Shien-Ming Wu, the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing Technology, died of complications from heart surgery on Oct. 28 at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. He was 68 years old.
An internationally known researcher in the fields of manufacturing engineering and dynamic systems analysis, Wu created and defined the modern field of manufacturing automation.
“Like all his many friends at the U-M, Anne and I are deeply saddened by Sam Wu’s death,” said President James J. Duderstadt. “I have known Sam for many years, and have always been proud that we were able to attract him to Michigan.
“His teaching, his research, his mentorship of hundreds of students, and his work with industry have added immensely to the University. He was my colleague and my friend. All of us deeply mourn his loss and we will all miss him.”
Wu was the first researcher to introduce advanced statistical techniques to manufacturing research. Called the Dynamic Data System, Wu’s methodology provides a mathematical description of complex manufacturing processes based on on-line system operational data that can be used for system diagnostics and quality control.
The Dynamic Data System is the basis for quality improvement programs implemented by manufacturing firms worldwide, including General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. Wu was a consultant to all three automotive firms on issues related to overall manufacturing quality improvement, precision measurement and calibration techniques, and innovative machine tool methodologies.
“Prof. Wu was a courageous leader who firmly established the University of Michigan’s credibility with industry as a valued partner in continuously improving manufacturing capability,” said Dwight Carlson, president and CEO of Perceptron Inc. in Farmington Hills.
Wu joined the U-M in 1987 as a professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics and as the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing Technology. He also was the director of the National Science Foundation’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Center at U-M.
Prior to joining the U-M, he was a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he taught for 30 years.
During his academic career, Wu trained 113 Ph.D. students in manufacturing engineering, many from China. Almost one-quarter of the current active U.S. faculty in manufacturing engineering studied under Wu or under one of his students.
Wu received the U-M Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in October.
In December 1991, he received the Chiang Technology Achievement Award from the Chiang Industrial Charity Foundation Ltd.
in Hong Kong. This award included a $100,000 cash prize, which Wu donated to the College of Engineering to establish a fund to support manufacturing engineering students and their research.
He was the recipient of numerous other awards, including the Society of Manufacturing Engineers National Education Award (1974), the University of Wisconsin AMOCO Distinguished Teaching Award (1977) and the Fulbright Distinguished Professorship in the U.S.S.R. (1988).
Wu was born on Oct. 28, 1924, in Chekiang, China. He received a B.S. degree in financial administration from Chiao-Tung University in Shanghai in 1945. Wu worked for the Nanking-Shanghai & Taiwan Railroads in China for nine years before coming to the United States.
He received an M.B.A. in transportation from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (1956), and B.S. (1958) and Ph.D. degrees (1962) in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Wu was an industrial consultant to more than 30 U.S. manufacturing firms. He published nearly 300 articles in scientific and engineering journals related to his research interests in manufacturing engineering, time series and system analysis, and engineering statistics.
Wu was a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and a member of Academia Sinica and Sigma Xi.
He is survived by his wife, Daisy Te-Hsien Tsui Wu of Ann Arbor; a daughter and son-in-law, Elaine and John Stephenson of Ann Arbor; and two sisters, Shan-Ying and Chan-Zhen. He was preceded in death by his son, Benjamin, who died in 1987.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the “S.M. Wu Memorial Fund,” Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, U-M, 2250 G.G. Brown, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2125.