W. Edwards Deming was considered to be way ahead of his time. His philosophical ideas were also considered radical in the United States during the 1950’s, but were quickly adopted by Japan. He developed what later became known as Deming’s 14 points, that would later launch the Total Quality Management Movement in the United States, which were not actually accepted until the 1980’s. One of his philosophies that I found interesting was Point #5: “Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs. This philosophy was foreign in the 1950’s, where managers’ philosophy was focused more on power and control. Deming’s concept leaned more towards a teacher/student relationship, instead of the power and control focus of his time. Humans are very resistant to change however, and that is why I feel this is an important concept that some companies still struggle with today. My employer for example, Lowe’s Distribution Center, has some managers that don’t like to change processes because “it is the way they like it to be done”.
Deming’s philosophy involved a new focus, which involved management to constantly be looking for improvements that can be made in both their processes, and technology that would reduce cost. Our computer system that controls every function in our facility is about 22 years old, and is outdated to the point where it has employees repeat steps to convince the computer system the task has been completed. Inefficient methods lead to higher cost. Higher costs in turn seem to add to our society’s need for power and control, resulting in increased pressure on team members to make up for the inefficiencies of the system.
At this point, team members than reduce quality to meet increased expectations, resulting in decreased customer satisfaction. The long-term result involves lower profit margin and decreased sales, which all could have been avoided if Deming’s points were followed in the first place, by replacing or updating the equipment. Deming’s philosophy also referred to the service industry. If improvements were made to meet the expectations of customers, than overall costs would be decreased. This is commonly still seen today with new technology being put on the market, only to be recalled later when it is tested and announced to be “unsafe. For example, the recall of the Toyota model Prius, which was found to have quality issues with the clips that hold the floor mats in place. If the clips came loose, the mats could slide and hold down the accelerator, which risked causing an accident. This recall was estimated to cost Toyota around two billion dollars, as well as a loss of $100,000 in sales in both the U. S. and Europe. Imagine if Toyota had invested more in the quality side of producing the clips, and the savings that would have came with it.
Deming’s philosophies triggered the Total Quality Management movement in the 1980’s. Beforehand, factories focused solely on productions numbers, without even taking quality into consideration. I can see why Deming’s ideas weren’t accepted at first, if you think back to how things probably were in the 1950’s. Not to mention the increased costs that comes with higher quality. For example, a shoe factory probably only had two options for shoes, black or white. Now we have a large selection of brands to choose from, each representing a different level of quality.
With the focus now being on quality, businesses can provide a higher level of customer satisfaction, bringing different levels of quality to meet their customer’s budget, as well as expectations. Having strict levels of quality guidelines in the service industry, especially in fast food, customers are more reassured that they are consuming food that is safe, and has met requirements set by health inspectors. Deming’s philosophies have also made our business processes more efficient. Businesses today focus on the future, and predict possible changes they would need to adopt to survive.
Technology is constantly changing, and is also bringing a higher level of quality to both manufacturing and service industries. In conclusion, I think Deming’s philosophies are vital today to businesses survival. For a business to get ahead of the competition, they need to not only be efficient, but also possess a certain level of accepted quality by consumers. Quality continues to improve as new technology emerges on the market, and processes are continually evaluated. Any business would benefit by following Deming’s 14 points.
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