The Journey Never Ends

by Paulo Cauchick Miguel

After thinking about the “Quality in the First Person” section of Quality Progress for quite a while, I decided to write something—a little bit reluctantly, I must say. But readers might find this snapshot of my not very long professional career to be interesting

After being trained by some automotive suppliers in Brazil before and after obtaining an industrial engineering degree from Methodist University of Piracicaba, Brazil, I started to look more deeply at quality issues. Before that, I used to look away when seeing colleagues from the quality control department approaching my desk.

I was fighting against process variation and a number of defects as the output, especially when testing new manufacturing processes for the development of new components for brake systems at Varga (now a TRW plant) and later for Allied Automotive (now Bosch Brake Systems).

After more than five years of industrial experience, I decided to turn around my career. The old cliché that “the best defense is a good offense” came into play when I decided to re-enter the academic world, perhaps trying to have a better understanding of process variation.

First, I completed a master’s degree in manufacturing process and later a doctorate in manufacturing engineering at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. More specifically, I studied metrology, including performance verification of coordinate measuring machines.

When I came back to Brazil, I switched my field from manufacturing to quality management. The change has been worthwhile. I believe I now can see both sides of the coin: the inherent difficulties of process variation and solutions using a quality management perspective. Learning about quality in different sectors made me more and more in-volved with the quality discipline.

After several years of education and research—directly supervising more than 50 undergraduate, master’s degree and doctoral students, publishing a bunch of articles and a book and conducting some consulting projects—I decided to go on sabbatical. But where to go? There were many options. I did a lot of searching and made many contacts.

However, one of the first contacts was the most meaningful. Working for the Baldrige National Quality Program would be great. Talk about excellence—this would be the right place to be. Guess what? There I was. I owe much to the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Harry Hertz from NIST’s Baldrige program and my sponsor in Brazil, a government agency known as CAPES. Together they made my work at NIST possible.

At Baldrige, I worked as a guest researcher, gathering data from awards programs around the world, responding to a United Nations survey on quality models and awards, and reporting on the Baldrige office’s management practices.

At the end of the day, maybe we cannot achieve excellence, but we can, at least, be closer to it. I echo John Latham and John Vinyard, former Baldrige senior examiners and authors of The Baldrige User’s Guide,1 who say those who have been fortunate enough to work closely with the Baldrige team have benefited every day from that association.

After recounting nearly two decades of personal experience in quality management and related arenas, I must admit the experience has been stimulating and challenging. I repeat what many others have said: Quality is not just a career but also a way of life.


  1. John Latham and John Vinyard, The Baldrige User’s Guide, Wiley, 2004.

PAULO CAUCHICK MIGUEL is an industrial engineer with a doctorate from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. He is a professor of engineering at the Methodist University of Piracicaba and an associate professor of industrial engineering of the Polytechnic School at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Miguel is a Senior Member of ASQ and editor-in-chief of the Brazilian Journal of Operations & Production Management. He recently completed a sabbatical at the Baldrige National Quality Program at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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