The Great Pyramid and its quality secrets

Shady El Safty

Lessons learned from the Pharaohs

According to some researchers, the concept of quality management was invented in the United States in the 1940s and developed more intensively in Japan starting in 1981. Later, Quality management was adopted by leading companies in Europe starting in 1988 and further developed for Europe.

However, the origins of quality management can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient world – in other words, back to the cradle of our civilization. Egyptian Monuments, including the Pyramids, obelisks, grand tombs, etc., are an evidence of strong quality management system that had been developed by Pharaohs. The Pharaohs used construction methods and systems that remain a mystery to this day. They are the origins of superlative quality management.

The Great Pyramid of Egypt (also known as pyramid of Khufu) is an evident of great quality management system invented by pharaohs. The Great Pyramid is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one that remain.It was the tallest man made structure in the world for 3,800 years which is not only a testament to its durability but to its mark as one of the most remarkable structures built.

Evidence of early quality management?

Originally, The Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a symbol of Egypt’s wealth and power. Now, the pyramids are a symbol of Egypt and its rich history and culture.

Being an Egyptian and worked in quality function in different countries, over the years, I have often been asked by people about the Great Pyramid, the quality secrets of Pharaohs, and the lessons learned.

In Ancient Egypt, the use of the ‘Royal Cubit’ to measure the length of the marble blocks to build the pyramids, was compulsory by law. The Royal Cubit is now believed to be established about 5,000 years ago. It was the length of the forearm of the ruling Pharaoh from his bent elbow to the top of his extended middle finger. It was carved from a block of black granite ‘to endure for all time. This was literally a "dissemination of a unit" by specially appointed workers. The expression is still used today.As a result of the view on the importance of reproducible "standardized" and "traceable" measurement results, the pyramids are still standing upright after more than 4,000 years.

Several lessons must be learned from history of this man-made marveled "Great Pyramid of Egypt"

Lesson #1 - Plan:

The pharaohs spend much effort and work in the Plan & Design phase taking into consideration reliability and durability of the Great Pyramid. They designed the cornerstone foundations of the pyramid using ball and socket construction capable of dealing with heat expansion and earthquakes. In addition, they designedthe "Great Pyramid" with a very unique feature which is the concavity of the core that makes the monument an eight-sided figure, rather than four-sided like every other pyramid. The great advantages of this concave face on a structure is to contain extremely high internal pressures and give a curved form to the nucleus in order to prevent the faces from sliding.

Lesson #2 - Do:

The Royal Architect and the foreman of the pyramid’s construction site was responsible for realizing the unit of length in wooden ‘cubit sticks’, maintaining them and transferring them to the workers. Together with ‘standards’ to verify ‘right-angles’, they enabled piling up the huge blocks on top of each other whilst preventing these blocks from sliding away under the enormous pressure of the great mass of the pyramid itself.

Lesson # 3 - Check:

It was compulsory to bring these standard cubit sticks to the Royal Cubit Master and compare them to this ‘metrological reference’ at each full moon.

Lesson #4 - Act:

Failure to bring these cubit sticks to check them at each full moon was punishable by death.The heavy penalty for not making the length measurement results ‘traceable’ to a common reference and therefore ‘comparable’ amongst themselves was aimed at preventing errors in construction, which lead to higher cost.

While I wouldn’t advocate a death sentence for a quality infraction – it shows how serious the Egyptians were about quality. And the fact that pyramids are still standing to this day shows that the principles worked!