Changing Scenario of Quality Management
Scientific business management in modern sense was introduced in industry in early 20th century. Walter Andrew Shewhart framed “problem” in terms of assignable-cause and chance-cause variation and introduced control chart as a tool to distinguish between the two. Shewhart explained that bringing a production process into a state of statistical control, where there is only chance-cause variation, and keeping it in control, is necessary to predict future output and to manage a process economically. This as a distinct theory and school of thought has always withstood the test of time.
Contemporarily, another system of management was advocated by Fred W. Taylor. Taylor advocated that the task of factory management was to determine the best way for the worker to do the job, to provide the proper tools and training, and to provide incentives for good performance. He broke each job down into its individual motions, analyzed these to determine which were essential, and timed the workers with a stopwatch. With unnecessary motion eliminated, the worker, following a machine-like routine, became far more productive. This as a distinct theory or school of thought became obsolete by 1930, though still many modern managers practice this theory as many business schools teach them.
In the 1940s, Japanese products were perceived as cheap and shoddy imitations. Japanese industrial leaders recognized this problem and aimed for high-quality products. They invited quality gurus, such as Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum to learn how to achieve this aim. In 1950s, quality control and management became main theme of Japanese management. The idea of quality did not stop at the management level. Quality circles, a volunteer group of workers who meet and discuss issues to improve any aspects of workplace and make presentations to management with their ideas, started in the early 1960s. This was quite motivating for workers as they felt that they were involved and heard. Another by-product was that the idea of improving not only quality of the products, but also every other aspect of organizational issues. This was the beginning of the idea of total quality. The term ‘total quality’ was used for the first time in a paper by Feigenbaum at the first international conference on quality control in Tokyo in 1969. Ishikawa also discussed ‘total quality control’ in Japan, which was different from the western idea of total quality. According to his explanation, it means ‘company-wide quality control’ that involves all employees, from top management to the workers. In the 1980s, a new phase of quality control and management began in Japan. This was known as Total Quality Management (TQM).
In 1985, after completing my B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT (BHU) Varanasi, I started, what was to become a lifelong career in business improvement at a public sector company, Bharat Electronics Limited, manufacturing complex RADAR System. [RADAR is an acronym of RAdio Detection And Ranging or RAdio Direction And Ranging. It is an object-detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, and velocity of objects like aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations]. When I joined, Bharat Electronics, it was saddled with huge inventory, large number of field complaints, high level of rework and repairs. Lead times were so high that large part of the sales used to take place towards the end of the financial year and near zero sales in the beginning few months of the year.
Total Quality Management (TQM) philosophy was selectively adopted under the acronym 'TORQUE' [Total Organizational Quality Enhancement]. Standardization & Quality were the two inseparable parts of it. Good standardized work was established for purchased parts, design, drafting, materials, systems, processes, quality & workmanship. This provided support in design, manufacturing, vendor development and processing. Concept of “Quality Control Circle” and “Cost of Quality” were driven across the organization through dedicated teams. TORQUE efforts paid off rich dividends to the company in a decade when I left the company.