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Masters of Manufacturing: Joseph M. Juran

By Jim Destefani Senior Editor, SME Media

This is the fourth of our annual articles honoring a distinguished figure in manufacturing technology. By doing so, we hope to remind readers that a career of great achievement in manufacturing is still possible.

Considered by many to be the “Father of Quality Management,” Dr. Joseph M. Juran is recognized as the man who added a human dimension to quality, expanding it from its statistical origins to a broader management science.

Born in Romania in 1904, Juran and his family emigrated to the United States in 1912, settling in Minneapolis. He worked his way through college, graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in electrical engineering in 1924.

Joseph M. Juran

Juran launched his career in the Inspection Branch at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works in Cicero, IL. He worked at Hawthorne through the remainder of the 1920s and most of the ’30s–a time of tremendous growth and upheaval in manufacturing and quality practices at the facility.

The 5-million ft2 (465,000 m2) Hawthorne Works was the first facility to use widespread visual inspection and testing to detect manufacturing problems. The Works’ Inspection Branch alone employed more than 5000 people. The facility at this time was also the site of a series of landmark human behavior studies that examined how fatigue, monotony, and supervision affected assembly productivity.

After a series of promotions at Hawthorne, Juran moved in 1937 to corporate headquarters in New York. He found this move less than satisfying professionally, and jumped at the chance to work for the US government’s Lend-Lease program in 1941. What was supposed to be a six-week assignment lasted the duration of World War II.

After the war, Juran had no desire to return to Western Electric. Instead, he launched a career as a freelance consultant that–over the next 40 years–saw him working with companies around the world to improve their quality systems and management practices.

In addition to his consulting practice, Juran has written, co-authored, or edited more than 30 books. These include the Quality Control Handbook, first published in 1951 and now in its fifth edition as Juran’s Quality Handbook. Another Juran classic is Managerial Breakthrough. Published in 1964, the book presented a more general theory of quality management, and described a step-by-step sequence for breakthrough quality improvement. It laid the foundation for Six Sigma and other quality initiatives still in use worldwide. Published in 2004, his latest book is an autobiography entitled Architect of Quality.

In 1979, he founded the Juran Institute (Southbury, CT). The Institute is aimed at helping organizations from any industry learn quality management tools and techniques.

The recipient of several honorary degrees and numerous international awards of recognition, Juran is now 100 years old. He lives with Sadie, his wife of 79 years, in Rye, NY. In an exclusive interview with Manufacturing Engineering, he recently reflected on his life and the impact of his work on quality management in manufacturing and other fields.

ME: According to your autobiography, I believe it was in high school that you discovered the concept of “universals”–rules or laws that can be applied to solve many problems. Later on, you applied universals when you developed your guidelines and rules for quality management in your book. What are some of the universals that apply to managing quality?


Juran: There are two that I think have been accepted most enthusiastically by the folks out there. One is the Pareto Principle. I had noticed when I started looking around that a few parts or machines caused most quality problems. I realized that the concept of “the vital few and the trivial many” had wide application, but I wasn’t going to call it the Juran Principle; I just wasn’t structured that way. Then, on a visit to General Motors, I ran across the name of Pareto. What Pareto had done was study the distribution of wealth among families in Florence, Italy, and found that a very few people had most of the money, and the rest didn’t have much. [Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian engineer and economist. A GM researcher subsequently built on Pareto’s work in studying the company’s salary structure.]

So Pareto’s work was a narrowly focused study of wealth distribution, and there have been a number of other people who have observed a similar phenomenon in their local field of activity. As far as realizing that “the vital few and the trivial many” is a universal principle, to my knowledge I was the first one to grasp that. The Pareto Principle is also commonly known as the 80/20 rule.

Another universal that is very widely used is the concept of process capability. That I can date: it took place in 1926, when we were investigating ways to reduce defects in production of heat coils, a tiny circuit breaker used in Western products. Whether someone else came up with it before then, I don’t know. I read pretty widely, and I’ve not come across anybody who had previously quantified process capability. That is a very widely used concept.

ME: OK, so those are two. But really, your book on managing quality just elaborated on these and other universal principles.

Juran: Yes, there was one other big one. It was in the book Managerial Breakthrough, where I set out for the first time a series of steps needed to make an improvement on chronic waste. I spelled that out. It has been widely referenced, and very widely used.

ME: You were also maybe the first person to recognize that 100% inspection is not 100% reliable.

Juran: Yes, as part of my early training at Hawthorne I was assigned to inspect some sandblasted parts. A young woman inspecting the same parts found some defects that I had missed. I was embarrassed; I thought I had done a superior job.

