In the 1920s, Bell Telephone Laboratories began developing quality management techniques with the goal of providing high quality telephone service, allowing them to retain their monopoly. Walter A. Shewart, the father of statistical quality control, came to Bell Labs and helped them develop methods of statistical sampling and control chart techniques. Another engineer named Joseph A. Juran was chosen to lead a small group of engineers in learning Bell Labs techniques at Western Electric. Another statistician named W. Edward Deming was introduced to Shewart, and used these techniques throughout World War II to set standards and ensure quality control during wartime, especially for munitions.
American’s were the leaders in quality control up and throughout World War II. However, increasing domestic and international demand for mass-produced American goods after the war created an environment where managers began focusing solely on keeping costs low. This focus on costs led to quality issues in the 1980s.
However, after World War II, Deming and Juran had been recruited by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) to help teach quality control techniques in Japan. By the 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese companies had perfected quality management, and became quality leaders around the world. This led to a revolution in business management thinking about costs and operational effectiveness.
According to W. Edwards Deming, when companies focus on costs, costs tend to rise over time and quality falls. However, if a company focuses on quality, costs will fall over time.
This meant that the American thinking that there was a trade-off between costs and quality was ultimately false.
Quality management includes international standards ISO 9004:2008 and ISO 15504-4:2005 and methods such as Kaizen, Six Sigma, Total Quality Management (TQM), lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System, and Kansei engineering. It also includes techniques such as employing quality circles.