Innovative Methods and Techniques
The executive director of the American Supplier Institute, Genichi Taguchi is well-known for developing a methodology to improve quality and reduce costs, known in the United States as the "Taguchi Methods." He also developed the quality loss function.
"Taguchi Methods" is the American Supplier Institute’s trademarked term for the quality engineering methodology developed by Taguchi, who was named an Honorary member in 1997. In this engineering approach to quality control, Taguchi calls for off-line quality control, on-line quality control, and a system of experimental design to improve quality and reduce costs.
Kimonos, a War, and Statistics
Taguchi was born in 1924 in Takamachi, Japan, a city famous for the kimono industry, so it was only natural for him to study textile engineering as he was expected to assume responsibility of the family kimono business. But in 1942, Taguchi's draft notice came and with it came an interest in statistics. Under the guidance of Prof. Masuyama, at the time regarded by many as the best statistician, Taguchi's statistics skills were nurtured and honed.
Following the war, Taguchi worked for the Institute of Statistical Mathematics from 1948 to 1950 and gained recognition for his contributions to industrial experiments dealing with the production of penicillin. He was hired by the Electrical Communication Laboratory (ECL) in 1950, even as statistical quality control was gaining popularity in leading Japanese companies.
During this time, both ECL and Bell Laboratories were developing cross bar and telephone switching systems. Working on the project for ECL provided Taguchi with plenty of opportunity for experimentation and data analysis. Six years later, the ECL systems project was completed, around the same time Bell Labs completed its version. Nippon AT&T awarded a contract to ECL, however, for its superior production.
Taguchi as Author
During this period, Taguchi also found time to write Experimental Design and Life Test Analysis and Design of Experiments for Engineers. In 1960, the latter book helped earn him Japan's Deming Prize for his contributions in quality engineering.
Two years later, after he had earned his doctorate in science, Taguchi wrote a second edition of Design of Experiments that introduced industrial research on the signal-to-noise ratio. He left ECL, but maintained his relationship in a consulting capacity.
After joining the associate research staff of the Japanese Standards Association, Taguchi founded the Quality Research Group. Since 1963, the group has met monthly to discuss industry applications.
Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan invited Taguchi to teach in 1965 and he stayed on for 17 years and helped develop the university's engineering department.
By the early 1980s, Taguchi was making a name for himself in the United States. A supplier had introduced Taguchi's methods to Ford Motor Co. and he was invited to provide seminars to Ford executives in 1982. By 1983, he was executive director of the Ford Supplier Institute, Inc., which later changed its name to the American Supplier Institute.
Taguchi received the Indigo Ribbon from the Emperor of Japan in 1986 for his outstanding contributions to Japanese economics and industry. That year he also received the International Technology Institute's Willard F. Rockwell Medal for combining engineering and statistical methods to achieve rapid improvements in cost and quality by optimizing product design and manufacturing processes. In 1995, the Japanese Society of Quality Control made him an honorary member.