Whilst, perhaps ironically, the early origins of the now famous Quality Circles can be traced to the United States in the 1950s, Professor Ishikawa is best known as a pioneer of the Quality Circle movement in Japan in the early 1960s, which has now been re-exported to the West. In a speech to mark the 1000th quality circle convention in Japan on 7th April 1981, he described how his work took him in this direction.

I first considered how best to get the grassroot workers to understand and practise Quality Control. The ideal was to educate all people working at factories throughout the country but this was asking too much. Therefore I thought of educating factory foremen or on-the-spot-leaders in the first place.

From Department of Trade and Industry (1991) ‘The quality gurus: what can they do for your company?’ London: DTI

Ishikawa’s Message-Techniques

As with other Japanese quality gurus, Kaoru Ishikawa has paid particular attention to making technical statistical techniques used in quality attainment accessible to those in industry. At the simplest technical level, his work has emphasised good data collection and presentation, the use of Pareto Diagrams to prioritise quality improvements and Cause-and-Effect (or Ishikawa or FishboneDiagrams.

Other techniques Ishikawa has emphasised include control charts, scatter diagrams, and sampling inspection.

Company-Wide Quality

Turning to organisational, rather than technical contributions to quality, Ishikawa is associated with the Company Wide Quality Control movement that started in Japan in the years 1955-1960 following the visits of Deming and Juran. Under this, quality control in Japan is characterised by company-wide participation from top management to the lower-ranking employees. Further, all study statisticalmethods. As well as participation by the engineering design, research and manufacturing departments, also sales, materials and clerical or management departments (such as planning, accounting, business and personnel) are involved. Quality control concepts and methods are used for problem solving in the production process, for incoming material control and new product design control, and also for analysis to help top management decide policy, to verify policy is being carried out and for solving problems in sales, personnel, labour management and in clerical departments. Quality Control Audits, internal as well as external, form part of this activity.

To quote Ishikawa:

The results of these company-wide Quality Control activities are remarkable, not only in ensuring the quality of industrial products but also in their great contribution to the company’s overall business.

Thus Ishikawa sees the Company Wide Quality Control movement as implying that quality does not only mean the quality of product, but also of after sales service, quality of management, the company itself and the human being. This has the effect that:

1) Product quality is improved and becomes uniform. Defects are reduced.
2) Reliability of goods is improved.
3) Cost is reduced
4) Quantity of production is increased, and it becomes possible to make rational production schedules.
5) Wasteful work and rework are reduced.
6) Technique is established and improved.
7) Expenses for inspection and testing are reduced.
8) Contracts between vendor and vendee are rationalised.
9) The sales market is enlarged.
10) Better relationships are established between departments.
11) False data and reports are reduced.
12) Discussions are carried out more freely and democratically.
13) Meetings are operated more smoothly.
14) Repairs and installation of equipment and facilities are done more rationally.
15) Human relations are improved.