
model used in the European countries. In this
model, young boys learned a skilled trade while
serving as an apprentice to a master, often for
Since most craftsmen sold their
goods locally, each had a tremendous personal
stake in meeting customers' needs for quality. If
quality needs weren't met, the craftsman ran the
risk of losing customers not easily replaced.
Therefore, masters maintained a form of quality
control by inspecting goods before sale.
The Factory System
The factory system, a product of the
Industrial Revolution in Europe, began to divide
the craftsmen's trades into specialized tasks.
This forced craftsmen to become factory workers
and forced shop owners to become production
supervisors, and marked an initial decline in
employees?sense of empowerment and autonomy in
Quality in the factory system was
ensured through the skill of laborers
supplemented by audits and/or inspections.
Defective products were either reworked or
The Taylor System
Late in the 19th century the United
States broke further from European tradition and
adopted a new management approach developed by
Frederick W. Taylor. Taylor's goal was to
increase productivity without increasing the
number of skilled craftsmen. He achieved this by
assigning factory planning to specialized
engineers and by using craftsmen and supervisors,
who had been displaced by the growth of
factories, as inspectors and managers who
executed the engineers' plans.
Taylor's approach led to
remarkable rises in productivity, but it had
significant drawbacks: Workers were once again
stripped of their dwindling power, and the new
emphasis on productivity had a negative effect on
To remedy the quality decline,
factory managers created inspection departments
to keep defective products from reaching
customers. If defective product did reach the
customer, it was more common for upper managers
to ask the inspector, "Why did we let this
get out?" than to ask the production
manager, "Why did we make it this way to
The Early 20th Century
The beginning of the 20th century marked
the inclusion of “processes" in quality
A "process" is defined
as a group of activities that takes an input,
adds value to it and provides an output, such as
when a chef transforms a pile of ingredients into
Walter Shewhart, a statistician
for Bell Laboratories, began to focus on
controlling processes in the mid-1920s, making
quality relevant not only for the finished
product but for the processes that created it.
Shewhart recognized that
industrial processes yield data. For example, a
process in which metal is cut into sheets yields
certain measurements, such as each sheet's
length, height and weight. Shewhart determined
this data could be analyzed using statistical
techniques to see whether a process is stable and
in control, or if it is being affected by special
causes that should be fixed. In doing so,
Shewhart laid the foundation for control charts,
a modern-day quality tool.
Shewhart's concepts are referred
to as statistical quality control (SQC). They
differ from product orientation in that they make
quality relevant not only for the finished
product but also for the process that created it.
W Edwards Deming, a statistician
with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and
Census Bureau, became a proponent of Shewhart's
SQC methods and later became a leader of the
quality movement in both Japan and the United
After entering World War II in
December 1941, the United States enacted
legislation to help gear the civilian economy to
military production. At that time, military
contracts were typically awarded to the
manufacturer that submitted the lowest bid.
Products were inspected on delivery to ensure
conformance to requirements.
During this period, quality
became an important safety issue. Unsafe military
equipment was clearly unacceptable, and the U.S.
armed forces inspected virtually every unit
produced to ensure that it was safe for
operation. This practice required huge inspection
forces and caused problems in recruiting and
retaining competent inspection personnel.
To ease the problems without
compromising product safety, the armed forces
began to use sampling inspection to replace
unit-by-unit inspection. With the aid of industry
consultants, particularly from Bell Laboratories,
they adapted sampling tables and published them
in a military standard, known as Mil-Std-105.
These tables were incorporated into the military
contracts so suppliers clearly understood what
they were expected to produce.
The armed forces also helped
suppliers improve quality by sponsoring training
courses in Walter Shewhart's statistical quality
control (SQC) techniques.
But while the training led to
some quality improvement in some organizations,
most companies had little motivation to truly
integrate the techniques. As long as government
contracts paid the bills, organizations?top
priority remained meeting production deadlines.
What's more, most SQC programs were terminated
once the government contracts came to an end.
The birth of total quality in the
United States was in direct response to a quality
revolution in Japan following World War II, as
major Japanese manufacturers converted from
producing military goods for internal use to
producing civilian goods for trade.
