The International Co-coordinating Committee members and their assistants being sashed and recognised on the stage
Sri Lanka's bid to host the "International Convention of QC Circles" (ICQCC) in 2014 was accepted unanimously by the Internal Co-ordinating Committee at the recent Co-ordinating Committee meeting in Hyderabad.
The meeting was held concurrently with the ICQCC 2010 held in Hyderabad in October and hosted by the Quality Circle Forum of India. Sri Lanka was represented by Sunil G Wijesinha, a former President of the Sri Lanka Association for the Promotion of Quality and Productivity, the organisation that co-ordinates QC Circle activities in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka last hosted the ICQCC in 1998, at which over a hundred foreign delegates participated. Now with a peaceful environment prevailing in the country there was considerable interest and commitments from the member countries to bring large delegations for the Sri Lanka convention. India hopes to bring over 200 delegates.
The ICQCC has a long history with the birth of Quality Circles in Japan in the 1960s. Quality Circles is a management concept which originated in Japan to enable factory workers to study systematic problem solving methods and encouraged them to form into small groups that followed a methodical procedure to identify, analyse, find root causes of defects and quality problems, and implement solutions. The workers were trained to use simple QC tools such as Pareto chart and Cause and Effect Diagram, and sometimes more advanced tools such as Control Charts. QC circles started in many factories in Japan and began making significant strides in quality improvement. Japanese goods quickly changed its image from being "cheap and shoddy" to "world's best". The philosophy of the Japanese was that it was a waste to only use the hands of the Japanese, leaving the potential in their brains unutilised. Quality Circles utilise the knowledge and experience of workers while their lack of an academic orientation is remedied with special training in QC tools, and a procedure called "the QC story".
The success of QC Circles in manufacturing activities in Japan led to the concept spreading to service areas of the company and then onto other service enterprises too. The concept of QC Circles and the Kaizen concept are two Japanese methods which use the brains, intimate work knowledge, and experience of workers, and are widely regarded as techniques that made Japanese more competitive and reliable.
Initially the concept was mainly popular in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and as a measure of exchanging experience a conference was organised in Korea in 1976. Initially the annual conference revolved around these three countries until 1984 when it was moved to Manila and in 1987 to Bangkok. Now there are 12 countries in the group and each country takes a turn. Sri Lanka was admitted in 1986 when Wijesinha as the then President of the newly formed Quality Circle Association of Sri Lanka attended the ICQCC 1989 in New Delhi, and made a claim for admission. The first Sri Lankan to present a paper at an ICQCC was Sunil G Wijesinha, who presented a paper at the ICQCC in 1987 and made contact with the Quality Circle Forum of India which assisted him to form the local body.
At the recent Hyderabad convention there were over 2,900 participants including over 550 foreign participants. The largest delegation was from Malaysia with 149 participants and Thailand 110. There were 440 team/circle presentations and nine paper presentations conducted in 15 concurrent sessions at the state of the art Hyderabad International Convention Centre.
Quality Circles became popular worldwide in the early 1980s and many predicted that as usual this too would fade away after peaking in popularity. Anyone attending the Hyderabad convention would have been convinced that unlike other management fads, quality circles are growing in popularity even after 50 years of its birth, unlike most other management fads.
Sri Lanka has had ups and downs in Quality Circle popularity. The biggest delegation from Sri Lanka was at the Bangkok convention in 1993 when 60 delegates from Sri Lanka attended with several circles from companies making presentations. At Hyderabad there were six delegates from Sri Lanka, with two presentations from Sri Lanka Telecom. Several Sri Lanka schools too had QC Circles and have participated in the International School QC Circle Conventions. The National Productivity Secretariat of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity Promotion recently conducted a very successful QC Circle convention. The SLAAQP too intends to further popularise the concept and conduct many activities culminating in the ICQCC in 2014.
The next ICQCC will be held in Yokohama in September 2011 hosted by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers. Malaysia will host 2012 and Taipei 2013.