Many references track the beginning of formal use of the Six Sigma quality approach back to the mid 1990's. It was at this point that more formality was put around this approach to quality, including the inception of the DMAIC method. Though the formal inception wasn't until the late 1980's at Motorola, focus on quality began long before. It is important to recognize some of the key founders of Six Sigma to understand how the approach to quality that we use regularly today was born. During this blog series, I will be highlighting a few of the major contributors.

Dr. Walter A. Shewhart (1891-1967)

Dr. Shewhart is something referred to as the father of statistical quality control (SQC). He worked at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric, where he developed and used control charts. Dr. Shewhart was charged with satisfying the need to reduce the frequency of defects. He introduced the terms "assignable cause" and "chance cause" variation and used the control chart as the tool for identifying the two. He focused on bringing the process to a state of statistical control, where only the "chance cause" variation exists. Shewhart's control charts were supported by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), when they were adopted in 1933. His charts served a critical purpose in WWII as they were used to improve the production of war materials. Dr. Shewhart's work was championed by Dr. W. Edwards Deming while working as a consultant to Japanese industries.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

Dr. Deming is considered one of the founders of the third wave of the industrial revolution. He was a champion of Shewhart's work, but also focused on the need for change in management structure and attitudes. Deming was able to teach statistical methods to thousands of American engineers, foremen, and workers during World War II. The taught methods were identified as a major factor in the war effort. Even with this credit, after the war, the focus on statistical methods decreased significantly. It was during some visits to Japan for the purpose of census taking that Deming found a home for his ideas and teachings. It wasn't until a white paper was published by NBC; "If Japan can, then why can't we?" that Deming became famous in the US. Dr. Deming is most known for his book, Out of the Crisis, he emphasizes 14 points and 7 deadly diseases that management must cure. Dr. Deming can be credited as the one who stood for quality. He is considered a national folk hero in Japan for his work.

Dr. Joseph M. Juran (1904-2008)

Dr. Juran worked at the same Western Electric's plant as Shewhart and Deming. Dr. Juran's prime belief was that quality was getting better in America, but not at a fast enough rate. A company will only be a leader if quality improvements are made by the thousands, year after year. Juran's approach to quality improvement includes the following basic points for success:

  1. Create awareness of the need and opportunity for improvement
  2. Top management must commit the time and resources for success
  3. Provide training in how to improve quality
  4. Assign responsibility of quality by making it a part of every job description
  5. Include rewards for improvements in the rewards program
  6. Empower the workforce to participate in improvements

Dr. Juran is most known for the Juran Trilogy. The trilogy includes three managerial processes:

  1. Quality planning-create the process that will enable one to meet desired goals
  2. Quality control-monitor and adjust the process
  3. Quality improvement-reduce losses and move the process to a state of control

This is the first blog in a series titled, The People behind the Foundations of Six Sigma. In my next blog, I will introduce you to Philip B. Crosby, Dr. Armand V. Feigenbaum, and Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa.