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How a NYU Prof’s Manufacturing Approach Saved Japan’s Economy & Changed the World

March 30, 2018

At IRD Glass, we achieve unmatched customization by setting up our customers with dedicated employees, dedicated equipment, and dedicated floor space at our facility. Each “cell” is responsible for the entire life cycle a precision ceramic component or precision glass component will experience. By delegating responsibilities to small, experienced teams and equipping them with SPC process control techniques, IRD Glass ensures efficiency and consistency at every stage of manufacturing – from prototypes to high volume production.

What does our story have to do with Japan? For that we have to go back to the summer of 1945. World War Two has just ended with the unconditional surrender of Japan, a country that has been bombed into submission not just by nuclear weapons, but also by conventional air campaigns that eliminated Japan’s ability to make war.

Japan’s large manufacturing sector, the engine of its entire economy, is in shambles. In the early postwar years, the United States is responsible for reviving Japan’s economy, for bringing its manufacturing sector back from the dead.

Douglas A. MacArthur, the U.S. general put in charge of this monumental task, grows increasingly frustrated. Japan’s infrastructure is in such a poor state he can’t even reliably make a phone call, much less get factories churning out goods again. Across the globe, “Made in Japan” is synonymous with “poor quality.”

A Novel Manufacturing Approach and a Miraculous Turnaround

Enter W. Edwards Deming, a professor of statistics from New York University who had developed a process to continually improve manufacturing output called statistical process control (SPC). SPC broke manufacturing processes down into component parts and measured and managed the performance of each constituent part, resulting in:

  • Better design of products
  • Unsurpassed uniformity of product quality
  • Better and more rigorous product testing practices, both in the workplace and in special research centers

The system was taken up with gusto by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), a group that included top Japanese industrialists like Akio Morita, the cofounder of Sony Corp. Deming trained hundreds of engineers, managers, and scholars across Japan in SPC, and the result was the postwar Japanese economic miracle of 1950 to 1960, when Japan rose from one of the poorest and most dysfunctional economies into the world’s second largest. In short order, the term “Made in Japan” was a point of pride, a signifier of the utmost precision and quality.

The SPC system was quickly adopted by manufacturers across the globe. To this day, JUSE awards an annual Deming Prize, one of the highest awards for Total Quality Management (TQM) in the world.

The IRD Glass Manufacturing Approach

For over 33 years, IRD Glass has done things that virtually no one else has with glass and ceramics, and that’s largely because we incorporate lean principles into the R&D process and use a unique cell-based manufacturing approach with small, dedicated teams work on individual client projects.

With this manufacturing approach, IRD Glass has become a sole-source provider to both large and small corporations across the planet. We were also recently awarded a Certificate for Exceptional Quality Performance by Honeywell after we achieved zero parts-per-million defects in the last 12 months.

To learn more about our many precision glass, ceramic and optical components, please visit our homepage today!