Six Sigma, Beer and Industrial Quality Control

Six Sigma, Beer and Industrial Quality Control

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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Six Sigma, Beer and Industrial Quality Control

Sometimes it’s not the ivory towers of academia or the executive suite offices that produce the great innovations in business.

Occasionally, it’s the mixture of determination and a desire to make something better.

Take beer, for example.

While wine makers relish the variety of vintages, each slightly different every year, beer brewers strive for consistency. The early pioneer of that consistency was Dublin, Ireland-based Guinness®, which in the early 20th century invested heavily in finding methods to ensure your current pint of Guinness tasted just as good as your last pint of Guinness.

That’s where William S. Gosset came in. Looking for ways to make better beer, he ended up devising breakthrough methodologies in quality control and laid the foundations for Six Sigma.

A Very Pleasant Chap

Gosset got his start at the Guinness brewery in 1899 after attending Oxford University and studying mathematics and natural science. The son of a colonel in the Royal Engineers, Gosset had been kept from following his father’s footsteps due to poor eyesight.

But fate had dealt him (and Guinness lovers) a winning hand. Rather than the Royal Engineers, he joined the Guinness brewery, where he would work the next 38 years.

While not recognized much today, his work made him very well-known among other statisticians of his time, all of whom had nothing but good things to say about him. Quality management engineer and statistician W. Edwards Deming called Gosset a “very humble and pleasing personality,” while fellow statistician Udny Yule referred to him as “a very pleasant chap.”

So what exactly did this pleasant chap do? He made better beer using methodologies we now associate with Six Sigma.

Student’s T-Test

Guinness executives tapped Gosset to work on methods to test the materials in the beer to ensure quality as well as testing the final product. Guinness wanted quality control because the business had exploded in popularity, reaching an output of almost one billion pints a year by 1914.

Gosset’s task proved difficult. Even with their dedication to research, Guinness could not afford to part with a great deal of barley or beer itself for testing. So the main roadblock involved small datasets, and Gosset knew it.

He set to work developing a method for measuring the accuracy of findings from smaller amounts of data. Guinness eventually sent Gosset for a year sabbatical at University College London, where he worked with the famed Karl Pearson (credited with establishing the field of mathematical statistics).

It was here that Gosset developed the t-test, which allows for the comparison of the mathematical averages of small sample sizes to make accurate estimates about a larger population as a whole (in this case, small sample sizes of barley, malt, hops or beer).

Because Guinness didn’t want competitors to know what they were up to, employees were not allowed to use their real names on scientific papers. So Gosset, when his paper was published in 1908, simply signed it: “Student.”

Quality Control

Gosset’s findings made such quality control analysis a mainstay of breweries. He also had provided the groundwork for variance analysis, hypothesis testing and made a big advancement in the area of scientific estimations. He’s probably one of the most influential scientists few people know about.

Much of his work also is fundamental to Six Sigma and industrial quality control. Deming, who pioneered much of the tenets of quality control and laid the foundations that led to Six Sigma, borrowed many of Gosset’s ideas.

So the pioneer of industrial quality control didn’t come from the halls of academia. He just wanted to make sure your beer always tasted good.

Next time you enjoy a Guinness – or put Six Sigma to use – you might want to raise a toast to gone-but-not-forgotten William S. Gosset.

The post Six Sigma, Beer and Industrial Quality Control appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

By: James LoPresti
Posted: July 28, 2017, 6:26 pm

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