In today’s fast competitive world industries face stiff competition to meet consumer demands in the drastically changing market. In addition, consumer demands have become more sophisticated and diversified. To meet the ever-changing market demand and keep the businesses afloat – companies need something out of the box to come on top in terms of process optimization and workers’ efficiency by investing a minimum amount in it and most importantly reducing cost. QC Circle or quality control circles is the right tool to achieve all these requirements.
What is QC Circle?
A QCC is a voluntary gathering of a group comprising the members of Six to seven in the same or similar work area who meet regularly to identify, analyze and solve work-related problems by integrating qualitative and quantitative research methods. This group generates feasible, cost-effective solutions but brings effective Change.
QC Circle follows a bottom-up approach. Usually, industries follow top to bottom approach where managers and top bosses pass down instructions to the production levels. But this bottom-up approach of QC Circles bring out innovative solutions from the bottom level.
Employees engaged in QC circles tend to be more positive towards problem-solving. The continuous brainstorming to find out problems, root cause analysis to the issues, and ways to solve them sharpen the analytical skill of the members. This helps them in their work-life and prepares them to take challenges in every aspect of life. Quality circles are usually free to select any topic they wish. Ultimately, these new ideas invent unorthodox but effective solutions to solve conventional problems, reduce cost, save time as well as energy and optimize processes – tremendously helping businesses to create new values from the bottom and impacting directly the organization.
The objective is to improve quality, productivity and the total performance of the organization and also to enrich the quality of work life of employees.
History of quality circles in the world
The quality circles owe their origin to Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese Scientist, who conceptualized and implemented quality circles for improving productivity in Japan. The Japanese realized that the involvement of their employees at the gross roots level would give the necessary boost to achieve better quality standards. A massive training program was organized for workers, foremen and supervisors, to improve the quality of work as well as to improve the productivity of the organization.
The Second World War devastated all industries and Japanese had to build up their economy from the scratch. ‘Total Quality’ becomes more important for the success of any organization rather than quality during the stage of only manufacture. Thus the concept of quality circles was evolved and adopted in Japan in the early 1960s as a result of compulsion of circumstances at that time.
The first circles started at the Nippon Wireless and Telegraph Company; the idea then spread to more than 35 other companies in the first year.
Much of the success of the Japanese industry can be traced to the efforts of Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE).
Pioneered by Japanese.
- Japanese nomenclature: Quality Control Circles (QCC), generally now known as Quality Circles (QC) or some call it as Small Group Activity (SGA).
- 1962: First QC Circle was registered with QC Circle Head Quarters in Japan.
- 1974: Lockheed Company, USA started Quality Circle movement.
- 1977: International Association of Quality Circles (IACC) was formed in USA.
- 1980: BHEL, Hyderabad first in India to start Quality Circles.
- 1982: Quality Circle Forum of India (QCFI) was founded.
- 1996: Bangladesh Society for Total Quality Management (BSTQM) established in Bangladesh.
- At present 13 country of the world are practicing effective QC Circle in their countries
Quality circle tools
Quality circles have 7 basic quality tools for process improvement. It was first emphasized by Kaoru Ishikawa, a Professor of Engineering at Tokyo University and the father of ‘quality circles.’ The 7 basic quality tools for process improvements are:
- Cause-and-effect diagram (also called Ishikawa or fishbone diagrams): Identifies many possible causes for an effect or problem and sorts ideas into useful categories.
- Check sheet: A structured, prepared form for collecting and analyzing data; a generic tool that can be adapted for a wide variety of purposes.
- Control chart: Graph used to study how a process changes over time. Comparing current data to historical control limits leads to conclusions about whether the process variation is consistent (in control) or unpredictable (out of control, affected by special causes of variation).
- Histogram: The most commonly used graph for showing frequency distributions, or how often each different value in a set of data occurs.
- Pareto chart: A bar graph that shows which factors are more significant.
- Scatter diagram: Graphs pairs of numerical data, one variable on each axis, to look for a relationship.
- Stratification: A technique that separates data gathered from a variety of sources so that patterns can be seen (some lists replace stratification with flowcharts or run charts). Innovative approach
In 2020, Japan invented 7 more QC circle tools – bringing the total number of tools to 14.
QC circles in Bangladesh
Bangladesh Society for Total Quality Management (BSTQM) is a voluntary organization engaged in promoting Total Quality Management (TQM) in Bangladesh. The society was established on 04 May 1996. BSTQM emerged as a leading agency promoting Quality Management and culture in all sectors of the economy. It Organize different quality management related programs specially the convention of Quality control circle NAQC every year aiming to share innovative ideas and implemented projects of different organizations.
