Quality Control Circles are one of the tools of the Toyota production system and are among the Japanese methods most commonly used in the world. Quality control circles are an easy and wonderful method, as their results are many, and their application does not require huge investments and does not require much effort. I had the opportunity to participate in the application of quality control workshops in an Arab company in the nineties, and the experience was fruitful and enjoyable. Therefore, I would like to present, in this article and the following, a definition of these episodes, how they work, and the results they lead to.
What are QCC rings?
A quality control circle is a team of workers voluntarily formed to solve a problem related to quality. This is the basic concept, although the matter was expanded to include problems of quality and others. What is the meaning of this? For example, a worker or supervisor of workers notices that there are frequent and many defects in the product, and he thinks of solving the problem, so he suggests that some colleagues work with him to solve the problem, so a team consists of a few workers, and one of them takes over the leadership of the team. The team works for weeks or months – in addition to the basic work – to study the problem, propose solutions, implement solutions, and study the results. Every year, six months or less, a meeting or conference is held to present what the quality control workshops have done. This is the idea, and as you can see, it is not a complicated matter. Rather, it may seem self-evident, but in fact, there is a scarcity of its implementation in the Arab world.
Quality control circles originated in Japan in the year 1962 AD, and its origin is attributed to Kaoru Ishikawa, and it has led to great results, which made international companies try to apply the same method. The first quality control episode was recorded in May 1962 at the Japan Telephone and Telegraph Company. The first conference of quality control workshops was held in May 1963 in Sendai, Japan. That conference was attended by 149 people and 22 cases of quality control workshops were presented. This was under the auspices of the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, which issued in 1961 AD the magazine “Quality Control for Chiefs of Staff”, which was designed so that it would be easy to understand for workers’ supervisors. In its first issue, this magazine called for the establishment of quality control circles. The number increased to 10,000 recorded episodes in 1967, then to 30,000 episodes in 1970 AD, then 100,000 episodes in 1979 AD. And there was a need to hold conferences at shorter intervals, and then the conferences were held at the workplace due to the large number of circles that were established. In 1979, the number of conferences held up to that time had reached 800. This gives us an idea of how these circles grow in Japan on a large scale. Quality control circles have developed. In the beginning, the supervisor of the workers had the main role in the work of these circles, but with the passage of time and the workers’ acquisition of the skill of analyzing problems and leading such circles, there are many circles and the workers have a role Larger. With the passage of time, he began to form circles that bring together workers in two different departments in order to solve a common problem. The topics of these workshops became more extensive to include improving the work environment, reducing costs, solving production problems, developing design, and others. Quality control workshops arose within production sites, i.e. inside factories, but with time it began to spread to other places such as warehouses, sales, and administrative departments. It has spread in many countries, so that the Japanese Customers and Engineers Union mentions that 70 countries have so far tried to implement quality control rings in some of their factories.
Results of quality control sessions
In his book, General Principles of Quality Control Circles, Ishikawa mentions that the basic idea of quality control circles is: 1- Contributing to the improvement and development of the facility 2- Respecting people and establishing a workplace in which joy and happiness are common 3- Highlighting human capabilities to the maximum extent, which ultimately leads to Unleashing tremendous capabilities In fact, the reality has proven that more than these goals have been achieved in Japanese companies, and my personal experience in Egypt makes me not surprised by the results mentioned by Ishikawa and the writers and researchers after him. Quality control circles contribute to solving many problems at almost no cost
Explosion of the mental energies of workers. These energies are huge energies that come with unexpected solutions. The workers, even if their academic education is modest, they have intelligence, experience, and knowledge of the workplace, and this qualifies them to come up with solutions to problems and improve efficiency and quality. Quality control rings
It makes the worker feel that he is a human being, as he participates in it voluntarily, and he works in it to study and solve a problem, as he is not just a recipient of orders, but he is a human being who can think. Quality control circles are a great way to motivate. When a team can solve a problem and present it at a quality conference, all team members feel appreciated and proud of what they have done. Quality control circles are
A very powerful way to create human bonds between workers. Each circle creates bonds between the members of the circle, and the circles that bring together individuals from different departments and sectors create other bonds. And working in quality control circles makes everyone try to employ their skills for the specific goal of the circle and is happy to share everyone with their skills because this will return to the circle with success. Quality control circles are a way to activate team spirit. Quality control circles are
A great way to create a learning organization, it motivates workers to learn problem-study techniques, sharpens their brains, and learns how to read drawings and catalogs. Quality control circles make workers search for new ideas and try to implement them. Quality control circles make the worker learn the skills of presenting results in a logical and organized manner. It is also a means to develop the leadership capabilities of the workers. Quality control circles are
A means to strengthen the bonds between workers and their superiors who hold university degrees, including engineers and others. Why? Because the quality control circle will need occasional advice or assistance from higher levels. In the beginning, analysis tools will be required
For problems and data collection, and during work, the circle may need high-level technical advice about the feasibility of some solutions, then after that the circle may need the support of higher levels to implement the solution, and in the end the circle needs someone to help it present the results. All this helps to create a strong relationship between engineers and workers, between doctors and nurses, and so on. When the engineer assists the workers in their work that ultimately leads to achieving results and obtaining appreciation, the relationship is one of cooperation and gratitude. At the same time, the engineer or manager is happy with the ideas and solutions offered by the workers, so he feels the value of these workers, and there is mutual respect. There is no doubt that
Quality control circles lead to solving many work problems in terms of quality, equipment and services, and lead to the development of work methods. By exploiting the creativity of workers, we come up with unexpected solutions. A worker who lives in the same workplace for eight hours a day can come up with ideas that a manager or university professor won’t. I have seen this in reality when some of these circles come up with ideas that have a significant impact on the level of performance. Quality control circles are an easy method with a large and multiple impact, so why deprive ourselves of these benefits? Why not encourage workers to think and participate in work development and problem solving? Why don’t we support them in that and provide them with the help they need?
