2010 Professional of the Year: The Finer Points of Quality
D.H. Stamatis, Ph.D., is a leader in the field of quality. He has spoken on numerous engagements, written more than 70 articles and published more than 25 books, including one of the top selling books by Quality Press on failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA).
Stamatis has created, implemented and presented on topics ranging from total quality management, statistical process control and Six Sigma. He has more than 30 years of management experience in a variety of sectors and has done consulting work for Ford Motor Co., Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, IBM and many others.
On top of that, Stamatis, whom is a fellow at the American Society for Quality (ASQ), has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in project management, logistics, statistics and mathematical modeling at Central Michigan University, the University of Michigan and Florida Institute of Technology. He is a certified quality engineer by the ASQ, certified manufacturing engineer by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt and a graduate ISO lead assessor by the British Standards Institute.
Today, Stamatis is the president of Contemporary Consultants Co. in Southgate, MI. The company focuses on providing leadership and direction to companies as a whole. Stamatis provides quality consulting, but still holds dear to his philosophy of leading a company, not doing their work for them. “I don’t hide behind numbers,” he says. “I tell people the facts. People will come to me and ask to write them a manual. But that’s like lying. They should use their own words to describe their own process.”
The BeginningStamatis was not always destined for a life in quality, but it always lingered right in front of him. Born in a small village in Greece, Stamatis did not make his way to America until his village was burned to the ground in 1963. “It was a scary time,” he recalls, “but I remember it well. We were on the boat to America when [President John F.] Kennedy was shot. We had no choice but to immigrate.”
America proved fruitful for Stamatis and after high school, he had his first taste of what would bring him into the world of quality.
During the summer before leaving for college, Stamatis worked general labor at the Great Lakes Steel Division of National Steel Inc. (Detroit). It proved to be a launching ground for the rest of his career. He continued to work summers while spending the rest of the year studying marketing at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI).
It was during his junior year at Wayne State that Stamatis first starting thinking of quality outside the box. “During this time, I first started noticing how few manufacturers were responsible for producing the many brands of bleach,” he says, “if one company is selling a brand of bleach and calling it “name brand,” and the same company is selling the same bleach for cheaper and calling it “generic brand,” where is the sense of integrity and quality in that?” It was here that Stamatis stopped buying name brand goods in favor of better value.
“The field of quality is filled with paradox,” he says. “And, the bottom line is value. Quality gets us to a better value, but in the end, value predominates quality. Why pay extra if the companies are cheating the consumer by charging more? It’s a measurement thing, and their measurements of price are off.” This realization of quality as an object outside of simple checks and balances continued to structure Stamatis' life and helped him stay focused throughout college.
Finally, in 1975, Stamatis graduated with his degree from Wayne State. He went right back to work at National Steel, picking up where he left off.
“I started in general labor and then moved into a supervisor role.” And in 1978, Stamatis just sort of stumbled into quality. “There was an opening in the lab, so I took it. After that, something in quality became available. I had always been meticulous when it comes to important details. Quality has just always made sense.”
From there, as they say, the rest is history. His passion for quality expanded through a variety of roles and Stamatis took in as much information as he could.
Stamatis spent the next nine years working at National Steel in a variety of positions while working toward his master’s degree from Central Michigan University. He obtained his master’s in 1981 and quickly moved into a cost and methods analyst role at National Steel. He obtained his Ph.D. in instructional technology and business statistics from Wayne State in 1986. Stamatis stayed with National Steel as an internal consultant until 1987.
The EducatorIn 1985, Stamatis took another step into the world of quality. Based on the recommendations of friends and family, he stepped into an academic role. “Friends were always asking me questions, always asking for advice,” he says, “it was like I was already a teacher.”
Starting in 1985, Stamatis tried his hand as an at Central Michigan University courses such as decision- making, operations management and technology and environment. He was responsible for teaching both graduate and undergraduate classes. After two years, he moved into an advisor role, responsible for advising students concerning curriculum and thesis development. He currently still serves as an adjunct faculty member at the university.
Stamatis left National Steel in 1987 and become a lecturer at the University of Michigan-Dearborn (Dearborn, MI). While there, he taught management science (statistics) in the school of management. His passion for quality and understanding of teaching concepts to others took off.
His stint as a lecturer turned into an instructor position at the Florida Institute of Technology (Melbourne, FL). While there, Stamatis taught graduate courses in complex management decision issues using deterministic and probabilistic mathematical models.
Teaching offered Stamatis a unique opportunity to develop his ideas on quality, while helping to educate future generations to take careful consideration of their choices when it comes to measurement.
