The contribution of the Deming Awards and Prizes to Indian industry

  • Articles
  • Nov 11,22
The path to this Prize is filled with difficulty and hard work. In the history of the Deming Prize for organisations, Indian companies have won the maximum of these, outside of Japan, says R Jayaraman.
The contribution of the Deming Awards and Prizes to Indian industry

The Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE, for short), was set up by the Japanese government in 1946 to “revitalise Japan’s economy and (eliminate) waste by improving quality". The organisation can look back with pride and satisfaction on a job well done, so far. Beginning with the Total Quality Movement (TQM), the JUSE supported Japanese organisations to set up the processes and infrastructure needed to practice the tenets of Dr Edwards Deming. Although it was Shewhart who first coined the term PDSA – Plan Do Study Act, which was followed by the now famous PDCA – Plan Do Check Act, attributed to Dr Deming, supplemented by efforts from Dr Juran and Crosby, it was the Japanese companies, specifically Toyota, which followed up on the guidance given by all these ‘Quality Gurus’ to blaze a new trail in quality management. This was a timely effort, coinciding with the advent of competitive markets, just after WWII, in 1952. 

Amongst the many things that were done, and which have been documented well, including a few from the author, the ones that stand out are the activities undertaken under the Deming Prize (for individuals and organisations) and the Grand Deming Prize (also called the Japan Medal earlier). These prizes are highly sought after by companies in Japan, and by others outside. Many distinguished Japanese international quality consultants have been honoured by the Deming Prize, including such luminaries as Noriaki Kano (of the Kano Model fame), Kaoru Ishikawa (of the; Ishikawa Root Cause diagram of the fish bone diagram fame), Hitoshi Kume, Shoji Shiba, all of whom have been quite actively associated with Indian companies, who sought their help in winning the Deming Prize for their organisations. Some of these organisations went on to win the Grand Deming Prize also. 

In the history of the Deming Prize for organisations, Indian companies have won the maximum of these, outside of Japan. So far, some 31 companies have won this prestigious Prize. These include Rane Madras, TVS group companies, Mahindra group companies and Tata Steel (which also won the Grand Deming). Why are these prizes important, and what role have they played in the promotion and adoption of quality practices in industry? While these Prizes have had a global impact, we will only look at how they have driven quality in Indian manufacturing industry. 



The path to this Prize is filled with difficulty and hard work. Only the committed ones are advised to get into the race of ‘challenging’ the Prize. The procedures to be followed, just like in the Malcolm Baldrige Model for Business Excellence, are documented and given by the JUSE. One would be well advised to appoint a Japanese consultant of repute to understand the requirements of competing for the Prize. Three aspects of the procedures are most noteworthy. 

Comprehensive: 
One of the principles of Dr Deming was that TQM is ‘for all, no exceptions, right down from the CEO’. It cannot be delegated. The late Dr Jamshed Irani was a stellar performer of this adage. When he began the journey in Tata Steel, he set up a small group of quality specialists under his direct charge, in his office, reporting to him directly. This same methodology has been adopted in many other companies also, who followed this journey. The Rane Madras group, the TVS group and the Mahindras are also well known for their commitment to fulfil the infra needs of the quality journey which must be fulfilled before the first move is made. The next step is to involve ALL members of the company in the movement. This is done by building a ‘Quality Pyramid’, much like the Management Council system in the ISO 9000. Depending on the company’s size, the Quality Council Structure is shaped to cover the entire company. No half way about this. In one of the later entrants into the quality movement, in VSNL (later renamed as Tata Communications), each of the telecom circles housed a quality council. Not only all locations, but also all functions, all levels of employees have to be in the movement. 

Deep Knowledge Base:
All efforts to challenge the Deming Prize are done using a deep knowledge base. One needs to know the methodologies like Quality Circles, Small Group Activities, Quality Function Deployment, PDCA or Continuous Improvement, Lean Management (which includes the knowledge of Andon, Muda, Mura and Muri, Jidoka, and so on), Total Preventive Maintenance or TPM, 5S, Seven Quality Circles tools and the New Seven Quality Circles tools, etc. Toyota believes in maintaining a documented system of all processes, which are continuously updated based on the improvements done every day. Moreover, the company mandates certain procedures which must be followed to ensure efficient and effective working. For example, Taiichi Ohno is credited with the introduction of the ‘New Products Introduction (NPI)’ process, which, ultimately, cut down the end-to-end cycle time of a new model from 4 years to 2. Every employee is expected to be aware of statistical methods of quality control, and should be able to or even be proficient in using software like Minitab for six sigma. All these activities are knowledge based, continuously changing and improvement oriented. Benchmarking is another important activity, which adds knowledge about competitor activities. 

Continuous Improvement:
If there is one mantra that distinguishes the Deming Prize, it is the practice of PDCA. No doubt, the later movements, like Malcolm Baldrige, are also based on this key principle, but it was the Deming Prize which made PDCA a household word in Japanese, and, global, industry. Without PDCA, the Deming Prize is nothing. Comprehensiveness and deep knowledge have to be deployed to gain benefits and advantages for employees, organisations and all its stakeholders. While American corporations emphasise shareholders interests overmuch, the Deming Prize looks at all stakeholders. It is well known that companies work in a context. This includes customers, bankers, financial institutions, society, environment. More so, now. Thus, it is incumbent upon all organisations to strive for continuous improvement. Under the methodologies in challenging the Prize, every organisation must not only learn about the many practices prevalent in industry (which keep getting updated every once in a while), btu also adopt/ adapt them for their day-to-day practice. This is the critical third piece of the trilogy. Without this, the other two cannot yield the benefits. This is where the Deming Prize scores. 

Over the years, Deming Consultants have advised companies across the globe on how to address the requirements of the Deming Prize. Along the way they have created many great companies of modern times. Just to quote a few, Toyota Motor, Nippon Steel, Komatsu, Tata Steel, Mahindra Tractors, TVS Brakes, Rane Madras, CEAT, Indus Towers, Ashok Leyland. Each of these companies operate in very competitive markets, and have worked in a sustained way over the last many years, and earned the goodwill and support of their stake holders. They have also produced products and services of the highest quality, which others can emulate. The current combined turnover of the Indian Deming Prize winning companies exceeds Rs 250,000 crores. However, this does not include the ‘spin off’ effects, which are those companies who may not have won the Deming Prize, but are in the journey of continuous improvement nevertheless, thus contributing to the overall economy significantly. 



About the author:
R Jayaraman is the Head, Capstone Projects, at Bhavan's S P Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR). He has worked in several capacities, including Tata Steel, for over 30 years. He has authored over 60 papers in academic and techno economic journals in India and abroad. Jayaraman is a qualified and trained Malcolm Baldrige and EFQM Business Model Lead Assessor.

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