Genichi Taguchi contributed several important concepts to the field of quality including the Taguchi Loss Function and Taguchi Robust design.
- Taguchi Loss Function
- Quality is related to the financial loss to society caused by a product during its life cycle.
- Taguchi Robust Design
- Developed a product quality system that started by introducing quality in the conceptual phase, brought it through the design phase, and eventually into manufacturing operations.
Imagine if you came up with a way of innovation that became so widespread in it’s use and that showed such favorable results that this pathway of innovation ended up bearing your name. People the world over would know your methods had been applied simply because your name has been invoked. Imagine the pride and power associated with such an honor. It happened to Mr. Genichi Taguchi. He came up with a much heralded system that improved quality while reducing costs. What business hasn’t dreamed of obtaining such a way of pleasing it’s consumer base?
Born in 1924, Taguchi was born a resident of the city of Takamachi, Japan. The city is known for its textile industry. This very likely had a large influence on Taguchi getting his start in the city’s budding textile industry. His family ran a kimono business and he was expected to take the reins when it was passed down to him. Before he was able to do so, however, he received a draft notice in the mail. He had been called in to serve his country’s armed forces. It was during his time in the armed forces that he garnered an interest in statistics. Whenever there was down time, Taguchi read every book on statistics that he had access to. When the war ended, Taguchi’s love for statistics did not diminish. He met up with a well-known statistician and expanded his knowledge of applied statistics.
Quality is Key
A core part of Taguchi’s implementations deals with making the quality of a business’s product as great as possible. A quality product should be efficient by way of cost and should serve its full purpose for the consumer. A hair dryer should dry a consumer’s hair in a respectable amount of time. Quality results from dry hair and it also results from the hair becoming dry within a time-frame that does not cause an inconvenience to the consumer. Specification quality is a focus during the production process. This means that it will be compared to other similar products in regards to its performance in the marketplace. Another focus is conformance quality, which deals with how well the production process went in regards to specifications and guidelines set before the production process began. You’ve probably seen QC Passed on the bottom of various products. Quality Control has confirmed that the product in question has met or exceeded specifications that were set before the product went into full time production.
Taguchi’s Quality Loss Function
Taguchi felt that from the consumer’s point of view, the quality of a product does not diminish quickly. Specifications going in different directions are when a consumer feels the sting of quality decline. I give the following as an example. Let’s go back to the hair dryer. A company looks over the current top temperature the heating element and finds that it goes to 130 degrees. Adjustments are made so that the product will only go to 120 degrees instead. This is in response to an unresolved issue which led to a small amount of house fires. Quality Control ran a series of experiments and came to the conclusion that letting the hair dryer drawer less power at the maximum power setting would solve the issue. And they were right. But the consumer will not notice a 10 degree loss. However, a meeting was had by Quality Control and they decide that an entirely different heating element can be used. It is a smaller heating element that puts out the exact same amount of heat at the highest setting. It is viewed as win in the situation. However, less heat is put out at the lower settings when compared to the performance of the previous heating element that was in use. In this scenario, Taguchi is proven correct because minor changes were initially made that kept the performance to near the same level of quality. In the end, specifications led to an entirely different heating element being implemented which gave the consumer the same heat at the highest level but at lower settings a difference is felt. The issue of the house fires is resolved but the overall quality of the product has suffered.
Taguchi in America
Starting in the 1980s Taguchi’s way of thinking made its way into the American mainstream. This was due to his methods being introduced to the Ford Motor Co. By 1982 he was providing seminars to Ford executives and his methods were becoming a household name among business executives. This led to his employment with Ford starting in 1983. His methods have made his name synonymous with wise business decisions. He has written books related to his business philosophy and in 1986, he was honored by his home country for his many business and economic contributions. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you have the mentality and push necessary to change the thinking of many.