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Monday Morning Message on Lean – May 24, 2010

May 24, 2010


“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford

Since today I am at the American Society for Quality (ASQ) World Conference on Quality and Improvement I thought this would be an appropriate quote. With all that has transpired recently with Toyota and the recall of millions of cars it is easy to see what happens when we let quality take a back seat (no pun intended) to production or growth. 

I can remember the big push for quality in the 1980s. Many American companies were realizing that quality was an essential element to be able to compete in the global market place. What spurred this on? One thing was the level of quality from companies overseas including car companies in Japan like Toyota and Honda. If you think back to the 1960s, if a product said “Made in Japan” it was considered junk or of low quality. Within two decades that perception was turned around. During the 1970s electronics from Japan (remember stereos?) were considered top-notch. At this time there was also a big push in the United States to “Buy American”. I can certainly see why people were saying that – save jobs, keep manufacturing here and so on. I can recall how hard it was for my dad to find an American made stereo. He finally decided on a Radio Shack model. As I recall it was pretty good (but I wanted the fancier Pioneer stereo). He was personally affected by this because his company served the electronics industry and as Japan targeted this market it drove his company out of business. So, over time manufacturing left the U.S. in large droves. But the ones that remained focused on quality, service, delivery and of course, reducing costs. This was a bitter pill to swallow and still is for many groups. But what it has done was make us stronger and better.

So here’s to quality – may every organization practice it everyday even when no one is looking.

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