How do quality control circles work?
QCC troubleshooting tools:
The quality control loops mainly use the simple tools commonly used in Japan and in the Toyota production system such as:
1- Fishbone Diagram or Ishikawa Diagram The same person who invented the idea of quality control rings.
2- Pareto Chart, which is a chart used to identify the most influential causes of the problem.
3- Histograms: These are charts that show the frequency distribution of a variable. The famous example of this is the chart that shows the percentages of students who obtained different scores in the test.
4- Scatter Diagram: These are the graphs that show the change of a variable with time or with another variable, such as the change in the degree of vibrations over several days or weeks, or the change of vibrations with the change of load on the stomach.
5- Brainstorming: It is a method used to search for all possible solutions or reasons with a very strong participation of the attendees.
6- Check List: It is a list used to follow up on a process and to check specific things each time
7- Control Chart: It is a graphic signature of a variable with specifying an upper value that this variable should not exceed, so that it appears by looking at whether things are going as they should or not. This scheme is one of the quality control tools
8. Flow Chart: These are charts that help track the steps of the processes and have been previously explained here. Other tools may be used, especially those commonly used in the Toyota Production System.
The general culture required for quality control workshops
As you know, quality control rings originated in Japan but have been applied in many other countries. The different cultures of the country did not prevent its application, but there are basics that must be available, and these basics are part of the culture of the Toyota production system. These basics are: 1- Respecting workers and treating them as human beings with great capabilities and needs that go beyond material aspects such as creativity, achievement and appreciation. It is not possible for the workshops to operate without the availability of engineering drawings, operating data, equipment catalogs and other basic information, otherwise the workshops will become a mere guesswork and unfounded solutions. 3- Providing the necessary training and means of self-development. Quality control circles require the use of analytical tools that may not be known to most workers, and therefore they must be trained on them, as well as trained to manage quality control circles. It is important that self-development tools be available, such as providing a dictionary of technical terms or some tables and basic information. 4- Management support for quality control sessions. If the administration does not believe in the idea, it will not allow the implementation of any idea, nor will it provide technical support to the workers, nor will it appreciate their efforts. The administration must support the idea of quality control workshops and their belief in their value. 5- Availability of simple tools necessary for conducting quality control workshops, such as the availability of a blackboard, a place for holding meetings, some writing tools, and a way to photocopy documents. These tools are not only required for tuning rings but may already be available for everyday use on the job. A luxurious place for holding meetings is not required, but simply providing some chairs, a table and a small blackboard suffices. As I mentioned, these things may already be available. 6- A culture of deep thinking and searching for the root causes of problems, which is the method of the Toyota Production System. 7- A culture of respecting the opinions of others and listening to them with all seriousness.
Training required for employees
In order to start a quality control circle business you need to provide some initial training. This training may be carried out by some workers, including engineers or managers, and may be carried out by an external training body. The training topics include the following: 1- Methods of analyzing the problems mentioned at the beginning of the article 2- Method of managing discussions and relationships within the circle 3- Method of collecting data 4- How to present the results 5- Other topics that arise according to the development of the circles and their entry into new areas
Nature of quality control seminars conference
This conference is the opportunity to present the results of the quality control seminars and to assess the participants. These conferences may be held on a regional basis, ie at the level of several companies in a region, or at the level of a single institution. In the case of the Arab world, holding a regional conference may not make sense at the present time due to the scarcity of companies
applicable to this system. The more the institutions’ leadership is interested in attending this conference, the more its value increases. When the workers present their work to the chairman of the board of directors, they feel the value of what they are doing and the appreciation of the entire institution for him. Some institutions may award prizes such as the gold and silver awards, and so on, and there may be some material rewards for that. In the conference, each session presents its results in the form of panels (or presentations) that show the topic of the session, then the way of thinking and analyzing the problem, then the proposed solutions and comparing them, then how to implement them, then the results. There is an emphasis on showing how to use simple methods of quality control in studying and solving the problem. And there is an appreciation for the workshops that bring together workers from different departments or departments.
How the rings work:
1- The number of participants in each episode ranges from two to ten, usually between five and seven. The small number of participants makes work limited and the large number of participants makes coordinating work and holding meetings difficult. A leader is chosen for each episode, who organizes and leads the team. The leader is usually of the highest rank, if any, i.e. he is the supervisor of the workers or the assistant to the supervisor of the workers
2- The problem to be solved is chosen so that it is a realistic problem and the members of the circle have the ability to solve it
3- Quality control circles are a place for creativity. The team leader should provide an opportunity for each participant to clarify his opinion and come up with suggestions and ideas, even if they are unfamiliar.
4- The problem-solving approach should be adhered to, which starts with identifying the problem, then studying the possible causes based on data and measurements, then proposing solutions, choosing the best solution or solutions, then planning for implementation, then following up on the results and modifying the solution if necessary.
5- The team spirit should dominate the circle. 6- Meetings are held to suit the members of the circle. These meetings may be periodic or non-periodic, depending on the development of work. However, care should be taken not to waste time without doing real work, especially at the beginning of the circle. Therefore, the periodic meeting every week or two makes the members feel the importance of making progress.
7- The work is continued until the required results are reached, and this may include trying some solutions and studying their impact, and this may take months. This is just a presentation of a wonderful method for solving problems and motivating workers. The truth about this method is discovered when you apply it, create a quality control loop, and see the difficulties and successes for yourself.