Southern Pacific Railroad History Center


Quality Department

The Southern Pacific Quality program was founded on a statistics-based approach getting at root causes of process problems and improving them.  In the early 1990s, Southern Pacific hired a team of Quality experts from Florida Power & Light, which had won the prestigious Deming Price for Total Quality Management (TQM) not long before.  There were two major goals of the program.  One, TQM should result in some savings by fixing problems “the first time;” and, two, the program should help burnish the image of Southern Pacific in eyes of shippers.

Introducing something new into an organization with long-established management protocols, many dating from the previous century, was bound to be controversial.  But senior management insisted, and participation in Quality classes became a requirement for managers, who learned how to flow chart processes for delivery of services and spot opportunities for improvements through newfound skill in histograms and regression analysis.

While it is debatable how well the program accomplished its goals, there was no doubt that managers became more aware of the root causes of problems and how to fix them.  So, to this extent at least, the Quality program at Southern Pacific was a success.


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