W.EDWARDS DEMING’S 14 POINTS OF SUCCESSFUL QUALITY

How General MacArthur allowed Japan to become the First Quality Industrial Nation – part I


This is not a story you expect. And it’s the sort of lesson that’s so important that we as a society have already forgotten it. Homer Sarasohn, who lives with his wife in a retirement complex in scottsdale,   Arizona, is a gentle man with an owl-like face, Sarasohn never planned to go to Japan. He really wanted to be a gynecologist, but couldn’t afford to go to medical school during the depression,Depression. So Sarasohn fell back on his undergraduate physics degree, and went to work before the war designing radio transmitters. When the Second World War came along, he served as a paratrooper, then later resumed his radio work, joining the staff of the MIT Radiation Laboratory.

After the broadcast in 1980 of an NBC  of a Paper entitled “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?”, Edwards Deming became tremendously famous within the US industries for his work in Japan, which started in 1ng,1950 and created a revolution in quality and economic production.Edwards Deming first visited Japan in 1947. At the request of general Mac Arthur, he began to teach Japanese managers and engineers the statistical theories and practices necessary to successfully implement quality control.

The Rad Lab, as it was called, was the major U.S. development center for Radar during the war, and it was Sarasohn’s job to take laboratory prototypes of new radar equipment and turn them into products that could be mass produced by the radio manufacturers of the day. He was still working at the Rad Lab in 1946, when a telegram came from Washington, summoning him to Tokyo. The telegram said he was wanted by General Douglas MacArthur, head of the occupation forces in Japan.

“I thought it was a joke,” Sarasohn said. He was 29 years old.

MacArthur’s headquarters was divided into several sections. Each section served as a branch of the Japanese government, though with an American administrator in each leadership role. The U.S. government was MacArthur’s nominal model, though he adapted it in places to suit the very different needs of both Japanese society and his own military background. There was no true president, for example; MacArthur played, instead, the role of emperor, which suited him.

When he got to Japan, Sarasohn was made chief of the Industry Branch within the Civil Communications Section. That meant he was in charge of rebuilding the communication infrastructure of Japan. MacArthur wanted to use radio as a tool of occupation — to communicate directly with the people of Japan — and that meant setting-up transmitters, as well as building hundreds of thousands of radio receivers. Radios would be the first appliances available to the public in post-war Japan.

“There were fewer than 100 people in the Civil Communications Section, and none of us knew anything about Japan,” Sarasohn said. “American bombing had laid bare the country. There were refugees everywhere. The factories were all gone. What electronics production equipment hadn’t been destroyed was dispersed to the countryside. We had to find equipment and people with experience to run it, then set up factories wherever we could. The easiest way to get up and running was to bring back to life the companies that had been operating during the war — NEC, Matsushita, Furukawa, Fujitsu, Toshiba, and others. Within a year we got them organized in a primitive way.”

MacArthur had abolished the Zaibatsu — the confederations of companies that had dominated the pre-war Japanese economy. These groups, the remnants of which survive today in the form of Japan’s enormous trading conglomerates, created domestic cartels, manipulated supplies and prices, and generally established the long Japanese tradition of building a robust economy on the backs of submissive consumers. MacArthur blamed the war on the Zaibatsu and its leaders, who he banned from participating in their old companies, taking virtually all top managers out of the labor pool (they later returned, following the end of U.S. occupation of Japan, and ex-Zaibatsu leaders were mainly responsible for Japan’s economic resurgence in the 1960s). With all the leaders gone, Sarasohn had to promote middle managers, when he could find them, into the top jobs.

Those were the days of vacuum tube radios, and when vacuum tube production finally began in the makeshift plants, the American was appalled to see that yields were typically less than 10 percent. Ninety percent of the vacuum tubes would not work. To the Japanese running the factories, this was no surprise, nor was it a cause for concern; it had always been this way, even before the war.

“The Japanese had no sense of quality,” Sarasohn said. “With the exception of the Zero fighter and some aircraft engines, their designs were bad and their manufactured goods were shoddy. Having come from the Rad Lab, I was particularly appalled to see the primitive nature of Japanese naval radar. Their vacuum tubes were bad and the radios were even worse, since each was hand-wired by untrained, often unsupervised, workers. They produced goods in mass quantities, ignoring quality. The factories were filthy, and with the exception of some technology picked up from Germany early in the war, most of their production techniques dated from the Meiji Restoration of 1868.”

Sarasohn called in the plant managers, asking them to identify one problem they could work on to improve quality.“There was utter silence,” he said. “They were not expected to make meaningful contributions to their companies in this sense.

“Frustrated with Japanese language courses offered by MacArthur’s staff, the American moved-in with a Japanese family, embracing their culture, and living as a Japanese until 1950.

Under Sarasohn’s control, the Japanese electronics industry began to make slow progress. Yields rose over time as new production methods were adopted, eventually reaching around 75 percent for vacuum tubes (Sylvainia) which set the world standard for vacuum tubes, had an 85 percent yield at the time). But there still wasn’t a deep understanding of the need for quality.

The issue was decided in a 20-minute presentation before General MacArthur. The General had long before stopped following the letter of his original orders, which told him specifically to “not assume any responsibility for the economic rehabilitation or strengthening of the Japanese economy.” Sarasohn argued that without better management, Japan would be a long-term drain on U.S. taxpayers. His opposition, the head of the Economics and Social Section, argued that the program Sarasohn was proposing could turn Japan into an economic monster that would threaten the U.S. in world markets.

“Go do it,” MacArthur said casually on his way out the door”, changing the course of world history. The two men who came to plead for the survival of their company were Sony co-founders Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita.The Tokyo Communication Engineering Company later changed its name to Sony Corporation. Thus  Deming’s 14 points of successful quality became the reason why Japan became America’s biggest threat and competition to  manufacturing,after World war two.

 

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