I had to defend myself, at least to my own satisfaction, so I did a sneaky thing. I moved the pan of parts that she had inspected to the area with parts that had not yet been inspected. She inspected them a second time without knowing it, and found some defects she had missed previously. Now I felt better.

ME: When you joined Hawthorne, you were assigned to the Inspection Branch by higher-ups. Do you look back at that as a sort of serendipitous or momentous event in your life? Would things have been different if you had been assigned to a production branch?

Juran: You know, I had a pretty inquisitive mind. Some of these incidents just came up, like the fact that I missed some of those defects. That led to the conviction that it certainly was not possible for human beings to maintain attention 100% of the time. I think findings like that would have followed me around no matter what job I would have had.

ME: Do you have a person or persons that you consider to be mentors, whether at Western Electric or other times?

Juran: There are certainly several bosses that I found were open minded, they were fair. They had a wonderful rapport with workers. There was a fellow by the name of Melsheimer. [Charles A. Melsheimer, chief of Hawthorne’s Inspection Results Division.] We worked together and came up with a new way to measure the work of inspectors. The production departments worked on piece rates–the more parts an operator produced, the more money he or she made. But for inspectors, performance on quality was as important as the rate of inspection.

We developed a rating of percent of defects correctly identified that was plugged into the pay formula for inspectors. Managers wanted more inspection productivity, but not at the expense of quality. So Melsheimer and I came up with those two factors–throughput and ability to find the defects that were there–to measure inspection productivity.

We also had the backing of a sympathetic superintendent, G.A. Pennock, who was the guy who brought in the Harvard people for the so-called Hawthorne Experiments. He was a brilliant guy, a brilliant boss. We had a very good rapport. We never talked in full sentences. We could each anticipate the rest of the other’s sentence.

ME: My next question was going to be about the Hawthorne Experiments. Did you participate in any of them?

Juran: Not really. I knew all about them because Pennock was my boss, but as far as being involved in them I was more of a bystander than a participant.

ME: But you were aware of the results?

Juran: Absolutely, but it’s a curious thing. My mind wasn’t even completely open to those findings. Upper management at Hawthorne became convinced that the findings they got by interviewing employees were very important. In fact, they developed a course to train every single supervisor at Hawthorne in the findings, and how those findings should be used in improving the relationship between management and the men and women in the workforce.

So I was a participant in the training, but my mind wasn’t fully prepared to accept all the implications. The culture had its own set of beliefs, and that training course–I had quite a time penetrating that culture. And, people believe what they want to believe.

ME: Over your career you’ve made many contributions to quality management and engineering. Is there one thing in particular that in your mind is your greatest contribution?

Juran: I find it hard to answer that question. One possible answer would be the emergence of a new science of managing for quality. To the extent that we’ve reached the point where there has emerged out of the mist, so to speak, a science of managing for quality, I think I contributed pretty heavily to that.

That came about really because of the consulting activities I engaged in. At the end of World War II I did not go back to Western Electric. I felt I was a misfit in this big bureaucracy, and I hit on the idea of going into freelance consulting. That was a wonderful decision. In doing that, I found myself dealing with the realities of many companies out there. I was brought in because they had problems, and I was gifted as far as solving those problems was concerned. For a long time I was very successful. I had also done a lot of writing, so I recorded some of the improvement projects I got into. I got the benefit of the exchange of views with managers who faced the realities.

ME: The next question sort of dovetails with the last one. Is there one of your books or other writings that you feel has been the most influential?

Juran: The most important in terms of the number of people that it influenced has to be the Handbook. That has sold a tremendous number of copies [approximately one million, including translations]. It’s in its fifth edition now, and the wheels are starting to turn to create the sixth edition.

Another thing that influenced a lot of people was the 16 video cassettes that constituted How to Improve Quality. There must have been over a million people that were trained with those cassettes.


Those are two things that impacted a lot of people. They were both translated into many other languages.

ME: Dr. W. Edwards Deming also worked at Hawthorne in the 1920s even though you two did not know each other until later. Deming’s focus was really on statistical process control (SPC), and your contention was that SPC was fine, but it’s really only a piece of the broader quality management pie.

Juran: Exactly.

ME: My question is, do you feel that your concept of a broader, more holistic view of quality management is vindicated by things such as ISO 9000, which is a very broad measure of a company’s quality systems?

Juran: No, I don’t think so. There was a more specific reason for the emergence of those standards. As economies grew after World War II, and the concept of buying from suppliers grew, manufacturing got to be international in scope. You had a situation where it was no good to give a supplier an order, wait awhile, and back comes a shipment of stuff and you have no idea what is in there. So you inspect it, and you discover that it isn’t going to help you at all. The supplier’s idea of quality and your idea of quality didn’t match.

