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Roderick Munro, Quality Magazine's 2006 Professional of the Year, has a proven track record of commitment to quality assurance and continual improvement in all aspects of his life.
Roderick Munro has given more than 190 professional presentations, published more than 125 articles and, almost 10 years to the day after joining the American Society for Quality (ASQ), he became an ASQ fellow.
Today, Munro is a business improvement coach and president of RAM Q Universe (Reno, NV), a business he started in 2001. RAM Q Universe is a consulting organization that specializes in working with automotive suppliers for quality problem solving, automotive core tools, training and deployment on the shop floor, Six Sigma, and plant auditing for TS 16949: 2002.
Munro tries to incorporate quality in all aspects of his life. "How do I continually improve what I do, day by day?" Munro says. "That's kind of been the focus of my life-how can I improve a little bit every day? You've got to at least think about how to apply all these tools."
The inaugural Quality Professional of the Year, Roderick A. Munro, Ph.D., of Northport, MI, has focused on quality throughout his life. He has notes from 15 years ago listing his goals of getting his Ph.D. and becoming an ASQ fellow. And, although it took 13 drafts before Munro was approved for his Ph.D., he has achieved both goals.
Though these achievements sound impressive, Munro's father was not impressed. "My dad called me an educated fool for many years," he says. "Dad wanted me to get a trade and do that.
"My parents never had advanced degrees. One cousin is a dentist over in England. Outside that, I'm the first one in the family to have gone literally all the way," Munro says.
Munro, born in Toronto to a Scottish father and Canadian mother, grew up in Southeastern Michigan in a working class environment. His father, a butcher by trade, was in the British navy during WWII, and grew up a few miles from Loch Ness. Later, his father moved to Canada and met Munro's mother, and during a recession in the mid-1950s, his family moved to the United States.
Munro went to Adrian College (Adrian, MI), where he studied business administration, economics and earth science. When he graduated in 1979, he could not find work so he went back to college for a high school teaching certificate. Then he could not find a teaching job, so he worked as a substitute teacher for a while. After moving to Detroit, he began looking for a plant job, but there was not much available. "I was doing anything and everything I could to find something," Munro says.
Finally, Eagle Pitcher, a small manufacturing plant in River Rouge, MI, got his resume and called Munro for an entrance exam. Munro aced it, making him just the second college graduate to pass it. He interviewed and then, in 1982, received his first salaried job as a purchasing agent at the 350-person plant. As a management trainee, Munro says, "I got to touch almost everything you could in a plant setting."
When he heard that the company paid 75% for job-related classes, he decided to continue his education. "I love learning new things, I love getting into stuff," Munro says. "My mom swore to the day she died that I invented the Frisbee with her good china."
There were 32 people in the classroom on his first night of a statistical process control (SPC) class. The professor told them only half would remain by the end of the course. "He was wrong-by finals we were down to 12 people," Munro says. Munro and the plant's quality manager both took SPC courses at night and puzzled over how to get the plant in-line. They applied classroom concepts at the plant by
creating surveys for suppliers, self-assessments and safety data sheets.
Out of 32 students that started the course, only three passed, including Munro. He recalls wondering, "What's so hard about this quality stuff?" He continued pursuing "quality stuff" and graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a master's degree in industrial
technology-statistical process control.
He later received an Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree from Wayne State University and then went on to earn a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.
INTRO TO ASQ
Through his coursework, Munro met Bob Reece, past president of ASQ and Munro's first mentor, who convinced him to join ASQ. "He guided me on a lot of the coursework. He really gave me a lot of good advice back then," Munro says.
Then, in the fall of 1985, Munro recalls a change in the quality profession. "All hell broke loose," Munro says. ASQ had been training about 30 people every six months, but that year they had 68 preregistered people. Munro then met his second mentor, Bill Winchell, a long-time Certified Quality Engineer instructor for the ASQ Greater Detroit Section who had been on the board of directors at ASQ. After Munro streamlined the first-day registration process, Winchell told the group, "Keep an eye on this Munro character, he's going to do things with ASQ."
That assessment was accurate: Munro has been active with the ASQ Greater Detroit Section for more than 20 years and has attended every ASQ Annual Quality Conference since 1986. His ASQ involvement also has led to a worldwide network of quality professionals and calls from around the globe asking him how to become a fellow. His advice clearly helps, because he has assisted with or sponsored more than 10 ASQ Testimonial Awards, more than 450 senior membership upgrades, more than 60 fellow membership upgrades and six honorary members. He has many friends and mentors in the quality industry, including Subir Chowdhury and Shin Taguchi.
