W. Edwards Deming

I can recall back in the 1950’s when the cheapest toys you could buy were “made in Japan.” This meant inferior products, with the cheapest materials, and for the lowest price. It was post-World War II, and Japan’s economy and industry were in shambles, and they were not at all up to competing in the world marketplace. It was a joke when something was made-in-Japan. I remember the cheap, little paper umbrellas you could stick in your cocktails, and the little, plastic, transistor radios.  They were very cheap, and plentiful that everyone could have one. Something started to change in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. It is my understanding that a businessman from the United States named W. Edwards Deming, developed a new method that was later called “total quality management.”  This was a new idea,where it would be a small team of workers who would take a product and create it from scratch all the way through to the finish. The team members would be highly-trained, and closely managed as to reduce errors to one in a million units. The finished product was then labeled by that team’s number. That way, any defects, or failures could be tracked to the source. This was totally different from the assembly-line method of construction created by some American industrial giants like Henry Ford. As time went by, Japanese electronics, stereo receivers, amplifiers, turn-tables, etc. started to be known for their high quality, and excellent performance. By the mid 1970’s “made in Japan” became a hallmark of the best of the best. This then became the reputations for Japanese-made automobiles. Honda and Toyota’s vehicles became reknown for their efficient engines, quality construction, and design-beauty. After awhile, even German-made cars began to look alot like their Japanese counterparts. The irony of this all is the fact that the American businessman, W. Edwards Deming, who developed the concept of “total quality management” had initially tried to introduce this idea to American businesses. They rejected the idea totally, citing that the assembly-line method and a militaristic management hierarchy was the way to run a business. Dr. Deming was never really recognized in the United States for his contribution to the world. Japanese businessmen on the otherhand were eager for new, American, Western ways of doing things and totally adopted the philosophy as early as the 1950’s. This can be credited with their booming industry in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. Companies in the United States tried to adopt this philosophy in the 1980’s to be able to compete with their competitors in Japan. Now this brings me to current times. When something is labeled “made in China” it nowadays brings to mind images of drywall impregnented with toxins, baby food laced with lead, devices which are sub-standard, lacking in quality, or knock-offs of superior products for a cheaper price, but flimsier construction. “Made in China” is the new “Made in Japan.” China is reported to have the fastest growing middle-class in the world. This is unusual for a Communist state, to be the mirror image of capitalist society. As they construct the tallest towers, the largest arenas, and enjoy the fastest-growing and most powerful economy in the world, China is on the brink of a rude awakening. If you don’t make a quality product, you will inherit a reputation of cheap, shoddy, below-standard products. It then makes you wonder if the world-tallest towers in China, will stand up to stresses and strains of gravity and weather? Is there someone who can enter the business-world of China and make the same kind of difference that the one American businessman did with Japan in the 1960’s? If so, what is the idea and message needed for China. Maybe it’s the same idea of “total quality management” that is wanted and needed. Maybe it is the idea of pride, quality, integrity, ethics, and total quality management which will make a difference to today’s global economy.



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