Industrial engineer Douglas Montgomery named ASU Regents’ Professor
June 5, 2006
Make statistics your starting point and it can take you almost anywhere.
That’s what Arizona State University professor Douglas Montgomery has discovered in almost four decades as an industrial engineering teacher, researcher and consultant.
Montgomery, a faculty member of the university’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, has seen his work in industrial statistics used in areas varying from aerospace, transportation, hydrology, materials development and product design to professional sports and the winery business.
His expertise has taken him as a lecturer and instructor throughout much of the Americas, Europe, the Far East and parts of Africa.
Most recently, his achievements in the field have led Montgomery to be selected as one of the ASU Regents Professors. The appointment, one of the highest the university bestows on faculty, honors achievements in scholarship, research, creative endeavors and public service that have earned national or international distinction.
“Statistics is really a valuable part of solving many of the problems we face in engineering and all the physical sciences in general,” said Montgomery, who has been at ASU since 1988.
His research has involved seeking ways to design more effective experiments, improve quality-control and testing methods and apply statistical modeling to optimizing manufacturing, production and distribution systems.
It has been employed in an array of industries, including electronics and semiconductors, biotechnology and medical devices, and consumer products.
His work has drawn the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army and the Office of Naval Research, as well as private industry. Montgomery’s consulting clients have included such major companies as Intel, Procter and Gamble, Pfizer, Motorola, Dial Corporation, IBM, Boeing, and Dow Chemicals.
He has adapted his specialty to things outside the traditional scope of industrial engineering research.
Montgomery is a member United States Golf Association’s Technical Advisory Board. His testing methodologies have been used to help the association evaluate prototypes for new golf clubs and golf balls to see if they meet standards and conform to the stipulations adopted for professional competition.
An advanced knowledge of materials, manufacturing processes, aerodynamics and product design is necessary to comprehensively analyze the equipment, he said.
Montgomery also has delved into aspects of chemical engineering in a project to develop an efficient wine-making process for an Oregon winery.
The diverse ventures to which he has applied his expertise have kept him intrigued by his chosen field. But the most essential energizing factor for Montgomery is teaching.
“I still see teaching as my main job. It’s the way you keep yourself thinking. Responding to all the questions students come up with and having to communicate your ideas to students is always challenging,” he says.
Montgomery teaches graduate-level and Ph.D.-level courses he has developed on the use of statistics in engineering, including statistical and empirical model building, and strategies for conducting engineering experiments.
He has authored 10 textbooks that have appeared in 30 English editions and many foreign languages.
Montgomery has supervised 47 doctoral dissertations and more than 40 graduate theses projects and statistics projects.
“He is a tremendous scholar. Virtually everyone places him in the top three in his field,” says Gary Hogg, the former Industrial Engineering Department chair, who nominated Montgomery for the Regents appointment.
“His textbooks dominate the field. About 60 percent of the people in the world taking a course (in industrial statistics) are studying from one of his books,” says Hogg, now associate dean for facilities management for the Fulton School of Engineering.
“Doug loves to teach, and is the consummate classroom teacher. I’ve never seen better student evaluations, and he effectively handles classes of a hundred students. He’s such a strong researcher and has so much real-world experience that he can bring into his classes,” Hogg says.
Montgomery, who last year won an ASU Outstanding Graduate Mentor award, has earned almost every major honor in his engineering specialty, including the Shewhart Medal, which is “like the Noble Prize” for quality engineering and industrial statistics, Hogg says.
Montgomery typically publishes 10 to 15 research papers a year that are consistently notable for “a lot of really in-depth analysis and high potential for application,” Hogg says. “From my perspective, he’s the epitome of what a Regents Professor is supposed to be.”
Before coming to ASU, Montgomery was director of industrial engineering and a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle and professor of industrial systems engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
Montgomery said he doesn’t consider his ASU Regents Professor appointment as a strictly individual recognition.
“I look at this as more of a team award to be shared by the Department of Industrial Engineering,” he said. “What I’ve done in my career has been achieved through collaborations with a lot of other faculty members and colleagues.”