Quality control tools for TQM


If we accept that problem solving is the core process in which TQM implementation and sustainable breakthrough improvements are possible, it is necessary to arm each and every employee in the organization with the basic and effective tools, that will help problem solving at all levels with respect to a data base. It is interesting to note that even among the educated management teams, there seems to be a resistance to “statistics�. This may have to do with the pattern of education through school and college for executives who have been used to problem solving “by experience� and intuition, shy away from two aspects of TQM implementation, first is the use of the statistical tools and second is the documentation.

Professor Ishikawa, when speaking of the seven basic, simple and rudimentary QC tools, was very clear when he felt that almost 90% of complex organizational problems can be solved using these basic tools. The history of Japan and that of its business leaders is very interesting. Most of the business leaders once formed the fighting class of the warriors.

In educating these business leaders, Ishikawa told them, during the dawn of the quality movement, that the seven QC tools to business leaders, what swords and weapons are to the warriors. Hence, in doing business and achieving quality leadership, these tools must be used extensively at each and every stage of problem solving by every employee. Without these basic tools, improvement will only be a good idea about which people cannot do anything.

These seven Basic QC tools are,

Ø Check Sheets, Graphs and Charts
Ø Pareto Analysis
Ø Causes and Effect Analysis
Ø Histograms
Ø Scatter Diagrams
Ø Control Charts

In implementing TQM, many companies have fallen into the trap of going for education on the advanced statistical tools, without focusing strongly on the seven basic QC tools. The cultural change to data-based thinking is not easy and if employees shy away from problem solving, for fear of inability to use statistical tools, TQM implementation has tended to fall flat, with initial enthusiasm followed by frustration.

In trying to achieve a culture of problem solving, it is necessary to focus initially only on these seven basic tools, even at the cost of ignoring some complex problems which require the use of advanced statistical tools.

The management facilitators (core group formed in the organization for trouble shooting) must be thoroughly conversant in the use of these seven QC tools, through taking up problems and finding solutions, as well as in the documentation following the QC story process.

It is only after this, that a massive education programs has to begin, first to create awareness and then in the actual use of these QC tools. Very complex problems which have remained unresolved, even after the use of external specialists, can be solved using these tools. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to this process of education.


This can be considered as another basic tool. Normally, brainstorming is not included as one of the seven QC tools. But the use of brainstorming is extensive and its advantages are far beyond its simplistic nature. Initially brainstorming is used at the stage of PEL (Process of eliminating loss) generation, to create awareness on specific quality problems among the mass of the employees and later at the various stages of problem solving itself. We therefore read this technique in close association with the seven QC tools.

The use of the seven management tools like the affinity diagram, tree diagram, failure mode effect analysis (FMEA) Arrow Diagram, Process Design Program Chart, Taguchi’s Design of Experiments, should only be taught to specialists in the organization. When highly complex problems are to be solved, these specialists should be incorporated as part of problem solving teams. This is only to relieve the mass of the employees from the fear that arises from the use of advanced statistical tools.

Many are of the opinion that there should be specialists teams of statisticians employed for cross-functional problem solving. It has been found that the moment a specialist in statistics is used, the ownership of solving the problems is considerably reduced among team members. The training on advanced statistical tools should be given to those people involved in the quality function already, as in the inspection and quality assurance departments.

They say that magic begins with mundane things. Managements want to see the magic without going through the mundane. Employees are put through problem solving on a weak foundation. Total Quality creates magic in your workplace, but it begins with such simple things as the use of the seven QC tools.

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  • Sharon_santino

    this is very true… great piece,,,