is better, and (c) larger is better. Design engineers and managers responsible for
initiating and driving continuous improvement should study Genichi Taguchi’s
loss function.
‘PDCA’ CYCLE
The PDCA cycle is a now universally acknowledged process that helps business
decision-making, deployment of management strategies, and keeps alive the con-
tinuous improvement effort at all business stages or processes. It is a closed loop
cycle that allows planned deployment of organizational vision, goals and strategies
to meet the ever-changing needs of the customer. The flexibility of the cycle allows
its use in any planning or implementation task. The PDCA cycle, in simple terms,
channelizes the planning, implementing, monitoring, and improvement efforts in
an organized, structured and coordinated way and also keeps the momentum of
improvement going.
Shewhart’s concept was a radical departure from the old way of industrial
management that practiced product-out policy, took the customer for granted, and
gave a clear message to customers that they could take it or leave it. In the tradi-
tional system, the customer’s preference or voice was totally ignored. Shewhart
foresaw that the power of statistical techniques could be leveraged economically
to find out customers new requirements or preferences, and link feedback to the
process, piercing through all the structural barriers in between. Shewhart conceived
that there ought to be institutionalised continuous improvement to meet the ever-
changing needs of the customer. This is the genesis of the PDCA cycle. The cycle
containing the four steps should continue to rotate to ensure never-ending improve-
ment in quality at lower cost. The first step of this new system considers various
facets of the customer’s preferences or options like colour, shape, size, hardness,
strength, finish and uniformity of materials. Since all the steps of the cycle can
record the customer’s voice and take appropriate action, the continuous loop is
designed to meet changing customer needs competitively. This concept of Shewhart’s
is synonymous with Deming’s concept of the helix of continual improvement
leading to the satisfaction of the consumer.
The continuous cycle has several steps that incorporate the customer’s (both
internal and external) requirements, plans and implements deployment strategy,
studies the results of action, notes the lessons learned, applies course correction,
and can predict the future state. The four-step cycle as conceived by Dr. Shewhart
is a helpful procedure to follow for improvement of any stage. It also helps to find
special causes of variation detected by statistical signals. The concept is based on
scientific and statistical approaches that make it economically possible to collate
reliable data. Edwards Deming during his first visit to Japan in the 1950s presented
the relevance and utility of this four-step cycle in the seminar organized by JUSE
(Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers), and it is here that he formally
named the cycle the Shewhart Cycle. Deming stressed the imperatives of regular
KEY FOUNDATIONAL CONCEPTS 83

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