How Has Quality Management Evolved Since its Inception?

Quality management (QM) first popped up as long ago as the Middle Ages, when guilds implemented inspections to maintain the quality of their products–and their reputations. Today, QM looks substantially different and can be expected to undergo even more significant evolutions as new technologies and data collections measures come into being.

Separate Inspection Departments

Frederick W. Taylor’s “The Principles of Scientific Management” was published in 1911, and was the first formally provided framework for the use of people in industrial organizations. Taylor’s concepts of clearly defined tasks and standard conditions included inspections.

These inspections were designed to:

  • Ensure no faulty product left the factory
  • Focus on the product and problem detection
  • Test every item
  • Be carried out at the end of the production process
  • Rely on specially trained inspectors

Taylor’s conception of inspections was one of the first formal corporate quality control procedures to be implemented. Thanks to his influence, business began to create separate inspection departments to focus solely on quality control.

Statistical Theory Speeds Up the Process

Thanks to statistical theory, the 1920’s saw the beginnings of faster inspections. In 1924, Shewhart made the first sketch of what would become a modern control chart. W. Edwards Deming (the father of modern quality management) expanded on Shewhart’s methods, applying them to war manufacturing during World War II to use statistical process control to enable faster manufacturing without the loss of quality.

Unfortunately, once the war ended Deming found American companies unresponsive to his ideas, so he went to Japan, which was desperate for help to rebuild its war torn economy. Thanks to Deming’s assistance and the studies of engineers such as Joseph Juran, Japanese manufacturing began to boom.

Growing consumer classes in the United States demanded higher quality and thanks to their advanced quality management, Japanese companies were able to produce more products at a lower price with higher customer satisfaction. American firms found themselves struggling to compete, and when Deming and Juran returned from Japan, the two men found new interest in their theories.

Fitness for Use Shifts How Quality is Defined

Joseph Juran published his book “Managerial Breakthrough” in the 1960’s. Using eastern philosophies her learned in Japan, he advocated what he called “fitness for use,” a concept later used extensively by management expert Peter Drucker. Juran believed that higher quality products had a greater number of features which fit with the requirements of the consumer–and also had fewer defects.

Deming also brought back lessons from Japan. His work “Out of Crisis” was published in 1982 and included his now-classic 14 points. Deming’s approach led to the creation of the theory of total quality management (TQM) and linked the concept of quality with efficient management.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Today, quality management has evolved to include these three most common theories: Six Sigma, Total Quality Management, and The Toyota Production System. Challenges to implementation remain, however. In a recent study, only 50% of business leaders said quality was at the heart of their organization, and even fewer (16%) claimed their quality was marketing-leading, despite over 80% claiming quality was critical or important.

As advances in technology improve manufacturing processes and the collection and integration of data, and as risk management is increasingly (and rightfully) seen as a vital component of quality, the practical use of quality management can only continue to grow.

Features You Should Be Targeting in Your Quality Management Software

New quality management software (QMS) implementation might be one of the most effective changes you can make–but it could also be your costliest. If your implementation goes wrong, you’ll be unlikely to receive a second chance. It’s absolutely imperative that you choose correctly the first time.

A good QMS can improve efficiency across the entire company, and provide lean solutions to assist in quality control management. A great system will help by providing the most relevant data in useable formats to the people who need it to the most. Especially in our day of lean initiatives, the right QMS is vital in streamlining operations among geographically dispersed locals.

What Truly Matters?

When evaluating your options, it’s important to consider whether you’ll want a system that’s Statistical Process Control (SPC) focused, or a fully integrated quality software solution that covers everything from quality planning to assurance to project management.

It’s also important to consider whether your new software will integrate well with existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and SAP or gaging/measuring equipment currently in place. Will there be tangible benefits to a software that seamlessly captures data from existing equipment and systems, or is this a feature you can afford to forgo?

How Does the Potential Software Company Relate?

It’s also worth investigating the potential software’s use within your industry and other industries. Is this company an innovator and a leader? Will they outlast their current software offering? Are they generic in their focus, or user-focused? Will this new QMS adapt to your needs, or will you need to adapt to it? Finally, pay close attention to the reporting capabilities of your new system. All the data in the world is useless if top management can’t quickly access real-time reporting.

