AKIO MIURA - Rest in Peace

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
I am sorry to report that my great friend and contemporary, Akio Miura, of Tokyo, Japan died on September 30,2014.

Akio was the first and one of the very few people in Asia to earn EVERY certification offered by the American Society for Quality.

He was a quality consultant of the highest caliber, counting the giants of Japanese industry among his clients. Like me and like Steve Prevette, he was a Demingite in thought and deed.

He often railed against many of the same demons I do - mainly "mission creep" and Kwality Kops.

He loved baseball and carried his baseball glove everywhere he traveled, always up for a game of catch. He practiced martial arts well into his later years, but his bouts with cancer slowed him down.

As a quirk of time zones, Akio and I shared the same birth date. Mine is October 6 and his October 7, but the 6th is actually the 7th in Japan for the time I was born.

I was privileged to proofread and edit a number of his papers on quality topics. Many authors in Quality Progress profited from his comments on their articles.

Some of you who followed the ASQ discussion forums were often treated to his cantankerous railing against mushy thinking.

As he recovered from his 2012 cancer operation, his mind was still sharp and he wrote a paper and asked me to edit for future publication and sent it to me with this note
[FONT=&quot]How are you? Is everything OK? [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]I have undergone a big surgery operation of liver last November.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]It was the worst type of cancer spread from stomach and grew [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]very rapidly at the center of liver. Quite fortunately, the operation [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]was successful and I am getting better day by day. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]In the meantime, some people asked me to join the Lean Six [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Sigma LinkedIn Network, and I joined it recently. I found a hot [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]discussion and replied to their question as per attached file. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]After my posting, a couple of members posted their agreement, [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]and the discussion became quiet. The attached paper would [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]be of some interest to you, I hope. [/FONT]

You'll get an idea of his "take no prisoners" approach from the first few paragraphs of his paper:
There is no zen-like element in so-called Japanese Lean people. I know many of such people, but almost all of them are uneducated and do not know what is zen. Zen is Indian (Hindu) culture and part of yoga meditation handed down to Japan through China hundreds of years ago, but most people do not know it.

About Kanban:
Kanban means signboard. Kanban system is based on the Just-in-Time (JIT) system first invented and practiced by Ford Michigan in 1950s. Toyota and Ohno copied it from Ford around 1965. Toyota people are calling it “kanban”, because they use the signboards. Moreover, they are doing it wrong way.

For indication of the checkpoint or the due date or time, the use of signboard or some other appropriate method is a matter of common sense in any country in the world and in any era. But Toyota is using it a little bit unique way. Toyota Purchasing staff writes the required quantities of parts or materials with a chalk on the signboard at the entrance gate of their factory, and the suppliers must see it even late midnight or early morning, and deliver the parts or material at the time written on the signboard. I heard this fact directly from the “victim” who used to be a Sales person of a big steel mill. Toyota claims that it is their “invention”. They are only exploiting and threatening material/component suppliers.

Many Japanese people say that kaizen and kanban are used as the improvement tools only for some arrogant auto maker’s convenience or egoistic satisfaction, including cost reduction for them. I know it and how their quality system and concept are poor, because I taught quality to many people of auto makers and auto parts suppliers including several Deming Prize holders, and helped them get certified to ISO 9001/2 around 1995. Their management system and sense of quality were terribly poor before then. They have no CQEs. This is the level of their quality.

There will be only failure and no success in kanban programs in the long run, because it is just arrogant and egoistic as mentioned above, and giving no benefit to sub-suppliers.
My tribute from the funeral service I am called upon to perform more and more frequently as I, too, age:
"In the bright morning of the world's resurrection, may his soul spring into newness of life and expand into immortal beauty in realms beyond the skies. Until then, dear friend and brother, until then — Farewell!"
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Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Super Moderator
Very sad to hear that. I did have the opportunity to trade a number of emails discussing Operations Research and Japan with Akio. And was pleased to be able to meet him personally at an ASQ conference a number of years ago.


I knew Akio for a number of years, and corresponded with him many times to gather ideas for the ASQ Customer-Supplier Division newsletter. I am very sad to hear of his passing.
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