Application of Statistical Methods in 1940

By John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog (since 2004).

Dave Nave found an interesting forward from a set of 1985 standards on Control Charts. It describes how those standards were created as part of the World War II war effort, with Dr. Deming on the committee. Subsequently the standards were transfer to ASQ/ANSI.

From the forward

Upon request by the War Department, the American Standards Association, in December, 1940, initiated a project on the application of statistical methods to the quality control of materials and manufactured products.

Since, due to the national emergency, there was an urgent need for the prompt development of standards in this field, the ASA Defense Emergency Procedure (later called the War Emergency Procedure) was applied to this project, and the following
Emergency Technical Committee (later, War Committee) was appointed to develop such

  • H.F. Dodge, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc, Chairman
  • A.G. Ashcroft, Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Company
  • W. Edwards Deming, Bureau of the Census
  • Leslie E. Simon, Ordnance Department, U.S. Army
  • R.E. Wareham, General Electric Company
  • John Gaillard, American Standards Association, Secretary

This committee developed these three standards. Drafts were submitted for criticism and comment to a number of key individuals in groups having a substantial interest in the subject of the standards. All of the comments were carefully reviewed by the committee and a number of changes were made in accordance with suggestions received.

The revised drafts of Z1.1 and Z1.2 were unanimously approved by the Emergency Technical Committee and received ASA approval as American Defense Emergency Standards (later, War Standards) on May 27, 1941. Zl.3 was first approved in 1942.

In November, 1952, the ASA invited the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC) to accept the proprietary sponsorship for the three standards which had been developed by the War Committee. The invitation was accepted by ASQC in February, 1953, and the standards were turned over to the ASQC Standards Committee who assigned the designations ASQC Bl, ASQC 82, and ASQC B3 to the standards which were later to become ANSI standards Z l. l, Zl.2 and 21.3 respectively. The personnel of the committee at that time was as follows:

  • Irving W. Burr, Purdue University
  • W. Edwards Deming, Consultant in Statistical Surveys, New York University
  • Harold F. Dodge, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc (retired) and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Chairman
  • Eugene L. Grant, Stanford University
  • Ralph E. Wareham, Consultant in Quality Control

One of the duties of the ASQC as Proprietary Sponsor was the establishment of a national consensus on approval of the standards by industry. In August, 1956, a canvass of industry was instituted in which organizations believed to have a substantial interest in the subject of quality control were contacted. This canvass resulted in all but three of the organizations interested approving the standards as circulated by the ASQC.

After further review by the Standards Committee of ASQC, in the light of comments received in the course of the canvass, the ASQC felt that the basic criticisms had been covered by making minor modifications and bringing the appendixes up to date, and accordingly submitted the standards to ASA for approval as American Standards. In the course of considering the submittal for a recommendation on approval, the Miscellaneous Standards Board, which had jurisdiction over this work, requested that those organizations which had objected be contacted again to ascertain their present feelings in the matter. This was done with the result that the organizations involved announced that they now approved the standards.

It is interesting to occasionally consider the history that led us to where we are today.

Related: Ron Moen and Cliff Norman Discuss the Evolution of Deming’s Management IdeasThe Influence of C. I. Lewis on Walter Shewhart and W. Edwards DemingToyota’s Management HistorySpeech by Dr. Deming to Japanese Business Leaders in 1950

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