How can an organisation integrate a Quality Circle today? Learn about its importance below.
Introduced in the 1960s, Quality Circles have been the precursor to many modern methods of quality management popular today. This helpful technique benefits organisations in many industries, especially, manufacturing and services.
What is Quality Circle?
A quality circle consists of a group of employees with related roles who gather every week or so to solve problems related to quality, productivity, and safety. They often use the 7 QC Tools to know the causes of the problem, find a solution, and implement it after discussing it with supervisors.
The overall methodology used in a Quality Circle is a Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.
Who are Quality Circle Members?
Quality Circle members are front-line workers, but not limited to managers, supervisors and other related staff. The reason for such members to be in it is that they are more aware of the processes, given that they are in direct, everyday involvement.
It is important to note that this technique is not exactly for management purposes, but for aiding workers who know the processes well and are motivated to identify the actual challenges and implement solutions.
Popular Variations of Quality Circles
Today, there are various approaches to creating Quality Circles and are indirectly dependent on the types of management styles.
|Traditional Quality Circles
|Members, usually front-line workers, meet regularly every week to identify problems arising in safety, productivity, etc., and solve them
|Team-Based Quality Circles
|The members are selected based on the similarity of their work to discuss improvements on specific issues. The need for expertise in their roles is required here, as the problems are much more complex and need detailed analysis.
|Self-Directed Work Teams
|The team or the Quality Circle has the autonomy to make decisions for improvement without the need for supervisors.
|Continuous Quality Improvement Teams
|The focus here is on long-term improvements that help improve the quality on a broader level.
|Virtual Quality Circles
|Members here participate virtually, which is beneficial for organisations that offer remote work.
Brief History of Quality Circles
Back in the 1960s, the concept of Quality Circles originated in Japan as a means to quality and productivity improvement in manufacturing. Under this concept, a small group of workers with specific responsibilities would meet frequently to identify and solve issues that arise with their work.
Introduced by Japanese engineer, Dr Kaoru Ishikawa, the concept became a massive success in companies such as Sony and Toyota. By the 1970s, it spread to the United States and Europe. Quality Circles was a preferred method in the West until the 1990s, before concepts such as Total Quality Management and Six Sigma became more popular.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, Quality Circles are still used by many companies and organisations in different ways.
Today, Toyota uses Quality Circles as a strategy in quality management. TATA Steel uses it as a tool for continuous improvement. Other popular names include Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Sony.
How Quality Circle Programmes Should Be Integrated Today
Here are some proven methods.
Identifying the Right Team
The first factor to consider is whether the employees are motivated and willing to participate and can take more responsibilities by being in a Quality Circle. These members should also hold thorough knowledge of the processes in question.
Also, the collection of individuals should be a diverse one, as each can provide solutions or look at problems from varying perspectives. But it depends on the problems at hand. If the Quality Circle contains fewer members, the complexity of the problem can be analysed in detail without any miscommunication. On the other hand, when the problem requires various perspectives, there should be more members.
Training and Educating Employees
Employees who will be part of the Quality Circles program need to be trained with quality improvement tools such as Pareto charts, Statistical Process Control, etc. Such members also need training in communication to showcase their findings to the group and their supervisors.
Setting Goals and Measuring Success
To ensure that the Quality Circle program is effective, the members should identify specific goals that relate majorly with process quality, process productivity, etc. Goals must be prioritised based on the impact they make overall.
Prioritisation can be done through Cost Benefit Analysis, Pareto Analysis, etc., are some ways to do so, depending on the resources available.
Once goals are prioritised, a plan needs to be developed with tasks, milestones, and timelines. Following the creation of a plan, the progress must be measured against performance metrics. Everyone, including the members of the Quality Circle and the supervisors, needs to be informed about the progress as well.
Awareness of Common Challenges in Quality Circles
To implement a Quality Circle programme in an organisation, the following are the common challenges.
- Some employees may resist the idea of a Quality Circle
- Lack of leadership can be detrimental
- Lack of resources including employee skills, training, etc.
Knowing these roadblocks is crucial. And they can be easily avoided by implementing the first three steps discussed above.
Key Benefits of Implementing a Quality Circle Programme
Find the top reasons why an organisation can benefit with a Quality Circle.
|The Quality Circle can identify problems at the source and solve them instantly
|Fosters Employee Engagement
|Employees have the opportunity to take on problem-solving tasks and get rewarded
|Wasteful utilisation of resources are eliminated by identifying and discussing them during regular meetups
|When there are no defects in the processes, the customer will no problems using the product and recommending it to others, leading to increased market share
You may gather some more insights on employee productivity by reading about Organisational Behaviour.
How is Quality Circle Different from Other Methodologies?
When you compare Quality Circles from Six Sigma, there are quite a few differences. One is that Quality Circle is more employee-driven, while Six Sigma is more bent towards data. The latter is also used for improving the overall performance of the organisation while a Quality Circle focuses on improving specific process.
There are no actual certifications required in becoming a member of a Quality Circle, except the in-depth knowledge of the specific processes. For the latter, one needs to be certified by taking Six Sigma courses.
Another continuous improvement method like Six Sigma is Lean Methodology. Lean techniques ensure wastage is reduced to improve efficiency. The goal in a Quality Circle is to improve processes, where the elimination of waste is a consequence.
Related: Lean management
Integrating a Quality Circle in an organisation can be beneficial in the services and manufacturing industries. But they can even be instrumental in sectors such as healthcare, education, transport and logistics, etc.