Quality Control Circle | 4 mins read

What is the Quality Control Circle?

what is the quality control circle
Mary Kate Morrow

By Mary Kate Morrow

What is a Quality Control Circle?

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A quality control circle is defined as a small group of decision making employees who analyze work related issues in order to provide actionable work area solutions focused on increased efficiency and consistent quality of production. The circle quality management technique improves both total quality and quality productivity in the workplace.

A quality circle is led by a supervisor or high quality leadership employee. The small group of employees involved meet at regular intervals for decision making and problem solving on work related problems.

Employees who are apart of the quality control circle have usually received formal problem solving training separate from their other work counterparts. This small group will then use their training in a hands-on way to solve problem concerns that arise.

Once a work related problem has a high quality solution, the quality circle will submit the information to top management professionals for their review through a control chart or various other methods.

Once top management reviews the solution provided by the quality control circle then the quality improvement will be implemented. The goal is to increase organizational performance by solving every work related problem that negatively affects quality control in any way.

History of the Quality Control Circle

The quality circle was used widely in the United States during the Second World War after Edwards Deming noted in case study research that American management gives line managers and engineers 85% of quality control responsibilities while line workers only were involved 15%.

Deming argued that these percentages should be reversed to increase quality control and quality productivity in the workplace. The argument posed a valid question to top management professionals- who within a company possesses a more intimate knowledge of the production process than the small group of employees involved in it?

Deming's major contribution was to move the quality control circle to an earlier stage of the production process. Post-production inspections were costly and a drain of both employee labor and time. The earlier a defect is noticed, the less of an issue it will cause farther down the production line.

Quality control circles were highly successful in Japan after the Second World War. Japanese companies required suppliers to go through quality control circles during their production to make sure quality work was uniform regardless of where a product was in the production process.

The quality circle was reintroduced into the United States during the quality control movement that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s after top management professionals took an interest in the quality control process that the Japanese had developed. By 1980 more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies had implemented or planned to implement quality control circles.

The quality control circle provided continuous improvement for employee training and development in statistical process control techniques.

By making quality control a group activity every employee involved was invested in delivering a quality product to customers. This helped to increase employee engagement in the production process since they were more invested in seeing a high quality product released to consumers.

Case study research shows that the quality control movement lost steam and the quality control circle phenomenon largely faded in the late 1980s. The loss of quality circle activity had a negative causal effect on the statistical process control and organizational performance overall.

The Value of Quality Control Circles

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The value of a quality control circle should not be ignored, especially considering the dominance of successful Japanese companies who have consistently utilized them with great success. Benefits of a great quality control circle include-

1. Job satisfaction increases- A properly executed quality control circle is a top management practice that can help not only to solve problem areas but is a cause effect for improving high quality job satisfaction in the workplace. When a circle member feels their problem solving and decision making abilities are appreciated by those in their work area they will feel more valued.

2. Teambuilding- When a small group functions as a steering committee or participates in a quality circle activity they will likely feel more positive towards your company culture. An established quality control circle program provides a consistent group activity for a small group of team members to undertake.

3. Improve quality overall- Of course, the main goal of a quality control circle is to increase organizational performance and produce high quality work on a more consistent basis. When you make sure to deliver a quality product consistently your customers will notice the overall quality improvement and are more likely to maintain or even increase their business and engage further with your company.

The total quality of your workplace will be optimized through a quality control circle program that focuses on statistical process control and continuous improvement of output. A management system that includes high quality tools like six sigma techniques and a quality control circle will boost your bottom line by making sure quality is of top priority throughout the production process.