Quality Pioneers – the Evolution of Six Sigma – second in a series

One of the first assignments in our Black Belt course deals with the origins of the continuous improvement approach that we know today as Six Sigma.  Many students are surprised to learn that the body of knowledge and the tools and techniques have been evolving for well over 100 years.

This article is the second in a series that will explore the contributions of and the strong personal relationships between a number of pioneers in the field of continuous quality improvement.  Listed in chronological order by the year of their birth, they are Vilfredo Pareto, Sir Ronald Fisher, Walter Shewhart, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Dr. Joseph Juran, Dorian Shainin, Kaoru Ishikawa, Genichi Taguchi and Philip Crosby.

Joseph M. Juran (1904-2008) was an electrical engineer and philanthropist.  He Joined Western Electric in 1925 in the inspection department at the Hawthorne Works and rose to Chief of Industrial Engineering for Western Electric by 1937.  Juran discovered the work of Vilfredo Pareto in 1941 and recognized its application to fields other than economics.  In the 1940s Juran coined and popularized the notion of “the vital few and trivial many,” also known as “The Pareto Principle,” recognizing the uneven impact of problems on business performance to be the same phenomenon that Pareto had observed in respect to the distribution of wealth.

He left Western Electric in 1945 to devote his life to quality management.  Juran was invited to Japan in 1954 by JUSE and worked independently of Dr. Deming to teach quality management.  He is credited with adding the human dimension to quality management.  He remained active in the Juran Institute until his death at the age of 103.

After he left Western Electric, Juran became Chairman of the Department of Administrative Engineering at New York University. He also created a thriving consulting practice, and wrote books and delivered lectures for the American Management Association.  It was during his time with NYU and the AMA when he developed his management philosophies, now embedded in the foundation of American and Japanese management.

When he began his career in the 1920’s the principal focus in quality management was on the quality of the end, or finished, product. The tools used were sampling, inspection plans, and Shewhart control charts.  Juran pushed for the education and training of managers.  For Juran, human relations problems were the ones to isolate. Resistance to change, or in his words cultural resistance, was the root cause of quality issues.  In 1966 Juran promoted the Japanese idea of quality circles.  He also developed the “Juran’s trilogy,” an approach to cross-functional management that is composed of three managerial processes: planning, control and improvement.

The process of developing ideas was a gradual one for Dr. Juran. Top management involvement, the Pareto principle, the need for widespread training in quality, the definition of quality as fitness for use, the project-by-project approach to quality improvement – these are the ideas for which Juran is best known, and all emerged gradually.

Dorian Shainin (1914-2000) earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1936.  He worked more than 60 years to improve the professional approach to industrial problem solving.   He is best known for the “Shainin techniques,” practical tools he developed to help manufacturers solve problems, including problems that had been considered unsolvable.

Shainin joined United Aircraft Corp. (now United Technologies Corp.) in 1936 as an engineer and was later in charge of quality control at a large division of the company.  He worked there until 1952.  From 1950 to 1983 he served on the faculty of the University of Connecticut, where he originated and conducted the continuing education program for people in industry.  He also worked for Rath and Strong Management Consultants from 1952 until his retirement as Senior V.P. in 1975.  He then established his own consulting practice, Shainin Consultants, Inc.

Shainin worked with more than 900 organizations to develop a discipline called statistical engineering. He specialized in creating strategies to enable engineers to “talk to the parts” and solve “unsolvable” problems. The discipline has been used successfully for product development, quality improvement, analytical problem solving, manufacturing cost reduction, product reliability, product liability prevention, and research and development.

In the 1950s Shainin recognized that the Pareto principle could be applied effectively to the solving of variation problems. Shainin concluded that, amongst the thousands of variables that could cause a change in the value of an output, one cause-and-effect relationship had to be stronger than the others.  Shainin called this primary cause the “Big Red X” and demonstrated that the cause can exist as an interaction among independent variables.  Shainin’s development of the “Red X” concept originated from his association with Joseph Juran.

Your comments or questions about this article are welcome, as are suggestions for future articles.  Feel free to contact me by email at roger@keyperformance.com.

About the author:  Mr. Roger C. Ellis is an industrial engineer by training and profession.  He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 48 years of business experience in a wide range of fields.  Mr. Ellis develops and instructs Six Sigma professional certification courses for Key Performance LLC.   For a more detailed biography, please refer to www.keyperformance.com.