Walter A. Shewhart
Walter Andrew Shewhart (pronounced like "Shoe-heart", March 18, 1891 - March 11, 1967) was a physicist, engineer and statistician, sometimes known as the father of statistical quality control.
Bell Telephone’s engineers had been working to improve the reliability of their transmission systems. Because amplifiers and other equipment had to be buried underground, there was a business need to reduce the frequency of failures and repairs.
When Dr. Shewhart joined the Western Electric Company Inspection Engineering Department at Hawthorne in 1918, industrial quality was limited to inspecting finished products and removing defective items.
That all changed on May 16, 1924. Dr. Shewhart's boss, George Edwards, recalled: "Dr. Shewhart prepared a little memorandum only about a page in length. About a third of that page was given over to a simple diagram which we would all recognize today as a schematic control chart. That diagram, and the short text which preceded and followed it, set forth all of the essential principles and considerations which are involved in what we know today as process quality control."
Shewhart's work pointed out the importance of reducing variation in a manufacturing process and the understanding that continual process-adjustment in reaction to non-conformance actually increased variation and degraded quality.
Shewhart framed the problem in terms of assignable-cause and chance-cause variation and introduced the control chart as a tool for distinguishing between the two. Shewhart stressed that bringing a production process into a state of statistical control, where there is only chance-cause variation, and keeping it in control, is necessary to predict future output and to manage a process economically.
Dr. Shewhart created the basis for the control chart and the concept of a state of statistical control by carefully designed experiments.
While Dr. Shewhart drew from pure mathematical statistical theories, he understood data from physical processes never produce a "normal distribution curve" (a Gaussian distribution, also commonly referred to as a "bell curve").
He discovered that observed variation in manufacturing data did not always behave the same way as data in nature (Brownian motion of particles). Dr. Shewhart concluded that while every process displays variation, some processes display controlled variation that is natural to the process, while others display uncontrolled variation that is not present in the process causal system at all times.
Shewhart worked to advance the thinking at Bell Telephone Laboratories from their foundation in 1925 until his retirement in 1956, publishing a series of papers in the Bell System Technical Journal.
His work was summarised in his book Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product (1931).
Shewhart’s charts were adopted by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in 1933 and advocated to improve production during World War II in American War Standards Z1.1-1941, Z1.2-1941 and Z1.3-1942.