History of Quality Circle: Father of Q. Control, Structure, Tools

This article provides you with an insight into the History of Quality Circle and its structure, tools, and techniques involved in the process.

► What is a Quality Control / Quality Circle?

A quality circle is defined as a small group of people engaged in similar work who meet voluntarily on regular basis under the leadership of their supervisors to identify and discuss their work problems, analyze the causes thereof and recommend the solutions to superiors, and implement the solutions themselves.

Definition of Quality Circle

“A quality circle is a group of employees usually from seven to ten from the same unit who voluntarily meet together regularly, usually for one hour a week to identify, analyze and make recommendations about quality problems and other production problems in their area.” – Wendell L. French

► History of Quality Circle (QC)

The concept of the quality circle was pioneered by the Japanese after the second world war.

Dr. Edward Deming from the USA an eminent expert on Statistical Quality Control Techniques of the United States and Dr. Juran during 1954 and 1955 to Japan for delivery of a lecture on quality management.

The Japanese transformed the teaching of these experts into a new concept “Quality Circle”. Quality circles were thus conceived in Japan by 1961 under the leadership of Dr.

Kaoru Ishikawa, then an engineering Professor at the Japanese prestigious Tokyo University. Thus the first quality circle was registered with JUSE in May 1962

Japanese nomenclature: Quality Control Circles (QCC), generally now known as Quality Circles (QC) or some call it Small Group Activity (SGA).

Historical Facts about Quality Circle

  • 1962: First QC Circle was registered with QC Circle Head Quarters in Japan.
  • 1974: Lockheed Company, USA started the Quality Circle movement.
  • 1977: International Association of Quality Circles (IACC) was formed in the USA.
  • 1980: BHEL, Hyderabad first in India to start Quality Circles.
  • 1982: Quality Circle Forum of India (QCFI) was founded.

There are various forms and styles of participative management. One of them which is widely applied and practiced is ‘Quality circles’.

The ‘quality circle’ concept first originated in the USA and was very successfully applied in Japan afterward.

► Process of Quality Circle

There are many important steps in the process of the quality circle.

  1. Create awareness about QC
  2. Provide Initial training
  3. Constitution of QC
  4. Defining the Problem
  5. Data Analysis on Root Cause
  6. Developing a Solution
  7. Presentation and Approval of Suggestions
  8. Implementation of suggestion
  9. Follow–up or Review

The following steps of quality control are explained one by one given below.

1. Create awareness about QC

This is the responsibility of organizations to create awareness about the importance of quality circles and try to successfully convince employees about the utility of quality circles so that employees would not oppose the formation of QC in the organization.

It is important to understand the implications of QC for workers because participation in QC is voluntary for employees.

2. Provide Initial training

For ensuring effective and smooth operation of the quality circle in the organization. It is the duty of the organization to give basic and initial training to quality circle members.

3. Constitution of QC

After getting training, the organization assigns roles and responsibilities to various members as per their skills, knowledge, experience, personality, and qualities. QCs consist of a steering committee, facilitator, leader, facilitators, and coordinating agency members and non-members.

4. Defining the Problem

It is the duty of quality circle members is to define or identify the problem that impacts the organization’s functioning.

5. Data Analysis on Root Cause

After identifying the problem, members collect past and present organization data from various records and sources and after getting data members try to analyze data so that they can find the root cause of the problem.

6. Developing a Solution

Once the QC is formed then they turn to problem-solving. Methods used for solving the problems are not only brainstorming but also technologically empowering tools are used.

QC put forward various suggestions after analyzing the problem and final decisions are made through consensus.

7. Presentation and Approval of Suggestions

When the QC members get ready to show their solution to a problem, they present it before the management and discuss it with them. But management has total control over the final decision of whether to implement of recommendation or not.

It strengthens the communication between management and workers and demonstrates workers’ participation through QC members in decision-making.

8. Implementation

If management provides it consensus on a suggestion or solution, then relevant groups may be assigned for the implementation of the suggestion.

9. Follow–up or Review

The last per not least step of the quality circle process is to regularly review of solutions suggested by quality circle members.

► Structure of Quality Circle

The elements and Structure of the Quality Circle or Quality Control is as follows.

  1. Members
  2. Leader
  3. Facilitator
  4. Steering Committee
  5. Top Management
  6. Coordinating Agency

1. Members

Members are considered a basic but crucial element of the quality circle. Basically, membership in a quality circle is voluntary in nature and the organization ensures that all members should be from the same department or doing similar work because they would be familiar with the problems and they could make a significant contribution to analyzing and solving the problems so identified.

The key role and responsibilities of the quality circle are to participate in selecting problems, brainstorming, decision-making, and solving the problems.

2. Leader

A leader is chosen by circle members from the group and mainly supervisor is designated to perform a leadership role in this quality circle. The role of a leader in a circle provides strength to the circle by motivating and guiding the members.

The leader is responsible for deciding the agenda for weekly meetings and it also plays a lead roll-on presentation to top management.

3. Facilitator

The facilitator is not only responsible for supervising, coordinating, and conducting quality circle activities but is also responsible for other departments.

A facilitator is usually nominated by the management who is in charge of a section or department and has knowledge of the company’s overall operations.

The role and responsibility of the facilitator are to be a guide, coach, coordinator, teacher, communicator, and motivator.

4. Steering Committee

This is a very important committee and it is responsible for setting goals and objectives for the quality circle. This committee mainly consists of all major departmental heads and is headed by the Chief Executive of the Unit or plant.

This steering committee helps in to bridge the gap between top management and the QCC members and it also takes responsibility for QCC-related training.

5. Top Management

Top management is considered an apex body in the quality circle structure, which oversees and monitors the functioning of the quality circle and acts as an advisory body.

The support, faith, and commitment from top management are quite essential for the successful operation of the quality circle and it is the power of management to provide rewards or recognition to quality circle members for the work.

6. Coordinating Agency

The coordinating agency is responsible for preparing the plan and getting the sanction for the budget to meet the expenses of quality circle activities.

Tools and Techniques of Quality Circle

The most common QC tools and techniques used in QC Circle projects to analyze the problem, and discover the root causes, and the tools and techniques used in the quality circle are-

  • Check Sheet
  • Fishbone Diagram or Cause and effect diagram
  • Control Chart
  • Histogram or Frequency distribution chart
  • Stratification of Data
  • Scatter Diagram
  • Poka Yoke and Kaizen Techniques.