History of Quality

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History of Quality, The Beginning

1300’s – European craftsman organize into unions. Quality is viewed as very important due to a craftsman’s reputation and livelihood depending upon it.

1700’s– Great Britain establishes a factory system and an emphasis is placed on product inspection.

1900’s – in the US the Industrial Revolution is here. The emphasis is still on post production product inspection. Manufactures begin to develop and implement quality improvement processes.

1924 - Walter Shewhart statistically shows when a process should be adjusted.

WWII – the US Military begins to experience serious quality problems with munitions being supplied to the war effort. The industrial function of Quality Control

is formed. People are hired to staff quality positions. The military begins to develop Military Standards to control quality and drive quality improvement.

Post WWII – after being shunned by U.S. industry, the U.S. sends Dr. William Edwards Deming

to Japan to help rebuild the post war Japanese economy. The Japanese welcome the input of Dr. Deming and Dr. Joseph Juran. Instead of focusing on inspection, Dr. Deming and Dr. Juran focus upon the processes and the people that worked within them. The foundations for Total Quality Management (TQM), and quality improvement, were being built.

Modern History of Quality


1970’s – Japan continues to take market share from the U.S. in the electronics and automotive markets. The U.S. realizes that it cannot compete with Japanese quality and productivity. Japanese quality improvement is occurring at an alarming rate.

1979 – at an executive meeting at Motorola Art Sundry states, “The real problem here at Motorola is that our quality stinks!” This is credited with being the motivation behind Motorola's creation of Six Sigma.

1980 – on June 24, 1980 NBC airs “If Japan can, why can’t we”. The show detailed how the Japanese captured our markets by following Dr. Deming's quality improvement advice. Dr. Deming speaks for 9 minutes on the details of why U.S. businesses are losing market share.

Minutes after Deming’s appearance on NBC the Quality Revolution in the US begins. Already hailed as a national hero in Japan, Deming becomes the Prophet of Quality overnight.

Dr. Deming’s method of Total Quality Management (TQM) begins sweeping across U.S. industry. Hundreds of books on Total Quality Management (TQM) and quality improvement are published. Total Quality Management consultants pop-up almost overnight.


1987 - Motorola CEO Bob Galvin launches a long term quality improvement program titled “The Six Sigma Quality Program”. He establishes a goal to achieve Six Sigma quality performance by 1992. Six Sigma was created by Bill Smith, a Motorola employee.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), with members from 91 nations including the U.S., adopts the ISO 9000 series of standards. ISO 9000 begins to be adopted world-wide. Military QA and QC Standards begin to be phased out.

1988 – Motorola wins the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. CEO Galvin states that Motorola will not rest with its Six Sigma quality improvement program.

1995 – General Electric CEO Jack Welch invites his friend, Allied Signal’s CEO Larry Bossidy, to speak to GE executives about Six Sigma.

By October of the same year the Six Sigma quality improvement process was company policy at GE. Design for Six Sigma soon followed. Welch states that no one will be promoted to a management position without a Six Sigma Green Belt. He tells his staff that Six Sigma is the most ambitious undertaking that the company has ever taken on!

“Quality can truly change GE from one of the great companies to absolutely the greatest company in world business. When GE does something, it does it all the way!”

“Everyone in this room must lead the quality charge. There can be no spectators on this. What took Motorola ten years, we must do in five - not through shortcuts, but in learning from others”.

GE hires Dr. Mikel Harry, co-founder of Six Sigma and the Six Sigma Institute. Harry spends the next four years training GE employees. GE and Motorola rewrite the history of quality.

Six Sigma begins sweeping across the world!

~2004 - Lean and Six Sigma are combined to create Lean Six Sigma. The history of quality continues to be written.

From History of Quality to Quality Management.

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