At first, Japan had a widely held
reputation for shoddy exports, and their goods
were shunned by international markets. This led
Japanese organizations to explore new ways of
thinking about quality.
Deming, Juran and Japan
The Japanese welcomed input from
foreign companies and lecturers, including two
American quality experts:
W. Edwards Deming, who had become
frustrated with American managers when most
programs for statistical quality control were
terminated once the war and government contracts
came to and end.
Joseph M. Juran, who predicted
the quality of Japanese goods would overtake the
qualiy of good produced in the United States by
the mid-1970s because of Japan's revolutionary
rate of quality improvement.
Japan's strategies represented
the new "Total quality" approach.
Rather than relying purely on product inspection,
Japanese manufacturers focused on improving all
organizational processes through the people who
used them. As a result, Japan was able to produce
higher-quality exports at lower prices,
benefiting consumers throughout the world.
American managers were generally
unaware of this trend, assuming any competition
from the Japanese would ultimately come in the
form of price, not quality. In the meantime,
Japanese manufacturers began increasing their
share in American markets, causing widespread
economic effects in the United States:
Manufacturers began losing market share,
organizations began shipping jobs overseas, and
the economy suffered unfavorable trade balances.
Overall, the impact on American business jolted
the United States into action.
The American Response
At first U.S. manufacturers held
onto to their assumption that Japanese success
was price-related, and thus responded to Japanese
competition with strategies aimed at reducing
domestic production costs and restricting
imports. This, of course, did nothing to improve
American competitiveness in quality.
As years passed, price
competition declined while quality competition
continued to increase. By the end of the 1970s,
the American quality crisis reached major
proportions, attracting attention from national
legislators, administrators and the media. A 1980
NBC-TV News special report, ”If Japan Can? Why
Can't We?" highlighted how Japan had
captured the world auto and electronics markets.
Finally, U.S. organizations began to listen.
The chief executive officers of
major U.S. corporations stepped forward to
provide personal leadership in the quality
movement. The U.S. response, emphasizing not only
statistics but approaches that embraced the
entire organization, became known as Total
Quality Management (TQM).
Several other quality initiatives
followed. The ISO 9000 series of
quality-management standards, for example, were
published in 1987. The Baldrige National Quality
Program and Malcolm Baldrige National Quality
Award were established by the U.S. Congress the
same year. American companies were at first slow
to adopt the standards but eventually came on
Beyond Total Quality
By the end of the 1990s Total
Quality Management (TQM) was considered little
more than a fad by many American business leaders
(although it still retained its prominence in
While use of the term TQM has
faded somewhat, particularly in the United
States, quality expert Nancy Tague says: Enough
organizations have used it with success that, to
paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of its death
have been greatly exaggerated.?(see The Quality
Toolbox, ASQ Quality Press, 2005).
As the 21st century begins, the
quality movement has matured. Tague says new
quality systems have evolved beyond the
foundations laid by Deming, Juran and the early
Japanese practitioners of quality.
Some examples of this
In 2000 the ISO 9000 series of quality
management standards was revised to increase
emphasis on customer satisfaction.
Beginning in 1995, the Malcolm
Baldrige National Quality Award added a business
results criterion to its measures of applicant
Six Sigma, a methodology
developed by Motorola to improve its business
processes by minimizing defects, evolved into an
organizational approach that achieved
breakthroughs ?and significant bottom-line
results. When Motorola received a Baldrige Award
in 1988, it shared its quality practices with
Quality function deployment was
developed by Yoji Akao as a process for focusing
on customer wants or needs in the design or
redesign of a product or service.
Sector-specific versions of the
ISO 9000 series of quality management standards
were developed for such industries as automotive
(QS-9000), aerospace (AS9000) and
telecommunications (TL 9000 and ISO/TS 16949) and
for environmental management (ISO 14000).
Quality has moved beyond the
manufacturing sector into such areas as service,
healthcare, education and government.
The Malcolm Baldrige National
Quality Award has added education and healthcare
to its original categories: manufacturing, small
business and service. Many advocates are pressing
for the adoption of a 搉onprofit
organization?category as well.