“Measurement transcends all fields. We are people and prone to error, but we have to pursue accuracy. And, to do this, we have to rely on the data. It is the same as a pilot relying on his machinery to fly a plane,” Stamatis says. Teaching offered him a great avenue for instructing others on the basic principles of quality that transcend the boundaries between practical living and education. As quality continued to grow in his life, it started to transform his daily activities.
“Quality starts with integrity. And you can see that everywhere you go. At heart, I am an educator, and I feel the need to educate wherever I am,” Stamatis says. And this concept rings true in Stamatis’ daily life. “Even when I go to a restaurant, I see quality. The business is supposed to exist to serve the customer, and yet, when you go in, you have to wait for service.” This concept of a lack of quality customer service exemplifies Stamatis’ struggle against the lack of quality in today’s burgeoning world.
“Companies don’t define costumer service as pleasing the customer anymore. They define it as getting what they want. And if I am in a restaurant, and I don’t get service, I will scream for it.” Most people shy away from being so outspoken with their wants, but not Stamatis.
“Maybe my family gets offended, and will be upset with me, but it’s important to let the business know what you want. It’s teaching them about their customers. I will get people who thank me for speaking up, and tell me they would be too shy to do that. But they need to learn that customer service is about the customer. And that is a measurement of quality. It starts with integrity and truthfulness. A business must have quality at its core, and I will make sure that I hold them accountable for it.”
The ConsultantAgain, at a friend’s consideration, Stamatis opened up his career path and got into consulting. With a client list that includes organizations from both the public to the private sector, and includes industries ranging from automotive to electronics, to food and even the Department of Defense, Stamatis has built quite the reputation for himself.
Even working in a variety of industries, Stamatis notices one thing that unites them all. “Everything is an issue.” He continues, “Quality is a defined characteristic. What quality is for me, might not be quality to someone else. But the first step is always measurement. Whether measurement is a micrometer, or something else, it always starts with measurement.”
After some internal consulting at National Steel, he moved into a consultant role at Eastern Michigan University. There, he served as consultant and trainer in quality science. He was responsible for consulting and training the Ford Motor brand and applied his theory for quality measurement to improve statistical process control, gage and capability and machine acceptance, among others.
Being a dramatic change of scenery compared to the steel industry, Stamatis began noticing many aspects that united the different fields. “Quality is persistence and commitment and that can be manipulated in any field,” he says, “and it’s important for a good leader to step in and make sure things run correctly.”
Stamatis goes on to detail the most important steps of being a leader. “At the top of any good company is one person. They can choose to tell the truth, or fudge the details.” He continues, “The most important quality of a leader in manufacturing is to tell the truth.”
Having done consulting in a wide variety of fields, Stamatis has learned that consulting is not merely about doing the company’s work, but showing them how to be the best they can. “Some consultants lie and that’s the truth,” he says. “If a company wants instructions on ISO 9000, they should write the manual first on their own. Too many consultants will go into a job and do all the work for the company. They make a lot of money doing this, but there is no integrity in it."
Stamatis’ attention to detail and deep rooted sense of right and wrong can be seen in every aspect of his work. And this, like any other issue of quality, transcends the boundaries from one industry to the next. Whether it is a company approaching him to create an industry manual, or simply working on an equation, quality exists within the boundaries of right and wrong. “The data makes my decisions in life. If I am working on an equation, and the answer doesn’t match my hypothesis, I won’t change my hypothesis to match the answer. Some consultants will do that, but I refuse to fake the data.” Quality starts with integrity, and grows with truthfulness.
His role as a consultant has expanded with his work at Contemporary Consultants and the Institute of Advanced Business Learning Systems. Since then, he has been leading and training companies in quality assurance, ISO/QS/TE 9000 and ISO/TS 16949 in order to best bridge the gap between companies and applicable scientific methods.
During his time as a consultant, Stamatis has been widely recognized for his work. In 1994 he was chosen as an ASQ fellow and served as membership chairman for the Detroit section from 1986 to 1989 and vice chair of professional development from 1989 to 1992. In 1993, he served as the program co-chair for the first Annual International Conference on ISO 9000.
His unique take on life and quality surpasses an understanding of success and failure and takes on an understanding of accomplishing quality in everything he does, from simple tasks such as ordering in a restaurant, to complex tasks, such as creating a consulting manual on FMEA.
Life is risk and we are not perfect, but the first step in life always comes down to measurement. Attributing much of his love and passion for quality to his influence of W. Edwards Deming or General George Patton, Stamatis believes that quality comes from commitment, persistence and belief in one’s self.
Stamatis truly takes this mantra to heart and expresses it throughout his life, looking at himself in the mirror every morning, deciding if he can respect the man looking back. Quality is not an afterthought, it is a lifestyle. Q