It's always tempting to make predictions as a new decade approaches. New centuries increase that temptation, so a
new millennium makes the temptation impossible to resist.
Joseph M. Juran has a wonderful history of accurate predictions. At the 1966 European Organization for Quality meeting
in Stockholm, Sweden, he produced a simple chart with two crossing lines. He showed clearly that the Japanese were improving quality far faster than the West and predicted that they would pass
the West in product quality by the end of the 1970s.
In the early 1980s, when the U.S. business press was full of doom and gloom about American noncompetitiveness, Juran
predicted that by the end of the century "Made in America" would again be the mark of world-class quality. During the past 10 years, he has made further predictions to which I have
An awareness of the new importance of quality will spread to national
policy makers: investors, legislators, administrators and economists. Gains in manufacturing productivity will create widespread overcapacities such as we
now have in agriculture. As supplies outstrip demands, quality will become the dominant issue in competitiveness.
Mathematical relationships will be established between quality performance
and financial results. Standardized reports, similar to the financial reports used to summarize financial results, will evolve to provide a summary of the quality
achievement record of companies as well as their current status.
Financial analysts will use achievements in quality as inputs for rating creditworthiness and for judging the financial potential of companies. Quality
performance will be a major factor in selecting strategic business partners, mergers and acquisitions.
National, industry and other quality indexes will be developed, paralleling
those already available for productivity, prices and other statistical indexes.
Degree-granting colleges oriented to quality will proliferate among universities, business schools and engineering schools. Quality subjects will be
integrated into business, engineering and science curricula, and many colleges and universities will offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in quality-related areas.
Elementary and secondary schools will develop courses in quality.
Problem-solving activities are already in place at the primary grade levels. New emphasis will be placed on teamwork, presentation skills and basic statistical methods used by quality teams.
With the emergence of university faculties oriented to quality, research will intensify. Companies will intensify their own quality research activities in
special areas to create new competitive advantages. These activities will produce new ideas, methods and tools. We will also see a movement toward
more standardized terminology, a consensus on concepts and topics, and new software providing easy use of complex tools.
Professionalism leading to certification among quality specialists will grow.
This is already happening at the technical level (quality engineers, quality assurance, quality management and reliability engineers) but not at the business
level. There will be a national examination and a resulting broad professional title, which has yet to be invented but will be similar to CFA (chartered
financial analyst), PE (professional engineer), CPA (certified public accountant) or FACHE (fellow of the American College of Healthcare
Executives). The advanced methods used in training black belts will form the statistical foundation for this examination.
Laws will extend the use of licensing in the quality field, on the grounds of
protecting the public interest. Licensing is already widely required for technical jobs that involve risks to human safety and financial security, as with
physicians, laboratory technicians, stock brokers or welders in the nuclear and aircraft industries. Periodic professional quality audits will be common requirements in many areas.
Electronic commerce will create many new problems and opportunities for
quality professionals. Measuring quality during e-commerce transactions will require new tools and methods, and the need for sophisticated methods for
assessing and ensuring information quality will become paramount.
Measurement techniques and tools will become increasingly sophisticated as the need for near-perfect parts, products, services and processes outstrips
current methods. Dramatically reduced cycle-times and global markets will make these new tools essential. We will discover new methods for conducting
life tests, accelerated life tests and highly accelerated life tests on products; tracking performance through design, production, sales and use; and
automated testing. We will make breakthroughs in understanding, measuring and predicting the emotional responses to beauty, style and touch.
Virtual companies will become commonplace and intelligent management
of all supply-chain relationships will be crucial. Measurements and business score cards will encompass the entire design, production, distribution and use
process regardless of business ownership or responsibility.
The 21st century will truly be the century of quality.
About the author
A. Blanton Godfrey is chairman and CEO of Juran Institute Inc. in
Wilton, Connecticut. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .