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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