May 12th, 2012 Quality Circles
The concept behind quality circles is widely believed to have been developed in Japan in 1962 by Kaoru Ishikawa as a method to improve quality, though it is also argued that the practice started with the United States Army soon after 1945, whilst restoring the war torn nation, and the Japanese adopted and adapted the concept and its application.
A quality circle is a volunteer group of employees from the same work area who meet together to discuss workplace improvement. The circle is empowered to promote and bring quality improvements through to fruition. Though quality circles are not the silver bullet solution for quality improvement, with the right top end management commitment, resources, and organisation, they can support continuous quality improvement at shop floor level.
Because of the social focus of a Quality Circle group, they can not only improve the performance or an organisation, but also motivate and enrich the work lives of fellow employees. A typical Quality Circle group will display a good approach to:
- Analysing the context of a problems and its situation
- Define exactly what the problem is and the relationship between its component parts
- Identify and verify that the causes are indeed causes, ensuring that solutions address the real problem
- Define, quantify and measure the impact of a given problem
- Understand the quality objectives
- Create a solution to a given problem
Quality Circle groups generally address issues such as improving safety, improving product design, and improving manufacturing process. Because Quality Circle groups remain intact from project to project they have the advantage of consistency, though they retain the option to call in expertise or request training when needed.
Techniques used by a Quality Circle group will usually consist of process capability flow charts, lot sampling, brainstorming, cause and effect analysis, reverse engineering, value analysis, and pareto analysis.
Japanese Quality Circles demonstrated the effectiveness of worker teams in identifying and solving process problems in their own work areas. However the more serious quality problems from non-manufacturing organisations often arise in activities that span more than one department or function.
A Quality Circle
A Quality Circle is a volunteer group composed of workers (or even students) who meet to discuss workplace improvement, and make presentations to management with their ideas, especially relating to quality of output in order to improve the performance of the organization, and motivate and enrich the work of employees. Typical topics are improving occupational safety and health, improving product design, and improvement in manufacturing process.
The ideal size of a quality circle is from eight to ten members.
Quality circles have the advantage of continuity; the circle remains intact from project to project. (For a comparison to Quality Improvement Teams see Juran's Quality by Design.
Quality circles were first established in Japan in 1962, and Kaoru Ishikawa has been credited with their creation. The movement in Japan was coordinated by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE).
The use of quality circles then spread beyond Japan. Quality circles have been implemented even in educational sectors in India and QCFI (Quality Circle Forum of India) is promoting such activities.
There are different quality circle tools, namely:
The Ishikawa diagram – which shows hierarchies of causes contributing to a problem
The Pareto Chart – which analyses different causes by frequency to illustrate the vital cause
The PDCA-Deming wheel – Plan, Do, Check, Act, as described by W. Edwards Deming