Many companies said, we’re not going to wait until the shipment comes in, we’re going to find out about the supplier beforehand to try to make sure he has the capability we need. That led to a huge amount of assessment of suppliers by a huge number of buyers, and that in turn led to basically chaos.


The idea came along, why should we have all these assessments being made? Why not do like the accounting people, and have one system that applies to all situations? In accounting, companies report their financial results, and that statement is audited. The audit is intended to give investors assurance that there is a proper accounting system in place, and that the system is being followed.

So that concept has emerged in the quality field. You have in effect one audit of a supplier’s capability, and the results of that audit are then made available and accepted by everyone.

Now, there’s a defect in the whole ISO system: the criteria are very loose, and not very demanding. Even if a company met the criteria, all you had was conformance at a mediocre level, not at an excellence or leadership level. The implication was, if you meet these criteria, your quality troubles are over. But the reality was not that way at all.

It took quite a few years before this was recognized. Now, the standards people have upgraded their criteria to include things that they didn’t before, such as leadership by senior people, training for all workers, and annual quality improvement at a very strong pace. The rate of quality improvement is decisive as to who is going to end up as the quality leader.

Managers in Japan found a way of making use of the workforce to drive quality improvement. Workers at Toyota, for example, come up with over a million quality improvements every year. Most of those improvements are made by the workforce; a vital few are made by managers. But the useful many are contributed by employees, and that system also improves the employees’ sense of participation and morale.

One of the big things the Japanese latched onto during my many visits there was the concept of annual quality improvement at a revolutionary rate. As a result, their rate of improvement had a very steep slope, whereas the West had a shallow slope. By adopting a philosophy of annual quality improvement at a revolutionary rate, the Japanese over a period of decades ended up as the world leaders in quality.

And they still are. Right now I don’t see where that is going to change, because US companies as a whole haven’t. Mostly they are competitive, nothing outstanding. There are a few companies doing very well who are leaders in their industry. That’s not good enough to stand up against the global competition out there.

ME: One thing I was interested to read about in your book was the creation of “product shops” at Hawthorne–to me, sort of analogous to today’s cellular manufacturing. Is that a valid comparison?

Juran: The big difference is in scale. At Hawthorne, you had this huge factory employing 50,000 people or more. If you took a walk around that factory in those days, you would just be astounded by the crowding and the huge amount of inventory just sitting around.

The time required to produce, for example, a telephone handset, was months. In those days, the magnesium base was cast in a foundry. Then it would go to the machine shop and they’d machine locating surfaces, drill and tap the holes, and so on. Then it would go to the assembly department.

Every part went on a similar journey, most of which was spent waiting its turn at the next shop. During that entire time, maybe three hours of actual work would be done on it. The rest was waiting time, transport time, and so on.

The idea then came: why don’t we create special shops to produce a part, and move all the equipment needed to produce it into one shop? The shops were big. They weren’t a little team of people. So there’s a big difference in scale, but the basic concept is the same.

ME: And were the results similar as well, in terms of greater throughput and improved quality?

Juran: Yes, certainly in terms of quality. The successive operations were right next to each other, they weren’t in different buildings. So communication was much easier.

The reductions in inventories, transport time, and overall cycle time were unbelievable, because now you’ve got machines right next to each other. It used to be that the time from casting a handset base to shipping the product to the telephone company was several months. Under the product shop concept, the time from casting to shipping was more like 36 hr.

ME: What was your involvement with that initiative, or were you involved with it?

Juran: In an auxiliary way. When they started to reorganize into shops, they broke up the inspection department. That disappeared. But there was a residue of inspection-oriented activities–maintenance of measuring instruments, for example. Incoming inspection of goods from suppliers remained centralized. Systems of measuring the quality of inspectors and other staff work of that nature had to be maintained.

So there were a number of things there that did not get distributed to the product shops. These were brought together in a new division, and I was promoted to head of that division.

ME: What do you think about the state of manufacturing and quality management in the United States today?

Juran: There was a time when I was in good shape to comment on manufacturing, but now I’m about a decade out of date. I’m not sure my opinion would be worth anything.

ME: I don’t know–you might be surprised.

Juran: Well, during the 20th century the big opportunities were in manufacturing, and we made some wonderful strides there. Right now, quality management is a growth industry. It’s an opportunity. In fact, I tell people in that field to thank their lucky stars they are working in an area where there is a lot of opportunity.

If we think of quality management as a matter of bringing everybody up to their best, there’s plenty of unfinished business to take care of.

This article was first published in the July 2005 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.

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