Quality Circle, An Approach for Incorporating Quality into System

This is a guest contribution from Aditya Mahapatra.

Product quality is one of the top criteria for the customers when they close a purchase. In the manufacturing sector, the quality management system plays an important role in achieving the process quality and product quality. The quality circle is one component of the quality management system. The concept of the quality circle is applicable in all kind of business whether it is a manufacturing or service industry. The quality circle can be also included in the quality management system in garment manufacturing with other quality control tools.
Quality circle

In this post, the author has briefly explained various areas of a quality circle, including the following points.
  • What is a quality circle?
  • Objectives of a Quality Circle
  • Features of the quality circle
  • Formation of quality circle
  • Duties of circle leader
  • Difference between the quality circle and quality council

What is a Quality Circle?

A quality circle or quality control circle is a voluntary small size group of workers who do the same or similar work, who meet regularly to identify, analyze and solve work-related problems.

Normally small in size, the group is usually led by a supervisor or manager and presents its solutions to management; where possible, workers implement the solutions themselves in order to improve the product, the process thus overall performance of the organization and motivate employees. Quality circles were at their most popular during the 1980’s but continue to exist in the form of Kaizen groups and similar worker participation schemes (Wikipedia).

Typical topics for the attention of quality circles are improving occupational safety and health, improving product design, and improvement in the workplace and manufacturing processes.

Quality Circle: A Glimpse of Its Evolution

This movement was circulated throughout the Japanese industry by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) in 1960. The first company in Japan to introduce Quality Circles was the Nippon Wireless and Telegraph Company in 1962. By the end of that year, there were 36 companies registered with JUSE by 1978 the movement had grown to an estimated 1 million Circles involving some 10 million Japanese workers (Wikipedia).

Professor Kaoru Ishikawa had defined the term of the quality circle in his 1988 handbook, "What is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way"

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.

What are the objectives of a Quality Circle?

Typical topics for the attention of quality circles are improving product design, and manufacturing processes, improvement in the workplace improving occupational safety and health and motivate employees.
  • Improvement in quality of the product manufactured by the organisation.
  • Process improvement in methods of production.
  • Betterment of workplace
  • Ensuring occupational health and safety. (Development of employees participating in QC)
  • Promoting morale of employees and motivating them.
  • Respect humanity and create a happy workplace worthwhile to work.

Important features of a Quality Circle

The main features of QC can be listed as follows:

1. Voluntary Groups: QC is a voluntary group of employees generally coming from the same work area. There is no pressure from anywhere on employees to join QC.

2. Small Size: The size of the QC is generally small consisting of six to eight members.

3. Regular Meeting: QC meetings are held once a week for about an hour on regular basis. The members meet during working hours usually at the end of the working day in consultation with the manager. The time of the meetings is usually fixed in advance in consultation with the manager and members.

4. Independent Agenda: Each QC has its own agenda with its own terms of reference. Accordingly, each QC discusses its own problems and takes corrective actions.

5. Quality Focused: As per the very nature and intent of QC, it focuses exclusively on quality issues. This is because the ultimate purpose of QC is an improvement in the quality of product and working life.

Formation of Quality Circle

Developing Quality Circles in Organisations/ operation flowchart of a quality circle:
Like any other organizational change, QC being a new concept may be opposed by the employees

1. Publicising the Idea: Introduction of QC is just like an organisational change programme Hence, like an organisational change programme, the workers need to be convinced about the need for and significance of QC from the points of view of the workers and the organisation. Moreover, participation in QC being voluntary, its publicity among the workers is necessary. To begin with, management can also arrange for initial training for those workers who want to form a quality circle.

2. Constitution of QC: Workers doing the same or similar type of work are drawn voluntarily to form a quality circle. The membership of a QC is generally restricted to eight to ten. Once a QC is formed, they remain as permanent members of the circle unless they leave that work area.

3. Initial Problem Solving: The members of QC should discuss the problem at threadbare and, then, prepare a list of alternative solutions. Thereafter, each alternative solution should be evaluated and the final solution should be arrived at on the basis of consensus.

4. Presentation and Approval of Suggestions:
The final solution arrived at should be presented to the management (it may be a quality council) either in oral or in written form. The management may evaluate the solution by constituting a committee for this purpose. The committee may also meet the members of the quality circle for clarifications if required. Presentation of solutions to the management helps improve the communication between management and workers and reflects management’s interest to the members of QC.

5. Implementation:
Once the suggestion or solution is approved by the management, the same is being put into practice in a particular workplace. Quality circles may be organized gradually for other workplaces or departments also. In this way, following above outlined process, the entire organisation can have quality circles.

Duties of Circle Leader

  • For the success of Quality Circles, circle leader must have following duties:
  • He must assume the responsibility of guiding the members.
  • He must make his members sure about what is going on.
  • He must channelize the discussions.
  • Every member is allowed equal opportunity.
  • Specific task to be assigned to each member.
  • He must work in coordination with the facilitator.
Also read: Quality Controller's Job profile in Clothing Industry

Quality Circle: How it differs from the Quality Council

The different role and activities of the quality council and the quality circle is explained in the following tables.
Quality circle and quality council
About the Author: Aditya Mahapatra is a graduate in Apparel Production Management and currently pursuing his master degree in NIFT, Delhi. He has expertise in PMTS and has experience in the province of production in India and abroad. His main interest areas include PPC, Industrial Engineering, PMTS, Ergonomics in the garment industry.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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