Reliability HotWire: eMagazine for the Reliability Professional
Reliability HotWire

Issue 67, September 2006

Reliability Basics

What Would Deming Do?


In this article, we examine principles set forth by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer in using statistical methodologies for reliability and quality improvement. Known for being the father of the Japanese post-war industrial revival and a leading quality guru in the United States, Deming helped Japanese industrial leaders and engineers transform world perception of Japan from a cheap manufacturer to a world class manufacturer producing innovative, high-quality products. In 1960, he was awarded a medal by the Japanese Emperor for his services.


Deming returned to the U.S. and embarked on a mission to teach his philosophy and statistical techniques for quality to American manufacturers. In 1982, Deming published his book "Out of the Crisis," in which he presented his 14 Points. His philosophy is an important framework for implementing reliability, quality and productivity improvements. Even in the new age, there is still a lot to learn from these 14 points. The following is a summary.


1. Constancy of purpose

Create constancy of purpose for continual efforts to improve products and services by investing resources to provide for long-term needs rather than only short-term profitability. Plan to become competitive, to keep your edge, to stay in business and to grow jobs.


2. Adopt a new philosophy

Adopt the philosophy of the new economic age. You must take on the challenge of reducing defective products, poor workmanship, mediocre goals, delays or bad service. When considering the total costs involved (return, scrap, rework, replacement, bad image, etc.), it is more costly to the company to produce defects than to produce quality products. Transformation of management style is necessary to halt the continued decline of a business and reduce the cost of poor quality and reliability, which can drain the financial resources of a company and threaten its existence.


3. Cease dependence on mass inspection

Do not rely on mass inspection as the way to achieve quality. It is a flawed and expensive approach. Although inspections are necessary to avoid shipping defective products to customers and to learn about the efficiency of your process, it is important to remember that inspections and defects cost money and that good quality and reliable products are a result of the prevention of defects through process improvement, built-in reliability and good testing. Also, require statistical evidence of built-in quality and demonstrated reliability in both manufacturing and purchasing functions.


4. End lowest bidder contracts

Do not award business to suppliers solely on the basis of price tag. Instead, require meaningful and demonstrated measures of quality along with the bid. Reduce the number of suppliers for the same item by eliminating those that do not qualify in terms of statistical and other evidence of quality. The aim is to minimize total cost, not merely initial cost, by minimizing variation and choosing the supplier that demonstrates the most reliable products and the most capable and consistent process. This may be achieved by moving toward a single good quality supplier for any one item and fostering a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust and a collaborative business mentality.


Purchasing managers have a new job and must learn it: They should seek suppliers with good products and reasonable prices. Management should also encourage purchasing managers to find quality suppliers and not reward purchasing managers based just on savings on buying cost.


5. Constantly improve every process

Constantly improve every process for planning, production and service. Continually investigate areas of improvements, collect data, institute innovation and discover more problems. Involve the workforce in these activities and empower them and motivate them to produce ideas for improvements. Use statistical methods to unveil areas of improvement and weaknesses. All this will help you improve every activity in the company in order to improve quality and productivity. This will also help you become efficient and able to produce reliable and less expensive products.


6. Institute training on the job

Invest in the human assets of your company. Institute modern methods of training on the job for all, including management, and optimize the contribution of each employee. The ever-changing market and advances in technology require adaptation in skills and knowledge. New quality, reliability and productivity methods are required to keep up with changes. These efforts should not just stop at training; they should extend to motivating application of the new knowledge acquired. Also, the results of training should be verifiable.


7. Institute leadership and modern supervision methods

Adopt and institute leadership that strives to helping employees do the best job they can. Supervision should not focus just on passive surveillance of workers. Workers are only as good as their systems are. Good supervision should adopt a modern leadership strategy that creates supportive and integrated work systems and that fosters creativity, leadership and team-work, with zero-tolerance for inefficiencies and mediocre product. Managers should also help the workers improve their work systems to help them produce reliable, good products.


8. Drive out fear

Many employees are afraid to ask questions, take initiative and report problems that are barriers to quality and productivity. Managers should encourage effective two-way communication and other ways to drive out fear throughout the workplace in order to motivate everyone to work more openly, more effectively and more productively and to work for the organization's best interests.


9. Break down barriers

Break down barriers between functional areas of the organization. Teamwork is essential for creating a rich environment in which quality and productivity can flourish. People in different departments, such as engineering, manufacturing, human resources, marketing, finance and administration, must work in teams to tackle problems encountered with products or service.


10. Eliminate exhortations that do not have plans

Eliminate the use of slogans, posters and exhortations for the workforce when you do not have a plan for achieving the goals. Demanding zero defects and new levels of productivity without providing methods is doomed to failure. Such exhortations are counterproductive and only create adversarial relationships. The bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity can be contributed to problems in the system, and thus lie beyond the power of the workforce.


11. Eliminate arbitrary numerical targets

Eliminate work standards that prescribe quotas and numerical goals for the workforce and management. Oftentimes, standards are set without regard to quality. Setting quotas blindly or using quotas as a way to improve productivity, instead of focusing on improving the work systems that can produce quality products, is a failed strategy. Rely on helpful leadership aimed at achieving continual improvement of quality and productivity. In short, focus on quality over quantity.


12. Encourage workmanship pride

Remove obstacles that stand between employees and their right to workmanship pride. Listen to your employees' suggestions and complaints. The people closest to the job know the most about it and their opinions should be valued. They usually have good ideas on how to make the process more effective.


13. Encourage education

Implement a vigorous program of education and call for self-improvement for everyone. Your business needs not just good people, but people who enhance their skills with education. Education in statistical, quality control and reliability analysis techniques should be part of the education programs of your business. As such techniques become more widespread and widely understood, the employees will become more likely to understand the causes of poor reliability and quality and to identify opportunities for process improvements. Education is a way to make everyone speak the same language of quality, reliability and productivity and to jump-start plans aimed at achieving better products and processes.


14. It is everyone's job

Clearly define a structure in top management that will be committed to continuous improvement in quality and productivity and that will take action to achieve the necessary transformation. Top managers should respect their obligation to implement all of the above 13 principles. They should also comprehend what it is that they are singing for that is, what is expected from them. Put everyone in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. Explain your goals to everyone who is involved in the process or has any influence on the product and make all feel responsible for the quality of the product. The transformation is everyone's job.



Deming's 14 points strongly emphasize change and adaptation as well as the role of management in guiding the necessary change. Deming also emphasizes the importance of using statistical tools and collecting data to quantify quality, reliability and productivity.


  • Montgomery, Douglas C., Introduction to Statistical Process Control, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, pp. 18, 1997
  • The W. Edwards Deming Institute,, accessed on August 28th, 2006


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