3.3.3 Quality Control Circle

Introduction to Quality Control Cycle(QCCs)

A QCC is a small group of staff working together to contribute to the improvement of the enterprise, to respect humanity and to build a cheerful workgroup through the development of the staff's infinite potential.

A quality control circle (QCC) team of people usually coming from the same work area who voluntarily meet on a regular basis to identify, investigate, analyse and solve their work-related problems.

It has been the Japanese experience that 95% of the problems in the workshop can be solved with simple quality control methods such as the 7 quality control tools [Ishikawa, 1986]. They are: Pareto diagrams, cause-and-effect diagrams, stratification, check sheets, histograms, scatter diagrams, and graphs & control charts. These tools will help QCCs to do brain-storming systematically and to analyse the problems critically. Then, through logical thinking and experience, most problems can be solved.

QCC requires Recognition

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Why is QCC Useful?

Programmes which are based on QCC practices have been introduced for a variety of reasons, but firms invariably find that the quality of product and service is improved as a result of QCC activities. QCCs reveal all sorts of faults that prevent good practices, thus improving job satisfaction and contributing to pride in workmanship. This leads to higher quality of products, increased awareness of quality, and continuous improvement.

Another benefit is an improved two-way communication. The management becomes more concerned with the staff problems and, in turn, the staff becomes aware of the day-to-day problems of running an organisation. Communication between departments also improves. While QCCs work on their own area's problems, their systematic approach often reveals previously unsuspected causes of difficulties in related processes of the production flow. A QCC programme in general requires the same framework as ISO 9000 quality standards regarding the management structure and in-company training. Therefore, QCCs should be part of any company's Total Quality Programme.

Everyone's commitment to improvement imposed by a QCC programme also helps to establish customer confidence. Although some companies do not set out to achieve a pure financial return, most find that the financial benefits considerably overrun the costs. Some have experienced ten-fold savings, taking into consideration the gains cumulated year after year.

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How to Implement the QCC?

Companies with the most successful QCC programmes have spent time in the early stages making sure that everyone in the company is properly informed and consulted before any QCC activity begins. Often an outside specialist will have assisted with the first awareness presentations. Once established, a typical programme will have QCCs operating in all parts of the company -- in offices, service operations and manufacturing. Experience shows that the size of a company is not important to a programme's success but it significantly affects the support structure and organisation. The steps of implementation are:

  1. Management is made aware of the QCC process through a management briefing.
  2. The feasibility of the QCCs are analysed.
  3. A steering committee is formed.
  4. Co-ordinator and in-house instructor is selected.
  5. Potential area for initial circles is selected.
  6. QCC presentations are made to first-line supervisors in identified areas, divisions or departments.
  7. Co-ordinators and middle management receive extensive training on the process and their roles.
  8. Supervisors who are interested volunteer and receive training.
  9. Following training, QCC presentations are made to the employees who report to the newly trained supervisors.
  10. Employees volunteer to be members of a circle and receive training.
  11. A circle is formed and begins work.
  12. Additional circles are formed as interest broadens.
  13. Circles work in a systematic way in solving problems, not just discussing them.
  14. Management must ensure that solutions achieve a quick implementation once they have been accepted.
  15. Circles are not paid directly for their solutions, but management must ensure appropriate and proper recognition.
In order to implement QCC successfully, the following guidelines have to be considered:

QCC Nominal Group Technique
This is a technique for increasing contributions from individuals in a group setting. It is designed to overcome social and interpersonal barriers between people from different levels, social status, or competencies involved in solving a common problem. It is structured so that people generate a list of solutions to a problem individually. For example, a question might be "What are the limiting factors to this company delivering a product on time?" Each participant would write his own list of limitations. All the lists of limitations are collected and made public without comment and criticism. This exercise is completed before anyone talks, thus eliminating any inhibiting factors to influence the problem solving process. The process shares this characteristic with brainstorming. After a period of discussion to clarify limitations and to omit duplications, a vote is taken to prioritise the limitations left on the list. The priority list becomes the basis for further problem solving. During the brainstorming session the leader should consider the following questions:

QCC Code of Conduct
In general, the following code of conduct for QCC discussion applies:
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