The purpose of this blog is to advance the ideas and ideals of W. Edwards Deming.
Joseph Juran (From The Times)
From The Times
March 6, 2008
American pioneer of quality control who wrote the definitive manual and helped create Japan's postwar economic miracle
Thanks to Joseph Juran’s work, products are systematically engineered with far fewer defects than they were when he started his career eight decades ago. He redefined quality control, persuading companies to plan for it from the very top of management, and his Quality Control Handbook, first published in 1951, became the standard reference work in the field. For decades, he was one of America’s leading management consultants, lecturing, writing and teaching across the country.
His advice was most spectacularly applied in postwar Japan. When he arrived there in the 1950s, Japanese goods had a reputation for unreliability. His lectures and teaching on the importance of quality played a significant role in the astonishing reverse of this perception in the economic miracle that followed.
Joseph Moses Juran was born the son of a shoemaker in Braila, eastern Romania, in 1904, and brought up in a poor village where opportunity was limited and anti-Semitic violence common. The family emigrated to America in 1912, and Juran grew up in Minnesota. There he took a variety of menial jobs from a young age to help to support the family, as well as completing his education. He graduated in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota and in 1924 got a job in the inspection department of the Western Electric Company, the manufacturing division of AT&T.
On the factory floor of the company’s vast Hawthorne Works, Juran was introduced to the problem of quality at the most basic level — the malfunctioning machine and the complaints of its operators. His mentor there was Walter Shewhart, who was developing some of the first statistical techniques for detecting the causes of defects. Juran was promoted quickly, helping to write AT&T quality control training guidelines.
During the war he was seconded to the Lend-Lease programme by which the US provided materiel to its British and Soviet allies. He was put in charge of a team surveying and redesigning the process by which requests for assistance were processed. This had taken 90 days; Juran’s superiors credited him with cutting it to just 53 hours, as well as halving the amount of paperwork involved.
Afterwards, Juran decided he had had enough of working for big bureaucracies and joined New York University as a professor of industrial engineering, also developing a consulting practice. His work decoupled the definition of quality from ideas of luxury, arguing that it should be seen as “freedom from trouble”, and he tried to persuade managers that it was cheaper to plan for quality from the start than to have to deal with faulty products.
This sprang from the observation that 80 per cent of consequences stem from 20 per cent of causes. (He called this the “Pareto principle”, after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who had noted that 20 per cent of people controlled 80 per cent of wealth). Juran initially used it to identify the most common sources of defects, but it became most commonly known through the idea that 20 per cent of clients provide 80 per cent of profits. Juran called these two groups “the useful many” and “the vital few”.
Juran insisted that quality could not just be left to inspection departments, but had to be led by the top levels of management and become an integral concern of any business, just as finance was. In what came to be known as the “Juran trilogy”, he laid down the idea that traditional after-production inspection control had to be preceded by systems that planned in quality from the start, and followed by continuous improvement in the product.
His Quality Control Handbook, first published in 1951, became the standard reference work for training and management in the field. It also led to an invitation to speak to senior business executives in Japan where he lectured in 1954. Along with W. Edwards Deming, another American theorist of quality, he emphasised the importance of the concept to the leaders of Japan’s shattered manufacturing industries, and his advice was taken to heart as Japanese companies rapidly came to lead the world in quality control.
“They had no reason not to try these new ideas,” Juran recalled in 2004. “The Japanese had a terrible reputation for quality. They had to overcome this reputation of producing junk. Because they were convinced of the need for this change, they were openminded to ideas on quality.” And Juran was in no doubt that this paid off. “Japan reached economic superpower status and they did it through quality,” he said.
Although he liked to play down his part in this transformation — saying that without him and Deming “it might have taken them two or three years longer to arrive at the same place” — others gave him due credit, including the Japanese Government, which awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure. The Japanese quality management theorist Kaoru Ishikawa wrote: “The Juran visit created an atmosphere in which quality control was to be regarded as a tool of management, thus creating an opening for the establishment of total quality control as we know it today.”
Juran wrote several more books, including Managerial Breakthrough (1964). Based on his reading of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, it analysed how disputes between workers and managers should be understood in terms of cultural resistance, and how this process could be organised.
He was greatly in demand as a speaker, particularly once the dominance of Japanese methods became apparent in the 1980s. Juran believed that quality control underpins today’s connected society, with its constant reliance on multiple complex systems such as electricity supply and telecoms. “Like the Dutch, we now live behind dykes,” he liked to say, “the dykes of quality control.”
In 1979 he founded the Juran Institute, a consulting organisation, and in 1986 the Juran Foundation, which later became part of the University of Minnesota business school. His final speaking tour came in 1994, but he continued to write. His works including A History of Managing for Quality (1995) a fifth edition of his Handbook (2000), and a volume of autobiography, Architect of Quality (2003). A biography, Juran: A Lifetime of Influence, by John Butman, appeared in 1999.
The management guru Peter Drucker once said: “Whatever advances American manufacturing has made in the last 30 to 40 years we owe to Joe Juran and to his untiring, steady, patient, self-effacing work.”
Juran is survived by his wife of 81 years, Sadie, and his three sons and a daughter.
Joseph Juran, quality management pioneer, was born on December 24, 1904. He died on February 28, 2008, aged 103