Quality increased as the human community developed through time. In primitive communities, food seekers faced the dilemma of whether products were edible or poisonous. First, hunters needed to choose the most quality wood for their bows and arrows. After that, craftsmanship appeared and people started to buy products in village markets. Customers developed their own methods of testing and inspection of product quality, and some of them are still actively used today.
On the other hand, craftsmen tried to produce goods which met the customer’s requirements and with that to build their reputation in the community. A craftsman’s reputation was important warranty on product quality.
In order to expand from a simple village to the city, more powerful transportation vehicles were built which opened many possibilities for international trade. Craftsmen and customers no longer met face to face at the market and products were made in the chain between suppliers, manufacturer and the customer. Traders appeared and manufacturers and customers didn’t need to know each other anymore.
Manufacturer reputation ceased to be a warranty of quality. The need for written warranties appeared. The first written warranty found in the ruins of Nipur in old Babylon, dated from 423 BC and it was written on a clay panel.
In the middle ages, craftsmen joined and formed guilds, which were very active in quality planning and management. Quality assurance was achieved through apprentice learning sills with the requirement of passing the final exam, representing proof he had gained the skills and abilities to perform certain craftworks.
Specifications for the input material, production and final products were introduced along with audit and control. Some products were given stamps as an additional warranty that the product met certain standards. Guilds forbade sales of products of poor quality and issued penalties for noncompliance.
Because of the increasing size of workshops, quality control was conducted by specially trained people known as controllers, and as their number increased, new departments were assembled (the forerunners of today’s quality divisions).
In the middle of the 18th century, radical changes in production in Europe occurred. With mass production and the industrial revolution, reengineering of production processes was necessary. With the growth of productivity, trade increased. This affected the need for specifications and standardization.
The main task of quality controllers was to assure quality with final product control. Managers focused on achieving productivity, which required the development of large industrial organizations that used a large amount of equipment, material and other products. Customers and consumers could define and demand a certain level of quality, which deliverers needed to fulfill.
Audits were introduced and conducted before and during the contract period. Because standards did not exist at the beginning, every consumer defined quality in its own way and suppliers were often faced with contradictory requirements. Quality achieved its full affirmation in the second half of the 20th century, when new concepts and methods for quality control and assurance came into use.
This was related to Japan’s economy in the period after World War II. In most literature, this marks the beginning of the quality revolution which lasted to the end of the 90s in the 20th century. In Japan, an approach to quality was developed which was different from the approach in America. The Japanese accepted a new approach to quality management. In that time, many different experts came from America to help with the development of Japan’s industry. Among them, Deming and Juran represented experts who talked about the need for quality assurance and control. In the '70s Japan became a world leader in quality and a strong economic force. Nowadays, at the beginning of the 21st century, quality represents basic business strategy. It is a central and essential part of market relationships. Today, quality management is a leading factor of competitive business in all areas. As the 20th century continues to be remembered as the century of productivity, the 21st century will perhaps be remembered as the century of quality.
For some excellent information and to help you get started on your studies and give ideas for essays, check out the quality management principles on ISO website.
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