Chair’s message – November 2005

Hello from the Chair:

This is the first update to the 2005 2006 chair messages to the section.

Summer is over and the sections annual conference is complete, so what’s up for the coming year? Two important events are pending, the Deming Conference (December Atlantic City) and a daytime section meeting. Please click the links for information on these important events. The general section meeting is two presentations, each about 45 minutes, with time for questions. A buffet dinner will be served based on advanced registration. Keeping with last year’s theme, there will be no charge if you pre-register.

Turnout is one measure by which we plan future events so the daytime meeting is important if the members support it. We have only had a few daytime meetings in the last few years, so let us know if you want them.

We are already working on the 2006 Annual OTT Section Conference and have planned on returning to Rutgers, if all goes as anticipated. We are looking for volunteers to work on mailing lists, publicity, registration, and arrangements. If you would like to work on the committee please let me know. You can reach me at Chair@Metro-asq.org

Anyone wishing to present or exhibit at the 2006 conference should also let me know.

So what else is up!! We are planning to have a survey to see what type of meetings the members are most interested in, I ask, that when you receive the survey, please respond. However you don’t need to wait for the survey, if you want or have, a request for the section let me know what it is. Remember you are also welcome to attend a board meeting, check the schedule and register with:

Mr. William I. Martin
Registrar
Customized Management Systems, Ltd.
18-65 211 St Suite 2F
Bayside, NY 11360-1814
By Phone/Fax: (718) 631-2375

For the first time in the history of ASQ, headquarters is reaching out to the leaders of the sections and divisions and held the first “Member Value Leadership Summit” in Milwaukee on October 17th and 18th 2005. I would say that a majority of the sections and division where represented and many ideas for the future direction of ASQ where presented. It will be interesting to see what direction and progress Headquarters makes based on the results of the summit. I will provide further details as ASQ Headquarters moves forward with the initiatives. They are planning a formal update at the next World Quality Conference scheduled for May 2006 in Milwaukee.

As I stated in my first message, it is a privileged to serve as chair of the Metro section. Without your support or input we may not be addressing your concerns or needs as members. So feel free to contact any board member, or me, we need your input.

Sincerely

Joe Borden P.E.; CQA
Chair 2005 – 2006

Is the Quality Profession Evolving or Disappearing?

Photo: W. J. Latzko, Ph.D.
W. J. Latzko, Ph.D.

In 1980 a revolution started. Quality became a management issue and corporations were vying with one another to stress the importance of quality in their organization. Today these voices are few and far between. What happened?

Background
On June 24th, 1980, NBC aired an 90 minute white paper called, “If Japan Can … Why Can’t We?”(Crawford-Mason, Frank, Lockhart, & Dobyns, 1980). C. S. Kilian a biography of W. Edwards Deming stated that Claire Crawford-Mason wrote “In the 1970s, Americans had found two easy targets to blame for their economic woes: inflation and high energy costs. . . . Other people interviewed pointed to the adversarial relationship between government and industry”. Mrs. Crawford-Mason went on to describe that while 14 million households viewed the program (a reasonable number for a documentary, according to her), the show became the most requested program of all time. She stated, “One reason this program has generated so much continued interest is because of the powerful, relevant message of one man who was featured in the documentary: Dr. W. Edwards Deming”(Kilian, 1992).

For one and a half decades the interest grew in intensity, leveled off, and may be in a decline at this time. In a way this is reflected in the membership levels of ASQ and the section. One can speculate on the reason for this decline and we propose to do so below. However, the importance of the change is in how it impacts us, the quality professionals.

Quality is King
While quality was being emphasized, quality professionals became as recognized in the organization as other contributors such as finance, marketing, etc. Job titles tended to reflect this increased importance with many more vice presidents for quality appearing in organizations than existed before. Some departments grew rapidly. Salaries were in line with what other significant corporate contributors were earning. The increase in staff levels may have even led to shortages which in turn would help increase starting salaries.

The period of emphasis on quality coincided with (and probably contributed to) economic prosperity. At the turn of this century, increasing economic prosperity stopped. The impact was that executives started to look at areas that they considered to be non-contributors to the organization with a view of making these areas contribute or get rid of them. For a number of reasons, this resulted in a de-emphasis of many aspects that contributed to quality in the past. It translates into fewer quality professionals.

What happened? In my opinion it is the conflict with two methods to check quality: inspection and process control.

Inspection versus Process Control
Inspection dates from ancient times. For example, the code of Hammurabi (c. 1730 BC) specified commercial transactions and had rules for checking (inspection) and enforcing these codes. Dr. Juran often pointed to the Egyptian inspectors. The Byzantines had an officer of the court called a Logothete whose task it was to inspect workplaces to see that they conformed to standards. The method of assuring conformance was inspection. We still do it today. Inspection probably worked well as long as one talks about crafts where the whole product is made by one person. However, with the advance of technology and newer production methods, the age of the single craftsman is receding and inspection no longer as effective in both cost and output.

In the 1920’s Dr. Walter Shewhart formulated a method that met the needs of modern production. It is process control. The emphasis in process control is not on the product but on the process that produces the product. By making the process fail safe, only good output is created. This saves the cost of scrapping or reworking bad output and leads to greater customer satisfaction which in turn often leads to more sales and profits.

Until the 1980’s the bulk of quality operations in the USA used the inspection method. Key in this process was MIL-STD-105, Sampling Procedure and Tables for Inspection by Attributes, now called ANSI/ASQ Z1.4-2003: Sampling Procedures and Tables for Inspection by Attributes. The emphasis was the acceptances of a lot of output with a small risk of rejection of good items on the part of the producer and a larger risk of accepting bad items on the part of the customer. Relatively few process control systems existed.

The Japanese, on the other hand, specialized in process control which Deming taught them in 1950. As a result, they were capturing markets with better products at lower cost. Once American Management recognized this, they too wanted process control. The NBC White Paper of 1980 gave them this information and process control became a standard method.

Top Management’s Role
Deming, Juran, and others kept emphasizing the need for top management’s active involvement in achieving quality. The key was that top management needed to make their policies support quality not hinder it. The concept of single source suppliers saved many companies a fortune as well as creating better, more uniform output.

The problem was that the rapid growth of the quality profession led to a number of untrained or partially trained individuals who needed a quick fix. The European Union supported a method called ISO 9000. While this method permitted process control, it did not emphasize it, in fact it was an option. The emphasis of this process was and is on inspection, now renamed auditing.

Entropy: Sliding Back
Apparently, we moved from emphasis inspection before 1980 to process control until the latter part of 1990’s then back to the emphasis on inspection. Can this be a reason for what I see as the decline in the number of quality professionals, the change in management attitudes, and the return to the status quo of pre 1980? Is there the equivalent of Gresham’s Law in quality: old methods replace the modern? Does the death of Deming and Crosby followed by the retirement of Juran leave us with no one to whom top management listens? Can we recapture the spirit of quality as a sound business policy? Your editor invites your comments.

Reference List
Crawford-Mason, C., Frank, R., Lockhart, R., & Dobyns, L. (1980). If Japan can. . .why can’t we? Dobyns, Lloyd. New York, NBC. Ref Type: Video Recording

Kilian, C. S. (1992). The world of W. Edwards Deming. (2nd. ed.) Knoxville, TN: SPC Press.