A Walk Down Memory Lane or “Look Honey, Our Little Quality Management System has Grown Up” – Part 1

During the Second World War, accidental detonations were frequent in Britain’s munitions plants. The Ministry of Defense solved this problem by placing inspectors in the factories to ensure procedures were being followed.

The need for consistency was also noted on the battlefield.  American and British soldiers were unable to exchange ammunition because each country had its own standards. To correct this, the British Ministry documented a guideline standardizing military equipment manufacturing which was gradually followed by the allies.

A number of people recruited by the US War Department came from Western Electric* notably, Joseph Juran, Harold Dodge and Walter Shewhart, as well as a colleague of Shewhart from the Department of Agriculture, W. Edwards Deming (see American Quality Gurus.)  They brought with them inspection sampling methods, control charts and other statistical tools.

These methods were developed further during the war and some became military standards, especially inspection sampling tables, MIL-STD-l05 and MIL-STD-414. (These are now known as ANSl / ASQ Z1.4 and Z1.9 respectively.) Today, however, Zero-Defect C=0 sample plans are preferred by many organizations.  ANSI is the American National Standards Institute our counterpart to BSI the British Standards Institute.

Use of this new statistical quality control (SQC) required large numbers of engineers and others to be trained.  Some of these people formed local groups to study and share experiences outside of work.  In 1946 most of these small groups merged to create the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC) as a formal professional society.  ASQC eventually dropped the ‘control’ and became just ASQ.

At some point SQC practices were documented as a military specification, MIL-Q-5923, General Quality Control Requirements.

When the American military began developing nuclear submarines in the 1950s, the vacuum tanks that held nuclear reactors were being delivered late (years late) and, in many cases, out of specification.  In 1959, the US Navy published Mil-Q-9858 as a replacement for the earlier specification.

Other important documents followed over the next few years:

October 1960 MIL-H-110 (Interim), Quality Control Reliability Handbook was published.  This was later replaced by MIL-HDBK-50, Evaluation of a contractor’s Quality Program in April 1965; this is still in force.

February 1962  MlL-C-45662, Calibration System Requirements was issued.  This was replaced by MIL-STD-45662 in 1980.  The final revision (MIL-STD45662A) was canceled in 1995 and replaced by ANSI / NCSL Z54O-1-1994 and ISO 10012-1-1992.

June 1963 MIL-Q-21549B, Product Quality Program Requirements for Fleet Ballistic Missile Weapon System Contractors was published.   The original version was probably introduced in 1961.   This standard has since been canceled.

December 1963 The Department of Defense reissued Mil-Q-9858 as Mil-Q-9858A and made it a requirement for all Department of Defense (DoD) purchase


The reason MIL-Q-9858 was so significant is that it was the first standard to include most of the elements of a modern quality management system.  Today the current 150 quality management system standards can be traced to roots in quality practices developed by the US War Department during World War II.

After World War II, the United States started aiding Germany and Japan in rebuilding their devastated economies. As part of the rebuilding effort in Japan, a few people were invited to teach the new SQC methods and management methods to Japanese engineers and managers.  The best known were Deming and Juran.  The Japanese took the lessons to heart and incorporated the new lessons into their industrial culture from the top down.  The teaching of Deming was so highly regarded that the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) established an annual quality award named in honor of him: the Deming Prize.

It was now apparent that not only the military needed quality management standards. There was a need for industry and manufacturing to have a similar system.

This resulted in British Standards Institute (BSI) releasing BS 5179, Guidelines for Quality Assurance, in 1974.  It was short-lived, however, because BS 5750 was published in 1979. The new standard issued requirements that were believed to be more useful than BS 5179’s recommendations; a common contractual document that could be third party assessed, putting the responsibility for proving compliance firmly on the supplier.   This standard was the foundation of ISO 9000 and the ISO 9000 certification process we have today.

*Remember Western Electric and the ‘Gurus’ who came from there, as they will be mentioned later in this blog series.

A Walk Down Memory Lane will continue in Part 2.

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