Dr V Krishnamurthy and the World Class Quality Movement in Indian industry

  • Articles
  • Jul 04,22
Dr V Krishnamurthy, known as the "Father of Indian PSUs", passed away on 26 June 2022. In this article, R Jayaraman talks about the pioneering work done by Dr Krishnamurth and his influence on the Indian manufacturing sector.
Dr V Krishnamurthy and the World Class Quality Movement in Indian industry

“In his initial remarks, he asked the managers, ‘I went through your appraisal reports. Almost all of you seem to be outstanding performers. Tell me the secret of producing a loss-making company with so many outstanding performers?’ It laid a strong foundation for reviewing and replanning their new PMS in SAIL and also gave birth to Priorities for Action,” recalled TV Rao, Chairman TVRLS, on one of Krishnamurthy’s first meetings after taking over as the Chairman of SAIL.

Dr V Krishnamurthy, that doyen of public sector enterprises, and called the ‘Father of Public Sector Undertakings in India’, passed away recently. He had many achievements to his credit. He provided inspired leadership in making SAIL a modern steel company. I remember Mr Krishnamurthy had sent his Executive Assistant to work in Tata Steel, to witness and learn how a modern integrated iron and steel plant can be run to world class standards. And those were the days when Tata Steel was busy trying to become the lowest cost steel plant in the world, and was declared the ‘Best Steel Plant’ in the world in the year 2000/2001 by World Steel Dynamics. 

Of the many things that the Indian industry will remember Dr Krishnamurthy (he was the Founder Chairman of Maruti, amongst many other things), perhaps the most important would be the leadership he provided to make Indian industry come up to world quality standards. He was the first Indian corporate leader to lead a delegation of Indian CEOs to Japan to witness the practice of Total Quality Management (TQM, for short) in many Japanese companies. In Toyota he saw the implementation of Lean Management through the Toyota Production System (or TPS). Quality Circles, small group activities, hoshin kanri and many more practices, many of which were introduced by Japanese companies between the years 1950 to 1980, based on the teachings of the American quality guru Edwards Deming, were prevalent during this time. 

The TPS was designed on the lines of the 13 principles of quality management propounded by Dr Deming. Dr Krishnamurthy was so impressed by what he saw during the visit, that, upon his return to India, he stimulated the Quality Circles movement, which first began in BHEL, Ramachandrapuram, Hyderabad, under the guidance of Mr SR. Udupa, in 1980. This pioneering movement led to the creation of the all-India organisation Quality Circles Forum of India (QCFI), which, to this day, continues to provide guidance to the movement in India.

What began in BHEL, was followed through by the CII, which got fully committed to the learning and spread of TQM and all its related world class quality practices. In the year 1984, the CII started a separate quality wing, which provided the leadership/ By organising trips to Japan under the aegis of JUSE (Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, the apex body in Japan for all TQM related activities, and, which currently administers the Deming Award, the Deming Prize and the Japan Gold Medal for the systematic practice of quality in industry). Under the leadership of Dr Krishnamurthy, Maruti became a world class car manufacturing company. He also turned around the operations of the Trichy unit of BHEL, which, even today, is one of the most profitable PSU. What was common was that all these companies became committed to world class quality pursuit, using the TQM and related models. For example, BHEL, which was a pioneer, later switched to the EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) model of performance excellence (administered in India by the CII, in giving away the CII-EXIM Bank Business Excellence awards). The Haridwar plant of BHEL won the CII EXIM Bank prize many years back. 

Due to the pioneering work done by Dr Krishnamurthy, many Indian companies, led by such giants as Tata, Aditya Birla, BHEL, Maruti, TVS have been practicing world class quality by using methods such as ISO 9000, ISO 14000, ISO 27000, 5S, TPM, CII-EXIM, and so on. The Tata Group, for example, started adopting the Malcolm Baldrige model for performance excellence in the year 1993, under the Brand name ‘Tata Business Excellence Model’ (TBEM). This is one of the world’s best examples of how to run companies using quality management at the core of their operations and corporate strategies. Using this model, many Tata companies have won the Deming awards, Knowledge Management awards, Golden Peacock awards and so on. 

Modern quality management methods encourage an integrated approach to company management. These methods are really a loose confederation of many individual methods which developed over the fifty-year period, between 1950 and 2000. They still continue to evolve, the latest of which is at the foundation of Industry 4.0, sometimes called as Quality 4.0. The quality methods were developed to create unique competitive strengths in individual companies. For example, the Kirin Mattress company in Japan, by using the Lean Management technique, achieved the following results: 



Thus, the use of some of the quality techniques results in quantum leaps in output quality and quantity, as well as reducing cost, significantly increasing yields and reducing per capita resource requirements. Due to these advantages, companies who use these techniques have doubled or tripled their capacities while resorting to minimal capital cost. 

Indian industry has now reached a high state of maturity, which is one of the reasons why the exports could touch 400 billion dollars last year. Many Indian companies are acquiring companies abroad because of their high-quality working standards. Companies in the IT industry, such as, TCS, conduct operations in all parts of the world by adopting such quality work methods. Such companies are also in the forefront of driving the Indian industry into the Industry 4.0 era. Developments in internet and cloud usage has made the quality of work in Indian industry of the highest order. Companies like Maruti, TVS, L&T and others have adopted the performance excellence models and ramped up their qualities, productivity, resources utilisation and space utilisation. The recently introduced PLI will help the Indian industry to upgrade its shop floor and managerial practices another notch. India is at the cusp of another industrial revolution. 


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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