The German's may have in part lost WWII because they built the best quality weapons while others were producing 5 times as many at a lower quality. One German Panzer tank may have been able to beat 5 poorly constructed Russian tanks, but it could not be used in five different places at one time like the poorly constructed Russian alternative could be. I saw a V-2 missile at the Kansas Cosmosphere, it still had all the original German quality buy-off tags. What obscenely incredible quality went into that single use explosive device built during a time of crisis. Their bombs were put together with more precision than our aircraft! But quality lost out to quantity.
So the US took over from Germany and the Swiss as the world's new quality and tech headquarters. The Japaneses soon adopted US quality standards and Deming's methods and then took them a step further. They created new miniaturized high tech devices and seemed poised to lead the world into the future. The Japs could make a device that would be outdated in two years but was built to last for fifty. But then the world discovered they could buy cheap stuff from China that might only last a few years but was 1/10th the price. Japan is now entering their second "Lost Decade" and the US is also in recession while Europe is on the skids and China seems to be winning this war.
When you are tempted to long for the best quality and throw about Japanese buzz-words like Kaizen and adopt Japanese inspired management fads like Kanban, JIT, Lean, and Six Sigma, just remember where their economy has gone and will stay for the foreseeable future. The Chinese wouldn't know quality from their own butt cheek and are currently leading the world in growth. Although I am an aerospace engineer and get an erection just thinking about quality, quality becomes an end of its own and a form of arrogance that leads to high priced gadgetry like the above desk, the type of excess that only royalty can indulge. When we in manufacturing seek to go beyond a certain necessary level of quality for our own reputation and edification our arrogance leaves us open to losing out to more humble manufacturers and their more pertinent levels of quality and consequently lower cost.
I bought a new printer for $34 last week. It was cheaper than getting more ink for the last one. My Marantz brand Audiophile turntable still works, however I can't buy vinyl record albums for it anymore. I've got a collection of antique GE brand desk fans from the 1920's that still work great, but now I wouldn't think of living without air-conditioning, and GE lost the oscillating fan market to cheaper competition decades ago.
I am an American "German Engineer", son of a genius German engineer, some might even call me a "German Rocket Scientist", although I work more often with aircraft than spacecraft, but as much as that might dispose me to blindly pursue quality, I have come to see the arrogance in it. The redneck's always win. Just "Git-R-Done" will always be the cry of those who will ultimately be tomorrows victors while today's overconfident losers say "Nein! it must be perfekt!"