Features to Look For

In addition to these important considerations, it’s also important to consider the features your new QMS will provide. These aren’t just bells and whistles; instead, they’re vital parts of the system you’ll be utilizing daily.

Examples of additional important features include:

  • Mobile & Fixed Station. Are there full plant data collection options available, including fixed station and mobile collection? What is the flexibility to capture data from any location on the plant floor or remote sites?
  • Local Cache. Will there be uninterrupted data collection and the ability to collect data when the network or database server is down?
  • Flexible Row/Column Data Collection. Can you create data collection setups based on most efficient methods? Is there flexibility to set up data collection for optimal efficiency?
  • Drill Down Reporting (Analysis). Can you filter data to a specific data set and gain new visibility into your data with specialized data filters? Are you able to analyze specific details in the report data at any point in the hierarchy (collector, setup, labels, or time)?


The implementation of a new QMS is important enough that considerable time should be spent analyzing your company’s needs and objectives, as well as the potentials benefits and features of your new software. Careful attention to detail here will result in the most favorable outcome–increased quality and better profits overall.

Understanding the Continuous Improvement Process (CiP) as it Relates to Quality Management

For a quality manager or engineer, nothing matters more than preventing a fire before it happens. The continuous improvement process (CiP) can address these concerns, helping the organization find new and better ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality.

The continuous improvement model is at the heart of all quality management (QM) systems, including the most common Six Sigma, Toyota Production System, and Total Quality Management theories. In fact, it is a leading tenant in the overarching study of QM and one of six factors that result in more competitive companies that are customer focused and therefore more profitable.

Where Continuous Improvement Process Began

CiP is as much about tactics as it is about shifting organizational culture over time to value improvement.

In the 1960’s, Edward Deming pioneered the use of CiP as part of the quality management process, relying heavily on feedback. Later, Imai introduced the concept of kaizen (“good change” or “improvement”) in his 1986 work, “Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.”

Kaizen focuses even more heavily on system feedback than Deming, especially from employees, who can make more, smaller changes over time that are less expensive and more effective long term.

Four Step Action Plan for Implementing CiP

The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle is also known as the Deming Cycle or Shewhart Cycle and is the most widely used tool for continuous improvement. Popularized by Edward Deming, this cycle is a repetitive four-stage model designed to enhance continuous improvement efforts within a QM program.

The plan has four stages:

  1. Plan (identify an opportunity and plan for change)
  2. Do (implement the change on a small scale)
  3. Check (use data to analyze the results of the change)
  4. Act (if the change was successful, implement on wider scale and continually reassess)

The PDCA cycle is simple, yet profound, and emphasizes the small changes that are at the heart of CiP. Proponents of QA have long understood that incremental changes made over time have a much greater impact than larger changes made at great cost.

Other methods of continuous improvement (which include Six Sigma, Lean or the Toyota Production System, and Total Quality Management), emphasize employee engagement, measuring and systemizing processes, and reducing variations, defects, and cycle times, but all rely heavily on the CiP.

Benefits to CiP

One of the deepest benefits to CiP is that the identification of opportunities for improvement comes not from top management, but from employees. The bottom-up system of improvement means that those closest to the problems–the employees–are the ones truly equipped to solve the organization’s quality problems.

Further, since employees are most likely to recommend smaller, easy-to-implement changes (or sometimes eliminating processes) improvements are generally extremely cost effective. Organizations find employees take greater ownership, which decreases turnover, and an organization that experiences high rates of turnover is an organization constantly reacting to fires–not preventing them.

Tips for Making it Work

Four factors can greatly impact CiP success. Those include:

  • Focused, consistent leadership
  • Focus on prevention (and not reaction)
  • Unrelenting commitment to QM
  • Long term mindset

While CiP relies on employee engagement at the bottom level, engagement and support at the top level are also crucial. Inadequate support from organization leadership will ultimately stymie efforts toward improvement.

A focus on risk management and the prevention of issues (instead of reacting to issues that have already happened) is also vital. Organization incentives must be carefully scrutinized to ensure that employees that put out fires aren’t being more heavily rewarded than employees who prevent fires.

Finally, an unrelenting, constant focus and a long term mindset must be adopted to ensure the benefits of CiP in an organization. The beating heart of any QM system, continuous improvement well actualized will result in the best possible results for the long term competitive advantage of the organization.