Issue Papers-Walter Shewhart

Issue Papers-Walter Shewhart




Issue Papers-Walter Shewhart

Walter Shewhart was born in 1891, and he died in 1967. He had a strong background in engineering and physics, having done a doctorate in Physics. He joined Western Electric Co. in 1918 after teaching at various institutions. The company was involved in manufacturing hardware for Bell Telephone Company, and it was one of the biggest manufacturers in the country. Shewhart worked as an engineer at the company until 1924. He then joined Bell Telephone Laboratories where he worked as technical staff in different capacities. He retired from the company in 1956. Shewhart was a man of science, and he was interested in finding out how things worked. Working at the company gave him a chance to test different theories. This gave him a chance to learn and improve products and processes when necessary. The desire to make these improvements led him to contribute significantly to the field of quality. His work on quality provided him with many opportunities. He gave lectures on quality, and he consulted with different institutions in and out of the country. In addition, he mentored others, such as Joseph Juran and Edward Deming, who would become major contributors to the field of quality and who were instrumental to its growth.

Shewhart introduced the scientific method for process improvement in 1939 as a three-step process involving specification, production, and inspection. He portrayed the processes in the form of a circle, which was a way of demonstrating that improvement was to happen continuously. However, this was not the first time that Shewhart had demonstrated his knowledge of quality. In 1924, Shewhart came up with a control chart, which identified the process of quality control. His work showed how economic control could be achieved using the scientific method. In 1931, he published Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product (Westcott & Duffy, 2014).

Control charts can be used for forecasting to determine when changes are needed to prevent the production of out of tolerance material. The charts determine if the changes made are effective. The concept of reduction of variation as a way of improving quality is applicable in many diverse fields such as electronics, construction, and automobile. Shewhart was able to identify the special cause and common cause variations, which are referred to as assignable and chance cause variations. He recommended the control of common cause variation as a method of avoiding reducing waste and improving quality. The control chart was a way of distinguishing between the two causes.

Shewhart knew that statistical theory was not just something interesting to learn in class, but that it could be useful to industry. His beliefs and work showing his theory is in the book The Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control, which he published in 1939. The statistical process control is a decision-making tool. A person is able to see when a process is working correctly. Statistical process control is essential for determining the cause for changes. It facilitates the source of variation and it determines whether the process is operating as expected. In addition, it helps in determining and monitoring the capability of processes (Biswas, 2015).

The Shewhart cycle combines management thinking and statistical analysis. The cycle is also known as the PDCA cycle and the Deming cycle. Deming was responsible for marketing the idea, but Shewhart came up with the concept. It has four stages, which include plan, do, check, and act. Planning involves identifying what can be improved and determining the changes needed. The process of ‘Do,’ involves the actual action of implementing the changes. Check or Study analyses the processes and outcomes. The final process is Act, which requires a person to take action when the results obtained fail to meet the person’s expectations. It is a never-ending process, and this means that improvement happens continually (Best and Neuhauser, 2006). The cycle encourages the constant evaluation of management practices. He believed that the willingness of the administration to disregard unsupported ideas was instrumental in the evolution of a successful enterprise.

The work that Biswas did remains relevant in quality management today. Quality control entails identifying when variation needs correction. Using the control chart enables one to determine the performance of a process. The chance can also demonstrate how the introduction of changes will affect this performance. The work and industry environment have changed, and this has necessitated changes to the approaches that Shewhart developed. However, his methods and ideas were instrumental in the development of six-sigma approach. The ideas developed by Motorola used a statistical approach, which was derived from the work done by Shewhart. Since the development of the ideas in six-sigma, many companies have adopted and implemented them as one of the measures of improving quality. Shewhart’s work influenced process quality control. Manufacturers do not have to encounter the same errors every time. The idea of evaluating the processes and management constantly enables people to identify the reasons for failure and mistakes. They can then find ways of solving the problems that occur. This leads to the elimination of problems instead of accepting the failure within the process.



Best, M & Neuhauser, D. (2006). Walter A Shewhart, 1924, and the Hawthorne factory. Quality and safety in health care, 15(2), 142-143

Biswas, P. (2015). Statistical process control using control chart. Retrieved from

Westcott, T. R., & Duffy, L. G. (2014). The certified quality improvement associate handbook, 3 ed. Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press


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