Business of Quality Is Flourishing

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE quality business is booming. American businessmen have stepped up their quality efforts enormously in recent years. Several magazines on quality have sprung up.

Consulting firms in the quality area are thriving. For example, Organizational Dynamics Inc. (ODI) has seen its business grow at a 30 percent annual rate over the past six years.

Philip Crosby Associates, founded 10 years ago, now has 2,000 clients and 310 employees working in 17 different languages. This year revenues grew 40 percent to $70 million. Some 70,000 people have taken courses at the Crosby Quality College, with facilities in Winter Park, Fla.; San Jose, Calif.; and Deerfield, Ill., as well as nine sites overseas. One of Mr. Crosby's books, ``Quality Is Free,'' has sold 2 million copies.

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The Juran Institute, established also in 1979 to serve as a base for the seminars, consulting, conferences, and videotapes associated with Dr. J.M. Juran, a pioneer in modern quality management, expended its senior staff by 60 percent this year. The time devoted to courses on quality is up 500 percent in the last couple of years.

Similarly, an association of professionals, the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), has doubled its membership from 33,000 in 1979 to 68,000 this year. The society's National Quality Forum, a video conference held in October, was transmitted to 47 sites in the US and Canada in 1987; 520 sites in these two countries and Puerto Rico this year. An annual Quality Congress attracted 1,800 people in 1979, this year 3,500, to hear various panel discussions speeches, courses, and engage in job searches and networking.

Forty colleges and universities now offer degrees in quality technology, up from nine in 1986. At Harvard Business School, 400 students out of some 700 enrolled take an optional course with an emphasis on quality management.

An ODI survey found that 87 percent of the largest US industrial corporations have expanded their quality-enhancement programs during the past two years.

Corporate executives have learned that there are no quick fixes for quality, that a quality program can take years to implement and have a major impact. Dr. Juran holds that American industrialists became more aware of the importance of quality in the late 1970s and early 1980s after the invasion of Japanese electronic consumer goods and automobiles had left considerable devastation among American competitors. The US companies ``went off in a number of different directions that weren't too useful,'' he says. ``Now we know more about what doesn't work.'' He believes many companies are on the right track again.

A survey by the Gallup Organization for the ASQC, released in October, would indicate this to be the case. It showed that the Japanese ``threat'' is diminishing. Seventy-two percent of senior executives polled at 601 companies said their greatest competitive quality challenge now comes from other American companies, compared with 54 percent in a similar survey in 1987. Only 9 percent said this year that Japanese companies offered their biggest challenge, down from 22 percent two years ago (see graph).

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