W. Edwards Deming

From Academic Kids

William Edwards Deming, Ph.D. (October 14, 1900 - December 20, 1993) was an American physicist and statistician, attaining great influence in the field of statistical process control. He is widely credited with improving production in the United States during World War II, and later helping Japanese industry recover from World War II and later reach high levels of productivity.


Early life and work

Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Deming was raised in Polk City, Iowa on his grandfather's farm, then later in Powell, Wyoming. In 1917, he enrolled in the University of Wyoming at Laramie, graduating in 1921 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. In 1925, he received an M.S. from the University of Colorado, and in 1928, a Ph.D. from Yale University. Both graduate degrees were in mathematics and mathematical physics.

He studied for several years with Dr Walter A. Shewhart of Bell Telephone Laboratories. Shewhart's theories of statistical control became the basis for Deming's own work.

He advocated the use of closely monitored reports about the state of factory machines to keep production quality high for the least amount of investment. His system was particularly elegant and effective, in that the number of required observations was surprisingly low in order to determine if a machine needed to be adjusted or replaced, or if an entire batch of product should be discarded or accepted.

Deming developed the sampling techniques that were used for the first time during the 1940 U.S. Census, and taught Statistical Quality Control (SQC) techniques to workers engaged in wartime production. They were widely applied during World War II, but faded into disuse a few years later in the face of huge overseas demand for American mass-produced product.

Work in Japan

After World War II, Deming was involved in early planning for the 1951 Japanese Census. His expertise, combined with his involvement in Japanese society, led to his receiving an invitation by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE).

The JUSE members had studied Shewhart's techniques, and as part of Japan's reconstruction efforts they sought an expert to teach statistical control. In 1950, Deming gave the first of a dozen or so lectures on SQC. Unlike his previous lectures, he aimed this message at Japan's chief executives: improving quality will reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share.

The Japanese manufacturers applied his techniques widely, and experienced new international demand for Japanese products.

In 1960, Deming became the first American to receive the Second Order of the Sacred Treasure from Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. An accompanying citation stated that the people of Japan attributed the rebirth and success of their industry to his work.

Later work in the U.S.

Deming continued running his own consultancy business in the United States largely unknown and unrecognized. In 1980, he featured prominently in an NBC documentary about the increasing industrial competition the United States was facing from Japan. Demand for his services increased dramatically as a result of the broadcast, and Deming continued consulting for industry throughout the world until his death at 93.

He published several books (notably Out of the Crisis in 1986) on what became known as Total Quality Management (TQM) or Total Quality Control (TQC) and New Economics.

JUSE eventually introduced an annual award for the best proponent of Total Quality Management in Japan, and to recognize the contributions of Deming, they named this award the Deming Prize.

Over the course of his career Deming received dozens of academic awards, and upon his death in 1993, the William Edwards Deming Institute was founded as a think tank in Washington D.C. to promote his ideas.

Deming offered fourteen key principles for management for transforming business effectiveness. In summary:

  1. Create constancy of purpose.
  2. Take the lead in adopting the new philosophy.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of cheapest costs.
  5. Improve constantly.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Institute leadership.
  8. Drive out fear.
  9. Break down barriers between departments.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets.
  11. Eliminate management by numbers, and management by objective. Substitute leadership.
  12. Remove barriers to pride in workmanship.
  13. Institute education and self-improvement.
  14. Put everybody to work to accomplish the transformation.

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