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The Modern Quality Movement Origins, Development and Trends

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Total Quality Management Vol. 17, No. 2, 179 203, March 2006

The Modern Quality Movement: Origins, Development and TrendsBEN A. MAGUADAndrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA

ABSTRACT The pursuit of quality is an age-old endeavour that dates back to the beginning of civilization. Human beings have always encountered problems pertaining to quality, although the approaches employed to manage it have differed from era to era. It was not until the twentieth century that quality came to centre stage due to the emergence of massive forces, which demanded a quality revolution. Since then, different sets of ideas, philosophies, principles, and methods have emerged. Quality continues to become a signicant object of study and application in business, government, and non-prot sectors. It will probably take many decades if not a whole century for the quality management discipline to mature. In view of this, the twenty-rst century may well become known to historians as the century of quality. KEY WORDS : Lean production, lean enterprise, lean Six Sigma, quality, quality movement, quality control, quality management systems, Six Sigma, statistical quality control, total quality management

Quest for Quality in Primitive Societies Ever since the dawn of civilization, human beings have always encountered problems pertaining to quality. Ancient food-gatherers had to learn which food can be eaten and which cannot. Hunters had to discover which tools would best serve their specic purposes. During this period, the concept of quality control was measured to some extent by how long these hunters and food-gatherers stayed alive (Lewis & Smith, 1994: 38). The better the tools, the better their chances were of survival. It was relatively easy for each primitive food-gatherer or hunter to dene quality because he was supplier, producer, and customer of his own work (Kirkham, 1992: 7). He determined for himself the meaning of quality work and quality results. The Family Unit The basic organizational unit of society in ancient past was the family. Unlike those of modern societies, primitive families had to provide largely for their own basic needs.Correspondence Address: Ben A. Maguad, Chan Shun Hall, Room 218 B, Department of Management, Marketing & Information Systems, School of Business, Andrews University, Old US 31 North, Berrien Springs, Michigan 49104-0022, USA. Email: [email protected] 1478-3363 Print=1478-3371 Online=06=02017925 # 2006 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080=14783360500450608


B. A. Maguad

Division of labour was practised to achieve production efciency. Since the purpose of production was to provide mainly for the needs of the family, the production processes, from design to actual use, were carried out by the same family members. Family members took all the initiative to check whether the products satised their intended uses in terms of satisfying their basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. In essence, they still determined what a quality product was. The major constraint, however, to achieving quality was the backward state of technology. The Village Market As the number of families grew, people formed villages to provide for their social needs and security. The establishment of the village as a collective human organizational unit further enhanced division of labour and specialization among members of the village community. Craftsmen of all sorts emerged, output increased, and inter-village trade ourished. By performing tasks over and over again, craftsmen became better and better at what they did. They also became very familiar with the production process, the raw materials used, the equipment employed, and the nished product. With the growth of trade among members within the same village community moved another step in dening quality. The village residents who were the users of the product now decided what a quality product was, not just the craftsmen/merchants. Producers and consumers met face to face with the goods between them. Due to the nature of the products sold, product quality could still be judged by the unaided human senses. In the village marketplace, both the producer and the consumer were engaged in the inspection process. Producers strived to ensure that any defects were discovered during the production process or before the products reached the nal customers. However, due to the unavailability of sophisticated inspection equipment, some defective products were able to slip through. Buyers therefore needed to be vigilant by inspecting the products prior to purchase. While sellers were responsible for supplying the goods, buyers were responsible for supplying the quality assurance. This practice became widely known as caveat emptor or let the buyer beware. In the exchange process, feedback from customers was prompt so that merchants were able to make correction or improvement to their products. As an additional impetus to maintaining high quality, the village residents subjected both producers and consumers to close scrutiny and character evaluation. For the village craftsman, the stakes were especially high. His status and occupation were closely tied to his reputation as an able and honest member of the village community. Quest For Quality in the Pre-industrial Era With the expansion of villages into towns and cities and the widening of the scope of regional trade, it became difcult for the producer and user to meet face-to-face in the market place. Between them emerged a host of suppliers, processors, and marketers. As a result some new forms of quality assurance had to be invented to take the place of quality protections, which were traditionally inherent in the village marketplace. Examples of such forms were quality warranties and quality specications. Quality warranties were originally given by the producer to the buyer to provide the latter with quality assurance before the purchase and also relief or compensation in the event that the commodity did not live up to the buyers expectation. Later, during

The Modern Quality Movement: Origins, Development and Trends


the medieval ages, the guilds took over this function. Over the years, quality warranties had become so widely used in all forms of trade and commerce that many governments legislated standards regulating to their use in order to protect buyers. Quality specications, like warranties, were of ancient origin (Juran, 1995). The rst type of specications focused on dening products and processes, but this was later extended to the type of materials used in producing the commodity. Due to the differences in the measures used by the sellers and buyers, conicts sometimes arose. To resolve these conicts, standardized measures of length, volume, and time were invented. Since then, various instruments have evolved with ever-increasing precision. The Role of the Craftsmen Craftsmen, tradesmen or artisans were those who acquired special skills in the performance of a sequence of tasks. Their ability to produce goods of high quality was due to a number of factors (Juran, 1995: 608). The rst factor was the training they received during the apprenticeship period. They were usually indentured at a young age for the purpose of learning a trade. As apprentices, they served their masters for a specied number of years in return for knowledge and skills learned. The second factor was the experience they acquired through many cycles of producing products. The more production cycles they went through, the more intimately familiar they became with the production process and the more skilful they became at performing a task or a group of tasks. The third factor was that while doing a sequence of tasks, the tradesman was repeatedly his own customer. The best way for him to discover quality problems was by using the product himself. It was easier for the tradesman to trace the cause or causes of the problems and correct them when he performed all the tasks required in a production sequence rather than when different people performed each task. The Role of the Guilds Guilds were prevalent during the Middle Ages until their inuence was diminished by the onset of the Industrial Revolution. They were craft and trade organizations, which used their monopolistic powers, derived from charters provided by the prevailing authorities, to provide livelihood and security for members. The functions of guilds were extensive, from establishing rules governing apprenticeship and promotion to the grade of master, to providing extensive social services to members, and to playing an active role in the political affairs of the state. Guilds played a very important role in managing and controlling quality. As part of their quality planning, the guilds established detailed specications for input materials, production processes, nished products, and methods of inspection and test (Juran, 1995: 610). To assure that craftsmen followed these specications, the guilds established inspection and audit procedures, invented the mark or the seal to provide quality assurance to nished products, forbade the sale of poor-quality goods, established and enforced prices and terms of sale, and maintained equality of opportunity among members. As an overriding goal, guilds sought to maintain solidarity and equality among its members by promoting only honest competition among them. No member was allowed to take advantage of other members. Unfortunately, quality improvement through product and process innovation was not considered to be honest competition by the


B. A. Maguad

guilds. This strong focus on guild solidarity stied quality improvement and made the guilds lag behind other cities that created better products and processes. The Role of the Government The functions of government have always included promoting the safety and health of its citizens, improving the stat