Kaoru Ishikawa: Contribution to The Theory of Process Improvement
Kaoru Ishikawa is known as the ‘Father of Japanese Quality’. He invented major quality tools and concepts including the Fishbone diagram (cause and effect diagram) frequently used in the analysis of industrial processes and CWQC – Company-Wide Quality Control.
Ishikawa sponsored the “next operation (process step) as the client” concept to avoid workplace politics.
Early Life and Career
Kaoru Ishikawa was born in the year 1915 and went on to complete his engineering in applied chemistry from the University of Tokyo. Until 1947, he was associated with Nissan after which he started rendering his services as a professor in a university.
He played an instrumental role in the development of the concept of the ‘Quality Circle’. Ishikawa believed that increased internal cooperation and coordination positively affects a customer’s needs and ultimately leads to process efficiency and better quality of products and services.
He expressed the need for the top level management to support the teams which were under their control all the time. He was awarded the Shewhart Medal & the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Japan) for his outstanding technical leadership in the area of modern quality control.
He received the Industrial Standardization Prize for his eminent writings on quality control. The American Society for quality control awarded him with the Nihon Keizai Press Prize and the Grant Award for his education initiatives in the area of quality control.
Kaoru Ishikawa: Contribution to the Theory of Process Improvement
Ishikawa’s major contributions in the area of quality control and process improvement can be traced as under:
- Fishbone Diagram (Cause & Effect Diagram) – This tool created by Kaoru Ishikawa is known as the Fishbone Diagram owing to its shape. It is one of the seven basic Quality Control tools. The objective of the Six Sigma program is the removal of waste so as to identify the areas for improvement. A fishbone diagram clusters the roadblocks together to identify which factors have the greatest impact. Ishikawa diagram is commonly used in product design and prevention of quality defects to reveal the factors causing the overall effect.
- Implementation of Quality Circles: A voluntary group of people who meet to identify, analyze, and resolve work-related issues. Improvement in Occupational health and safety, product design, manufacturing processes, and the overall culture of the organization are the objectives of a Quality Circle. In Japan, this concept was first launched in Nippon Wireless and Telegraph Company in the year 1962. The idea of Quality Circles was described by Edward Deming in 1950 and was later expanded by Ishikawa. Basically, Quality Circles are formal groups of people trained by specialists in human factors and skills of problem identification, data gathering, and analysis and generation of solutions.
- Emphasis on Internal Customer: Ishikawa suggested that over-reliance on specialists would limit the scope of improvement for all the employees. Therefore, an overall participation was required from workers at all the levels of the organization. Every area has the potential for contributing to the overall quality, therefore; all areas should embed statistical techniques in the internal and external audit programmes. The term “company-wide” does not only include a company’s activities focusing on internal quality control, but also the quality of management, human aspects, after sales service, and sensitive customer care.
The contribution of Kaoru Ishikawa stands tall and unquestioned in the area of quality control and process improvement. The cause and effect diagram is used by global organizations in order to understand the causes behind the quality gaps and the effects of these gaps on the overall functioning of the organization.
Ishikawa propagated the concept of ‘Quality Circles’ and ‘Internal Customers’ thereby emphasizing the strategic importance of the employees of an organization. He stressed the equal participation of all employees rather than relying only on the specialists.
This leads to the overall development of employees with respect to the processes in the organization. Further training can even lead to the formation of voluntary groups called Quality Circles which under the supervision of an expert can identify and solve various quality problems in an organization.