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Obituaries / Joseph M. Juran, 1904 - 2008

Management guru coined 80-20 rule

March 04, 2008|Claudia Luther | Special to The Times

Joseph M. Juran, the 20th century management guru who launched the "managing for quality" revolution in manufacturing and whose work in Tokyo helped turn the label "Made in Japan" from a joke into a symbol of quality, has died. He was 103.

Juran died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Rye, N.Y., according to his grandson Peter.

Juran was among a small pantheon of management experts -- including W. Edwards Deming, Philip Crosby and Armand V. Feigenbaum -- who helped make quality one of the most important forces in business.

His influence on business and manufacturing processes is deep and wide. In 1937, he coined the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. As a theory it achieved a sort of universality that could be applied to almost anything, from 20% of customers buying 80% of products, to 80% of production errors being made by 20% of workers, etc.

According to the Juran Institute, "millions of managers continue to rely on [the rule] to help separate the 'vital few' from the 'useful many' in their activities."

His 13 books include "Juran's Quality Control Handbook," the first standard reference work on quality management, which is still in print and moving into its sixth edition. He also wrote hundreds of articles on the topic and is cited as an authority in thousands of other publications. Indefatigable well into his late years, he lectured around the world, including with a hugely popular series called "The Last Word."

"Joe's focus has always been the company and the organization as a whole and not just quality on the manufacturing floor," Peter Drucker, the management scholar who worked with Juran in the 1950s and died in 2005, told The Times some years ago. "As a result, he left behind a very much stronger organization."

Juran's name is often associated with that of Deming, the late statistician who was among the first to take the gospel of quality control to Japan in 1950.

"Deming was a philosopher who desired to provide a new way to view the world," Phil Landesberg wrote for the Journal for Quality and Participation. "Juran was a practitioner who desired to teach people better management practices," including market research, product design, product development, production, inspection and sales.

In 1954, Juran was invited to Japan to expand on these ideas, providing the Japanese with specific and practical ways to ensure quality control.

"The Japanese found they couldn't sell their products because they had a very bad quality reputation," Juran told Industrial Engineer magazine in a 2002 interview. "Of course when you can't sell your product the chief executives are going to move in, and that's what happened. That was really the basis of the Japanese quality revolution. It took several decades to be completed."

Jungi Noguchi, executive director of the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, said Juran's visit "marked a transition in Japan's quality control activities from dealing primarily with technology based in factories to an overall concern for the entire management."

In gratitude for what eventually turned around the reputation of the "Made in Japan" label, Emperor Hirohito in 1981 awarded Juran the highest honor given to non-Japanese, the Second Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasure.

Joseph Moses Juran was born Dec. 24, 1904, in Braila, Romania, the son of a cobbler. When he was 5, his father left for the United States to try to improve the family's financial situation. A few years later, Joseph moved with his family to Minnesota, but their circumstances at first were not much better.

Small, wiry and smart, Joseph went to work when he was barely 8, driving a team of horses, selling shoes and bookkeeping for a local icehouse, among many other jobs.

The first in his family to attend college, Juran earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota and a law degree at Loyola University. In 1924, he went to work for Western Electric's Hawthorne plant in Cicero, Ill.

At that time, quality control translated generally as inspection -- the products were made, inspected and, if they didn't make the grade, rejected. Juran thought this was backward, that quality should be instilled long before the product got made.

In centuries past, "the typical craftsman was his own customer, over and over and over again," Juran told Jane Gaboury in an interview for the Institute of Industrial Engineers.

"That is to say, because the craftsman himself performed every step of the process of, say, barrelmaking, he could see and correct whatever mistakes he made along the way, and avoid them the next time," Juran said.

That ability was lost as manufacturing became compartmentalized.

"The job of the supervisors was to increase productivity," he said, "and that resulted in their taking the position that quality is the job of the inspection department. Quality wasn't everybody's job."

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