What is Statistical Engineering?

A quick search with Google will provide a bewildering array of definitions, most of them overwrought with adjectives and sentences crying for an editor.


My personal (and admittedly prejudiced) belief is the lack of a succinct definition is a consequence of the deep, and long-standing schism between the Engineering and Statistical communities.

This is a lamentable situation and I am pleased to report that our Statistical brethren are working mightily to repair the rift. A recent, (August, 2017) issue of The American Statistician addresses the problem with an article by Roger Hoerl and Ronald Snee, “Statistical Engineering: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?” *

So, What is Statistical Engineering? If Science emphasizes developing new fundamental knowledge, and Engineering is using this knowledge to benefit Mankind, then …

Statistical Engineering applies statistical methods developed over the past 100 years to improve the practice of Engineering as applied science.

The benefits of using Statistics in Engineering are manifold: better understanding and control of uncertainty, reduced unwanted variability in manufacturing, better understanding of the influences of proximity in time and space, and often: reduced costs.

* I can’t resist pointing out that the Statistical Engineering website is nearly 20 years old and we have been using statistics in our practice of engineering for all of our 40-plus years as a licensed Professional Engineer.