Google News doesn’t have any reports on how Japan mourned the passing of Joseph M. Juran, but it is likely the country gave him a good send-off—the Japanese are punctilious about paying debts of honour and the country surely owed Juran one.
In the early 1950s, Juran was invited to Japan by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (Juse). The country’s manufacturing was in shambles, and the best thing about “Made in Japan” products was that they were of such poor quality that they broke easily; the result was a short product life cycle, which meant companies could go out and produce more products that broke easily. Juran spoke to these companies about the human aspect of quality, and Quality Circles— groups of employees who sat together and discussed quality issues and came up with solutions—were born.
The Japanese, and later the South Koreans, took Juran’s learnings, as they did the learnings of another American, W. Edwards Deming, to heart. By the late 1960s and the early 1970s, they were ready to take on the world. It wasn’t the oil crisis alone that brought Big Manufacturing in the US to halt. It was also the quality revolution in Japan, one engendered, ironically enough, by two Americans who were never taken seriously in their own country.
The quality revolution didn’t hit India till the mid-1990s, when scientists trained in the Juran and Deming way from Juse and another Japanese institute, the Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance, spent time with Indian companies. Until then, no Indian company and only one company outside Japan had won the Deming medal, the equivalent of an Oscar in manufacturing. Since then, several Indian companies have done so. In many ways, Juran and Deming are behind the great success story of Indian auto components.
Academicians have argued about whether Deming, who died in 1993, or Juran made the bigger contribution to management. Deming popularized statistical quality control and numbers do not lie.
However, Juran looked at the human causes of defects and human interventions that could avoid them. He was right to do so: machines do not make mistakes; people do.
(Has India adequately learnt Juran’s lessons? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)