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35 Years with Dr. Deming

QLS Blog

During the 1980s the work that W. Edwards Deming had been doing in Japanese manufacturing from the 1950s through the 1970s finally gained recognition in Western manufacturing facilities. His use of statistical approaches to analyze quality challenges changed the North American manufacturing community from a group that was focused on “the percentage of good parts produced” (and employed entire “work-around teams” to fix the parts that weren’t) to a management approach that constantly focused on statistical process control and the narrowing of dimensional variation. Eventually, his work served as a platform for Six Sigma and its focus on parts per million failure rates. When manufacturing teams understood that “80% good” translated to “200,000 failed parts out of a million produced”, the concept of quality excellence was changed forever.

In his book “Out of the Crisis” published in 1982, Dr. Deming wrote about 14 points of management centered on a common theme – “The central problem in management and in leadership… is failure to understand the information in variation.” In celebration of the 35th anniversary of Deming’s masterpiece, the QLS team thought it might be interesting to reflect on how our OEM and supplier clients have embraced his Total Quality Management principles over the years. We see it as “getting back to the fundamentals” just like great sports teams do.

We will list Deming’s 14 points and then offer some QLS observations on each point.

Deming’s 14 Points

  1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim of becoming competitive, staying in business and providing jobs. This one is pretty easy – if you are reading this blog article as a member of a company then your company has met Deming’s Point 1 requirement.  If you had not, you would not be around right now as a company.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities and take on leadership for change. In our OEM and supplier clients, QLS has certainly seen a true commitment to total quality management. The products they supply today are built to very high standards that are being continuously improved.
  3. Cease dependence on mass inspection. Build quality into the product from the start. You might think that this Deming statement would put QLS, a quality containment and parts sorting company, out of business, but we actually applaud this statement and work with both our OEM and suppliers toward a consistent 0 PPM quality level. We see our role as much more than containment and sorting – our representation of Suppliers in our OEM client’s assembly facilities with the QLS Database portal means that critical communication can be done in real time without the time lapses that can cause lost time and productivity.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag alone. Instead, minimize total cost. Move towards a single supplier for any item, based on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust. We have certainly seen a consolidation of Suppliers in many assembly plants and that means each Supplier plays an increasingly important role in assuring high quality and consistent productivity. On site Supplier Representation by QLS increases the value perceived by the OEM because loyalty and trust are built one project at a time. We have seen Suppliers convert problem deliveries into service accolades many times because QLS was there, across multiple facilities, to instantly respond to the situation. 
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service to improve quality and reduce waste. The concept of Continuous Improvement has made North American manufacturing companies world-class in both quality and productivity. We train our QLS teams to look at the big picture of improvement opportunities so we can inform both OEMs and Suppliers on ways to build stronger supply relationships.
  6. Institute training and retraining. The great OEM-Supplier relationships are ones where education of employees is the bedrock of the management process. Companies have employee turnover. Products continuously change. End customers always look for something better. So our efforts to train and retrain can never cease and are a source of stability in our organization. Indeed, we need to constantly look for ways to make that training more effective and long lasting.
  7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to lead and help people to do a better job. Deming understood that there is a difference between leadership and management. For many years companies saw management as a command and control concept designed to tell employees what to do. Leadership is different. It is about breaking down the barriers that keep people from employing their best ideas on how to do something better. It is about providing the types of education that enlighten people and spark new concepts on working together. In our reports, QLS seeks to turn data into insight that leaders can use to paint the big picture of change.
  8. Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company. Creating an atmosphere of rising expectation as opposed to one of retribution is key to the proper leadership of a manufacturing team. Our QLS teams work with OEM employees to help them communicate changes that their company or their Suppliers can make to create better workflow and higher quality.
  9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales and production must work as a team, to foresee and solve problems of production. This Deming principle is the reason the QLS logo is a three-link chain. We connect OEMs and their Suppliers, but often times we find ourselves linking departments or functional areas of a plant as well. We make the concept of “breaking down the barriers” a central theme of our QLS team methodology.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and targets for the workforce as they do not necessarily achieve their aims. This one makes us smile. Deming was first and foremost a statistician. He spoke with data and constantly focused on explaining variation and had a reputation of being very direct in getting to a point. The targets he refers to in Point 10 are not quality metrics or Key Performance Indicators but rather the generic platitudes that employees can see on a banner every day and eventually simply ignore. One of our core business philosophies at QLS is stated this way – “After all is said and done, a lot more will be done than said.” That’s our way of saying actions speak louder than words.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas in order to take account of quality and methods, rather than just numbers. Deming understood that “shooting for a production number” often blinds manufacturing teams to the bigger picture of operational excellence and quality standards. Today, OEM’s work with their Suppliers to match market demands while maintaining high levels of operational excellence. QLS understands that there are bad ways to generate good throughput – ways that increase costs, generate waste or burn out employees. We constantly strive to find the right approach to generating high productivity with consistently high quality.
  12. Remove barriers to pride of workmanship. In QLS’s representation of Suppliers at OEM facilities, we know that we are essentially an extension of the Supplier’s personality and approach to business. If we show honor to an OEM’s employees in a way that increases their pride in craftsmanship and quality, we build stronger relationships between the Supplier and OEM. We are appreciative as an organization to work with a great group of companies whose employees take great pride in delivering excellence to end customers.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and re-training for both the management and the workforce. It is interesting to see the importance Deming places on education – so much so that he essentially duplicates Point 6 to reinforce it here in 13. In this statement, though, he adds management to the focus of education because he understood that it is impossible to properly train employees if the management team is lacking in up-to-date techniques or information. QLS is positioned to be a source of information that can make both management and employee teams better.
  14. Take action to accomplish the transformation. Management and workforce must work together. When employees see management people actively engaged in quality improvement, a different attitude is generated – one of cooperation and team spirit. At QLS we know from many years of working with our clients that people want to do things right – they want to be part of a collective approach that values the ideas and the effort of everyone involved. Our QLS teams are great platforms to facilitate that process.

Dr. Deming was a mathematician so it would not have been surprised if his approach to leadership was “by the numbers” – a hard approach to hitting targets. A look at these 14 Points, however, shows that over half of them are focused on the “soft” side of management. He was very concerned about the dignity of people and the engagement of employees.

QLS understands the hard/soft balance. Our team members are educated on statistical control and analysis and we have built a web-based reporting process, the QLS Database portal, to make data delivery simple and convenient for both our OEM and Supplier clients. We get the hard side.

On the soft side, our team members live in close proximity to the OEM plants they service. They are actively engaged in the same schools, churches and community activities as their clients and we keep in constant touch to be sure that we are honoring their dignity in the QLS work they do every day.

 Thanks Dr. Deming, for the pioneering knowledge and spirit that launched a quality revolution.

Deming Reference Material