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I spoke with Dan Feinberg about his experiences with TQM while serving as president of Dynachem and Morton Electronic Materials in the ‘90s. Dan explains how TQM can sometimes be misidentified as a philosophy instead of a set of tools and processes focused on accomplishing business goals.
Nolan Johnson: The principles of TQM are likely to be timeless—perhaps even more appropriate now—for a number of reasons. You embraced and implemented TQM principles back in the ‘90s at Dynachem. Why?
Dan Feinberg: Dynachem was very successful and grew from a tiny company back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the company continued to grow pretty rapidly. R&D and sales and marketing expenses went up, total production costs did not come down as volumes increased, and the cost of coating of dry film and manufacturing did not decrease proportionately. Customers were getting bigger and, of course, trying to demand lower prices, and the staff continued to expand as the need for high-quality tech service increased. The company started to lose money. It had gone from a very profitable company to one that was barely breaking even, and then we went through some months of being unprofitable.
I had moved to executive VP at the time, and before that, I was VP of marketing and sales. One late afternoon, I received a call from my boss at the time, the president of Morton Electronic Materials. He wanted to come in to see me, so he asked, “Can you stay at the office a little longer? I want to talk to you.” When he got there, he informed me, “I am going back to corporate. I’m not going to be president of electronic materials any longer. I’m going to be taking on something else, and the president of Morton International, Jay Stewart, wants to talk to you on Monday. They’re going to make you an offer to become president.”
When I met with Jay on Monday, he said, “If you’re interested in doing this, there are three goals, and your goal is to achieve one of them. The division is in trouble, so you have to either fix it, sell it, or shut it down. We will consider your job done if you do any of those three.” We talked about it for a while, and I said, “The only way I’m going to take this on is if you accept that there’s only going to be one path, and that is to fix it.”
We had a good team of people that were going to work for me. They found out within a few days that I was going to be their boss instead of their colleague, and we decided on a path forward with part of that path being that we were going to continue with TQM. TQM which had already been started by the previous president.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the June 2020 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.