Bangladesh has been successfully implementing quality circles in various industries. Not surprisingly textile and apparel factories are leading in implementing quality circles. Leading companies like DBL, Urmi Group, Beximco etc. are implementing quality circles. The employees are engaging themselves to identify problems and working on probable solutions. For example, in a printing factory ran into trouble with one of its AOP machines. Engineers found out that a part has been decayed and needed replacement. Which was not easy, as the part needs to be imported. Remarkably, the AOP machine had a QC Circle team. The team solved the problem with a piece of wood. Making the machine functional till the spare part arrived.
It is a great level of example, where a group of workers showed how an unorthodox solution can do the trick. There are more innovative ideas generated from these circles where it is practicing.
In Urmi Group, Inter Unit Convention on QC Circle has organized this year. Total 58 circle team from different business units participated in this convention. This kind of culture encourage people engagement and boost up the confidence among the team members.
Global QC Circle practice
The International convention of Quality Control Circle (ICQCC) was initially started as the “International Exchange of East Asia QC Circles” between Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, in 1976. The event became an official international convention in 1978, when the very first ICQCC was held in Tokyo, Japan. Since then, ICQCC has been held annually, by rotating host countries, among 13 Asian countries and regions. The prime objective of this convention is to further develop QC Circle activities in your own country by mutually benchmarking global movement and initiatives, especially among countries and regions in the Asian region.
QC Circle team leaders present their innovative solutions and process optimizations through presentations – where they give presentations in front of the whole company, nationally and globally –during the event International Convention on Quality Control Circles (ICQCC) annually. In the ICQCC convention, QC Circle teams from 13 countries exchange their activities and innovations, ideas and experiences among the countries for further development of the activities. International judges evaluate the outcomes of different teams and the best teams are recognized and acknowledged globally via the ICQCC convention.
Which creates leadership, thinking ownership, interpersonal skill and mindset. Thus, QC Circle revolutionizes the production of industries – creating skilled workers with leadership capabilities. Globally it has been seen that workers involved in QC Circles hold an ownership mentality and outperform regular workers. It increases worker engagement, confidence, negotiation skills and bonding among themselves.
Most importantly, QC Circles bridges the gap between the management and the production workers.
Within a short period, Bangladeshi companies have made some remarkable strides. For instance, in the last ICQCC convention 5, QC Circle teams from Urmi Group received Platinum recognition – the highest level at the international level.
In terms of intangible benefits, QC Circle creates effective team bonding. As QC Circle teams organize regular get-togethers among the team members. Which increases the bond and the thirst for better efficiency culture in the country. Making QC circles feel like a family of QC Circles in the country.
With the advent of the lack of efficiency in Bangladesh, the QC circle is getting more popular among industries day by day. After seeing our successes in the national conventions, other companies are sending their quarries and interest in forming a QC circle in their organizations.
How QC circle benefit the industry
QC Circle is an idea sharing platform that engages people for continuous development of the organization. It’s a bottom to top approach where employees feel valued and organizations get the best outcome from the expert opinion of the employees. Again the more will be the number of QC circles the more problems will be identified. Hence this problem identification will lead to get more skilled workers & improvement of work will be ensured.
From employee perspective, QC circle establishes teamwork and bonding among employees. Also it increases presentation skill for the QC Circle volunteers as they need to speak out about their problems & project to the management as well as in different conventions.
QC circles facilitate negotiation among the employees as thought process, communication, designations varies and create different solutions for one problem. It works as an innovation and idea generating platform for the employees.
Barriers to establish QC circle:
QC Circle need extensive nurturing from the top level. They need proper registration facilities to work effectively. Where Singapore has a separate ministry to represent QC Circle, our government still seems to be ignorant in this regard.
Though QC Circle volunteers provide valuable input, no financial benefit/reward is given to them. Also no recognition, thank you card, extra benefit are awarded to QCC volunteer in the organization.
There’s no platform, national/international competition, award on the basis of quality circle exists in our country. The Government acknowledgement from Bangladesh government can work as a motivation for the overall QCC activities.
Steps to be taken to remove the barriers:
Even after 60 years we failed to establish a QCC culture in our country. This indicates that we need to practice QC Circle in extensive level. In this aspect Bangladesh government needs to take initiatives to expand the work efficiency of BSTQM to spread the knowledge regarding QCC.
More of that organizations need dedicated team including senior management to make the QCC work effectively. Owners of different organizations need to encourage the bottom line employees to volunteer for QCC. They also need to invest in QC Circle.
Lastly employees need to realize/focus that the QC Circle is for their betterment rather than that of organization.