After Eagle Pitcher, Munro worked at ASC Inc. (Southgate, MI), as a quality services coordinator for two years. Next he worked at Johnson Controls, Plastic Container Division (Manchester, MI) until 1988, as the divisional quality engineer.
While coordinating job placement for a local section of ASQ, Munro had a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience. He met a top manager for a wholly owned Ford subsidiary who told him to talk to Denny Atkinson, an ASQ senior member and a Ford manager of NA SQA and SQI. Munro went to see him the following week, and right away, Atkinson said he wanted Munro working in his department. He accepted an offer and began working at Ford
He worked for Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, MI, from 1988 to 2001, where he was involved with the startup of the Supplier Quality Improvement (SQI) project. In the five-year SQI initiative, the SQI team assisted in the increased number of launches by a factor of four, while the number of supplier issues at launch stayed the same. Munro also managed North American quality training with a $10 million annual budget and more than 50 strategic technical training programs, including the launch of Six Sigma at Ford (3,000 Black Belts).
During his tenure at Ford, Munro remained involved with ASQ-writing articles in the newsletter, chairing committees and working with members. "I had tons of fun working on that stuff," Munro says. He is a member of the American Statistical Association, the American Society for Training and Development, and a fellow member of both ASQ and the Institute of Quality Assurance.
He also had the privilege of joining the Deming Study Group of Greater Detroit. "It was such an honor for me," Munro says. The Deming Study group of Greater Detroit met every other month for almost three years. Eight people approached Deming about starting the group, and they could invite up to two others. One of the members invited Munro, but Munro initially did not think he was at that level. After the member insisted, Munro just asked when and where: "I wasn't going to look that gift horse in the mouth," Munro says. Dr. W. Edwards Deming let the group do most of the talking. "He would pose questions and let us just go at it," Munro recalls. "Dr. Deming had so much experience, lifetime applications, so much else. He didn't have time for managers who weren't open-minded."
LIFE AFTER FORD
Munro left Ford in 2001, retiring from his position as the training director for quality reliability and Six Sigma. "I've had a really blessed career," Munro says. "The U.S. automotive industry has arguably the best procedures in place in the world."
Now Munro divides his time between consulting, writing and teaching, which he especially enjoys. "One of the little gifts I have is I can take something that's fairly technical, go through it and explain it to somebody else. I've learned that you learn more by teaching, by coaching, by talking with others," he says. Many articles in engineering technical journals are written by people with master's degrees and Ph.D.s for other master's and Ph.D.s, Munro says, and don't help the employees who are actually working on the projects. Therefore, he has tried to write his four books so shop-level employees can use them. "I try to do that in my books," Munro says. "I'm not always successful, but I try."
Not only does he love teaching, but learning as well. "If I'm healthy and cognizant, I hope to be learning until the day I die," Munro says. "To that end, I have created an absolute wealth of info. I'm always collecting things related to quality. My wife gets after me because there are so many books in my library I haven't read. I've got a huge library. I'm always keeping an eye out for some of these older books."
Munro says he cannot keep up with the reading, but he certainly keeps up with the publications. Years ago, he started logging featured articles, with the author, name of the magazine, volume, issue and page number in a Microsoft Access file. "At least based on title, I will see what's being written," Munro explains. Even after paring it down a few years ago, he has 18,297 records. "Some of my friends call me every now and then to test me," Munro says. When that happens, he simply walks down to the basement and sorts through the file boxes of magazines resting near the dehumidifier. In fact, his desire to look at the old records spurred a microfilm reader purchase from eBay that he still uses to review Industrial Quality Control back to 1945.
Besides working on his consulting projects at RAM Q Universe, Munro has several books in development, and within the next 18 months, should have at least seven or eight books with his name on them.
The road to quality was not always clear, but Munro has enjoyed the process. "When I was 18, I had no clue," Munro says. "It has been a meandering process. I didn't get into this quality stuff as calling it quality until the mid-80s, but I had been trained as a young boy in customer satisfaction.
"That's been a quest for me. It's about using the quality tools everywhere you go. Quality applies everywhere. How do we satisfy our customers better?
"I believe you pick and choose and learn whatever you can," Munro says. "You must learn every tool and use each tool at the appropriate time." Q