William Edwards Deming ( W E Deming )was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on October 14, 1900. His father, a not-very-successful rural attorney, was from Woodbury county and his mother was from around Perry. When he was 4, the family moved to a 300-acre farm near Polk City owned by his grandfather. Two years later, the family moved to Powell, Wyoming. Although his family was poor yet he worked hard and received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Wyoming. He also earned a Master of Science degree in physics from the University of Colorado in 1924. He taught physics at CU and the Colorado School of Mines before going to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Yale in 1927.
The early hardscrabble days left a deep impression on Deming. Although he earned millions in fees in his later years yet he never lost his aversion to waste. He drove a 1969 Lincoln Continential and took the bus or subway until he began needing a wheelchair. He worked out of his modest Washington D. C. home in a basement office around the corner from a washer and dryer. He had one full-time assistant, Cecilia “Ceil” Kilian, who was with him for 39 years. When his health permitted, he worked six days a week, usually from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. He used a felt tip pen to date the eggs in his refrigerator to ensure the oldest were used first and no egg ever went bad.
W E Deming became interested in the pioneering work of Shewhart in applying statistical methods to the control of variation in industrial production. Deming’s approach to quality built on Shewhart’s work.
During the period 1939-45, the American Bureau of Census and the US weapons industry were greatly benefited by his advice on the techniques of sampling and statistical control. There was a manifold increase in productivity and cost savings. However, despite Deming’s initial efforts and successes, the importance of correctly diagnosing the most important sources of variation and then controlling or eliminating them as the best way of improving quality was not appreciated enough by American managers. This was perhaps because the management did not want to accept such a high level of responsibility (at least 85%) for the quality improvement effort, as Deming insisted. Or perhaps because after World War II, there was an open market for everything produced and no particular attention was paid to high quality. This made Deming turn his efforts to teaching the Japanese who listened to him eagerly.
W E Deming in Japan
W E Deming is generally credited with the post- war introduction of quality concepts to Japan, although the reality is much more complicated. There is considerable evidence that he learned as much from Japanese thinkers like Kaoru Ishikawa and Taichi Ohno as he taught them.
He had first gone to Japan in 1947 to help the US occupation prepare for the 1951 Japanese census. While there, he met and socialised with a number of members of the Japan Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), Japan’s most important quality control organisation, founded in 1946.
He first visited Japan in 1946 as a representative of the Economic and Scientific Section of the US Department of War and returned there in 1948. Thousands of scientists and engineers attended Deming’s courses on statistical process control, which started in 1950 after an invitation from the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE). Deming spoke directly to the leaders and top industrialists of Japanese companies, who immediately took his philosophy seriously and applied his teaching enthusiastically. Nowadays, Dr Deming’s managerial and technical methods are widely accepted as being responsible for the turnaround of Japanese industrial fortunes.
In fact, when Deming made his dinner speech on statistical process control before Tokyo’s Industry Club in the summer of 1950, SPC was already being widely promoted in Japanese industry. It had been introduced as part of the post-war reconstruction effort.
Shortly after Japan’s surrender, the Civil Communications Section (CCS) was established by the Allied Command to help rebuild the country’s telecommunications infrastructure. General MacArthur urgently wanted Japan to mass -produce radios so that occupation authorities could reach every Japanese village quickly. The section’s small Industrial Division was assigned to work with Japanese manufacturers of communications equipment whose products at that time were highly unreliable.