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Dr. Genichi Taguchi
January 1, 1924 – June 2, 2012
Dr. Genichi Taguchi died in Tokyo on June 2, 2012 at the age of 88. He had risen
from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential people in Quality
Engineering. He has made pioneering contributions to Japanese and US
industry. His Quality Engineering methods consist of both off-line and on-line
quality control techniques. In particular, Taguchi’s methods for robust parameter
design have had a profound impact on the way experimental techniques are
used to address the core needs of engineering.
Taguchi has been recognized through numerous awards and honors. He is a
three-time winner of the prestigious and highly coveted Deming Prize in Japan
for contributions to the field of Quality Engineering. He 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. He is an honorary
member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He has authored or co-authored dozens of books
on Design of Experiments, on-line quality control, and Mahalanobis-Taguchi
method, and their applications in diverse industries.
Taguchi began his studies in textile engineering at Kiryu Technical College with
plans to enter his family Kimono business. However, he was drafted in 1942 to
serve the Navigation Institute of the Imperial Japanese Navy. After World War II
ended, he studied Statistics with Matosaburo Masuyama. He visited the Indian
Statistical Institute during 1954–55 where he had the opportunity to interact with
C. R. Rao, Ronald Fisher, and Walter Shewhart. He received a PhD in Electrical
Engineering from Kyushu University in 1962.
Taguchi joined the Electrical Communication Laboratory (ECL) in 1950 where he
was responsible for developing methods that could be used for designing and
producing high reliability telecommunications products using then-available low
quality components and equipment. This led to his work in Quality Engineering,
later known as Robust Design or Taguchi Method. From 1950 to1962, he worked
on the design and manufacture of cross bar telephone switches leading to
dramatic increase in ECL switch reliability versus its key competitor, Bell Labs –
Western Electric. In fact, the reliability of the switches was so superior that
Western Electric started buying switches from Japan.
Taguchi’s Quality Engineering methods focus on economically reducing product
and process performance variation. They improve engineering productivity and
deliver products at significantly low cost while providing consistently high
performance under diverse operating conditions. Although his ideas have created
controversy among some statisticians, there can be no doubt about the lasting
impact of his work and the transformative role he has played in Quality
Improvement, especially in the application of Design of Experiments for variation
reduction.
Motivated by gratitude for helping Japan after World War II, Taguchi wanted to
come to the US and expose the engineering community to his ideas on Quality
Engineering. He began this project in 1980 by volunteering his time at Bell Labs,
the place where the science of Quality Control was born, because of the
tremendous contributions of Bell Labs and the Western Electric Company to
Japan. Soon his message spread to other major industries in US and globally.
His humble wish was to improve global productivity, leading to prosperity and
peace.
He is survived by his wife Kiyoh, daughter Kumiko, son Shin, a daughter-in-law,
and three grand-daughters.
Madhav S. Phadke
[email protected]
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