Manufacturing Management: Effects on Productivity and Quality

  • J. A. Alic
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 14)


To say that the quality of manufactured goods like integrated circuits or automobiles depends on top management, its commitment to quality as a goal, is a truism that hides more than it reveals. Management control can be credited or blamed, within bounds, for virtually any measure of corporate performance -- from return on investment, to labor productivity, to the mean time between failures for a microprocessor chip. The specific techniques that managers use in pursuit of these ends, their priorities among goals that may conflict, the ways in which they help to motivate the firm’s employees, are more telling. This paper examines several of these, concentrating on the management of manufacturing operations broadly construed to include such matters as the interfaces between product engineering and production engineering.


Japanese Firm Employee Participation Statistical Quality Control American Firm Industrial Competitiveness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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References and Notes

  1. 1.
    U.S. Industrial Competitiveness: A Comparison of Steel, Electronics, and Automobiles (Washington, DC: Office of Technology Assessment, July 1981), pp. 97-99. The next few paragraphs are drawn largely from this report.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The most widely publicized estimate was that of the U.S. Department of Transportation — The U.S. Automobile Industry 1980: Report to the President From the Secretary of Transportation, DOT-0-10-81-2, pp. 40-44 — which placed the figure at $1500-$2000.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See, in particular, “The Competitive Status of the U.S. Auto Industry: A Study of the Influences of Technology in Determining International Industrial Competitive Advantage,” Automobile Panel, Committee on Technology and International Economic and Trade Issues, National Academy of Engineering (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, July 1982).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    H. Shimada, The Japanese Employment System (Tokyo: The Japan Institute of Labor, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. R.E. Cole, Work, Mobility, and Participation: A Comparative Study of American and Japanese Industry (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    S.B. Levine and H. Kawada, Human Resources in Japanese Industrial Development (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    J.A. Alic, M. Caldwell, and R.R. Miller, “The Role of Engineering Education in Industrial Competitiveness,” Engineering Education, January 1982, p. 269. The deficiencies of university programs stand in marked contrast to the rigors of Japanese secondary education.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    See, for example, R.E. Cole, “Will QC Circles Work in the U.S.?” Quality Progress, July 1980, p. 30.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    A.H. Maslow, Eupsychian Management (Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1965).Google Scholar
  10. Maslow apparently coined the term “Theory Z,” as pointed out by Y. Tsurumi. See A.H. Maslow, “Theory Z,” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1969, p. 31.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    See, in particular, J.M. Juran, F.M. Gryna, Jr., and R.S. Bingham, Jr., eds., Quality Control Handbook, 3rd edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974), Sec. 48 on “Quality Control and the National Culture,” which points out that the sharp divisions of responsibility typical of larger organizations in the United States — e.g., separate departments for quality control or inspection — create reservoirs of specialized expertise, but at the same time may hinder the widespread application of this expertise.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    A.D. Chandler, Jr. and H. Daems, Managerial Hierarchies: Comparative Perspectives on the Rise of the Modern Industrial Enterprise (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    For typical examples of this criticism, see the following pair of articles in the July–August 1981 issue of the Harvard Business Review: R.H. Hayes, “Why Japanese Factories Work,” p. 56; and S.C. Wheelwright, “Japan — Where Operations Really are Strategic,” p. 67.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    A host of practical examples taken from fabricated metal products can be found in volumes such as Failure Analysis and Prevention, Metals Handbook, Vol. 10, Eighth Edition (Metals Park, Ohio: American Society for Metals, 1975).Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    See, for example, the comments on production engineering in West Germany in Engineering Our Future: Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Engineering Profession (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, January 1980), p. 224.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    One commentator claims to know of no case in which the board of directors of an American firm includes the head of quality control, while pointing out that this is not uncommon in Japan. See “Statement of Dr. Thomas Drees, President and Vice President (sic), Alpha Therapeutics Corp., and Member, Board of Directors, Green Cross Corp. of Japan,” Quality of Production and Improvement in the Workplace, hearing, Subcommittee on Trade, Committee on Ways and Means, House of Representatives, San Diego, October 4, 1980, p. 58. As a further example, the president of Matsushita, Japan’s largest consumer electronics firm, reportedly began his career as a quality control engineer; in the United States, quality control is basically a dead-end job.Google Scholar
  17. 15.
    J.M. Juran, “Japanese and Western Quality — A Contrast,” Quality Progress, December 1978, p. 10.Google Scholar
  18. 16.
    R.J. Barra, Manager of Corporate Product Integrity for Westinghouse, has said, “I come from a background of being in quality for some 25 years, so I know the relationships I’ve had with engineering managers and purchasing managers and manufacturing managers. I’ve been the bad boy because I’ve been demanding quality and they’ve been telling me I’ve been holding it up because my inspectors and my engineers have not been accepting the product and letting it get shipped on time.” See, “Proceedings of a Roundtable Discussion on Product Quality — Japan vs. the United States, Tuesday, August 19, 1980,” U.S. General Accounting Office, June 22, 1981, p. 33.Google Scholar
  19. 17.
    K. Ito, E. Taira, S. Yagi, K. Iwamoto, and K. Tsukamoto, “The Progress of Automation and the Improvement of Reliability in Production of Color TV Receivers,” IEEE Transactions on Manufacturing Technology, Vol. MFT-3, December 1974, p. 55.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Alic
    • 1
  1. 1.Office of Technology AssessmentUSA

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