Quality and Continuous Improvement


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Introduction
Quality and continuous improvement are an integral part of the electronics industry. Poor quality is costly. Remediation costs of poor quality can cost a company 25% of its annual sales. Poor quality and the need for high reliability are the catalysts driving continuous improvement today. An in-depth review of quality and continuous improvement is presented.

The History of Quality
The concern for quality control and reduced product variation can be traced back centuries. Archaic quality control methods were used by the Xia Dynasty in 2100 BC in ancient China. During the late 1290s in medieval Europe, guilds—the pre-cursor to unions—were responsible for product and service quality. From 1700 to 1900, product quality was determined by the individual craftsman’s efforts. At the close of the 19th century, Eli Whitney introduced standardized, interchangeable parts to simplify assembly. In 1875, Frederick W. Taylor introduced the scientific management principles, which divided work into smaller, more easily accomplished tasks. Taylor believed the key to productivity and improved quality was knowledge, organization, and leadership. In 1903, Karol Adamiecki developed the harmonograph, a chart depicting workers’ movements and actions indicating the causes of low productivity and potential quality issues. Quality principles were accelerating at the beginning of the 20th century as manufacturers began to shift from purely focusing on their production economy to balancing the number of products produced while meeting increased consumer demands for quality.

In 1901, the Engineering Standards Committee was formed in Great Britain to establish imperial standards in all fields. In 1906, the International Electro-Technical Committee was created to prepare and publish international standards for all electrical, electronic, and related technologies. By 1930, most industrialized countries had established national standards organizations. Most of these national standards organizations were linked to the International Federation of the National Standardizing Association, formed between 1926 and 1928. Global standard settings were stifled during the Great Depression of the 1930s and were furthered hampered in 1939 with the beginning of World War II.

In 1941, the United States entered World War II. The U.S. government enacted legislation to switch the civilian economy to military production. During this time, military contracts were typically awarded to the lowest bidding manufacturer. Product quality was determined by inspection after delivery. This quality inspection method consumed copious amounts of human resources and led to recruiting and retaining problems. With the help of Bell Labs and Dr. Walter Shewhart, the military adopted sampling inspection techniques to save time and resources.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the February 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.

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