Companies are always looking for ways to improve the quality of the products and services they provide. In addition, they are constantly trying to find ways to cut waste and improve the way the company operates. While there are certainly a lot of different strategies that can effectively improve quality in many ways, quality circles are among the best.
Implementing quality circles into your company is a great way to find opportunities for improvement as well as catching quality problems early on. There are many great benefits to using this type of quality control strategy, so make sure you take some time to learn more about it to see if it is a good option for your facility.
What is a Quality Circle?
The concept of a quality circle has been around for a long time. Most people agree that quality circles started in the 1950’s and was made popular largely by the Toyota Motor Company. To put it simply, quality circles are relatively small groups of people who have the same or similar jobs at a company.
That circle of people will get together on a regular basis to identify, discuss, and hopefully solve issues related to their role with the organization. In most situations, each quality circle will be led by a supervisor, though that supervisor does not technically have to be the boss of all of the members.
What is Discussed in a Quality Circle?
When a quality circle gets together, they will discuss many different things. In some cases, they will hold a meeting with a specific problem or concern in mind. In other situations, they will gather together with no planned agenda and just discuss how things are going in their job in a more general way. These discussions will often lead to identifying problems or potential problems.
Whether it is planned ahead of time or it comes up in a general discussion, once a problem is identified, they will work together to try to come up with good solutions. Since the group is made of the people who are directly experiencing the problem, they will have firsthand knowledge of how it is impacting them and hopefully, how they can fix the issues.
Making Small Changes Immediately
While every company can implement quality circles differently, most of the time they are empowered to make smaller changes on their own. For example, if the quality circle identifies a problem with how a production line falls behind on work on a specific day each week, they could unilaterally decide to have some employees come in an hour early on that day to try to smooth out the production.
There are, of course, an endless number of small changes that a group can make to try to address issues with their job. Their goal with these changes is not just to make their job better, but also to ensure the quality of the products or services they are providing is always as high as possible.
By empowering a quality circle to make relatively small changes unilaterally, the company will help to ensure that problems can be fixed very quickly. If a change does not solve the problem, the group can revert back to how they were doing things right away. This agility can help to ensure the company is able to benefit from rapid adjustments and improvements at all times.
Coordinating for Larger Changes
When the quality circle identifies a problem that will require a larger scale change, they will need to coordinate with other groups to make these changes. In most cases, the supervisor will work with other management teams to make sure that the changes are handled properly and coordinated across all the teams to avoid problems.
The overall scope of the changes will determine who is involved and what all needs to happen. In general, however, these larger changes can be planned out with the quality circle if they will be the ones doing most of the adjustments. If the proposed changes will mostly need to be done by other groups, then they should go through a normal improvement process as determined by the company.
Of course, the goal of any type of change is going to be to improve the quality of the services that the group provides. Except in certain less common situations, the quality circle is going to be primarily focused on things that fall directly within their job duties. This means most changes will not be extremely large and can be handled by the group immediately.
Great for Continuous Improvement
One of the many things that makes quality circles so effective is the fact that they do a great job at facilitating continuous improvement. As the group identifies one problem and fixes it, they will typically discover another issue or inefficiency. They can then work on getting that addressed as well. By meeting regularly with the goal of making their area as good as possible, the company will benefit from ongoing improvements.
Most facilities will have multiple quality circles. One quality circle for each department, for example, will provide each team with the ability to constantly be analyzing the quality of what they are making and improve it quickly. The general idea is that each team should be empowered to take steps to ensure the quality of the products they are making is as high as possible and always improving.
Quality Control is Essential
Whether using quality circles or any other quality control strategy, it is very important to make sure that the teams are taking steps to ensure the quality of the products being made are kept up. While quality control is always important in every industry, it is even more essential when it comes to manufacturing.
Manufacturing companies need to go above and beyond to ensure they keep their standards as high as possible. This is because in addition to providing products and equipment to other companies, they also make things for the end user. If they get a reputation for having low-quality production, they will quickly lose out to the competition. For many companies, quality circles can do a lot to help improve overall quality control.