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Bob Agan's found: TQM - a path to the future.

As an editor attending industry meetings, I occasionally hear a speaker with a message worth repeating. One of those was Bob Agan, CEO of Hardinge, the Elmira, NY, turning machine producer. As chairman of the Association of Manufacturing Technology, he was addressing his group's Spring meeting in Washington recently. What follows are his words, only edited for length. He spoke with conviction. As a CEO, he's done what many only talk about.

"Doug Bierwieler works at Hardinge. He's a maintenance man with the natural intelligence to fix just about anything. A grinder in our shop seemed to have a built-in problem holding its concentricity tolerances. About every six months we had to pull it off the line and call the manufacturer. One day Doug came to me and said, 'We've called that guy for the last time. I'm gonna rebuild it.' Doug tore the machine down, recentered the planetary bearing, reground the rails, installed new bearings, and it's run fine ever since.

"Six years ago, I could not have told that story because it could not have happened. But in 1987, Hardinge became a Total Quality Management (TQM) company. Because employee education lies close to the heart of TQM, one of the things Doug learned was that quality is not only a matter of continuous improvement; it's a matter of everyone taking responsibility for all the work.

"I believe TQM is the most significant thing to happen to American business life since the invention of the assembly line. There are still people who believe that TQM is just another exotic 'management flavor of the month.' But TQM is here to stay because, by every yardstick, whether it's profits, productivity, market share, or customer satisfaction, TQM companies are more successful.

"TQM works because it is not something you do. It's something you are. TQM is not an event; it is a process that drives every activity in a company. We had to turn the culture of our company in a new direction. It meant reforming work groups; finding ways to create stakeholders instead of just employees; learning how to create a process of shared decision making; and re-educating everybody about how to earn a living in our place of business. TQM is not an overlay; it's a foundation.

"Our experience with TQM at Hardinge has convinced me that manufacturing technology--as an industry--has to become a TQM industry. We are now engaged in the fight of our lives. Since 1989, we have seen a shift in the world order unequaled since the revolutions of the 18th century. We are looking at markets in countries where, not too long ago, Americans were forbidden to even travel, let alone do business in.

"In that kind of unpredictable environment, only the prepared will survive; only the flexible will prosper. Making our manufacturing technology industry a TQM industry provides us with that kind of flexibility. Even though we can take pride in the past, we can't live there anymore.

* In the past, we could say, 'I'm finished with school.' Today, it's 'I'm a lifetime learner.'

* In the past, we expected employees to do what they were told. Today, we need them to be creative and to take initiative.

* In the past, our focus was inward. Today we have to direct our gaze to the whole globe.

* Yesterday, it was the rugged individual; from now on, it's the team.

* Once, 'close enough' was 'good enough.' No more!

"At Hardinge, with TQM, we are recapturing parts of the past we can build on and letting the rest go. And, all the while, we are finding a way to a new future. And that feels good."

More companies should be following that path to the future.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:total quality management
Author:Modic, Stanley J.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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