Kaoru Ishikawa: Biography of this expert in administrative sciences

Kaoru Ishikawa was a great Japanese scientist, industrial chemist by profession and famous for his way of running businesses in the style of Japanese culture.

His main contribution to the business world is related to quality control, an area in which he applied his cause and effect model, also known as the Ishikawa diagram, which aims to identify the problems that a company may encounter.

Then we will see the life of this researcher through a biography of Kaoru Ishikawa in which we will know his life trajectory and, above all, what are his main contributions to the field of business and quality control.

Brief biography of Kaoru Ishikawa

Kaoru Ishikawa’s personality could be defined as that of a person very hardworking and, at the same time, very concerned about the quality of life of workers. He felt that a company should not treat its workers “western” if its goal is that the same person’s services and products are always of the highest quality. Workers need to feel motivated and comfortable with what they are doing, in addition to feeling an essential part of the process.

first years

Kaoru Ishikawa (Ishikawa Kaoru in traditional Japanese order) was born on July 13, 1915 in Tokyo, Japan. He grew up in a family linked to the industrial field and with a good heritage. His father was an important industrialist, a fact that had a great influence on the professional future of young Kaoru. Thanks to the good financial situation of the Ishikawa family, he was able to receive a very good education in the best centers of Tokyo.

World War II

In 1939 he graduated in applied chemistry from the prestigious Tokyo Imperial UniversityAlthough it was not until 1960, he could get his doctorate at the same center, presenting a doctoral thesis on coal sampling. At the start of World War II, between 1939 and 1941, Ishikawa helped his country serve in the Japanese Navy. He would later work at the Nissan Liquid Fuel Company.

In 1945 he played his first major contribution to business administration by presenting the chevron diagram, Which would give it a lot of popularity over time. If he had tried it years before, working with engineers in a war context, it would only be at the end of the conflict that he would fully develop it. His main objective with this tool was to find solutions to the main problems of a company through research and understanding of the causes.

After the war

In 1945 comes the end of the Second World War in which the Land of the Rising Sun ends up losing. The country put all its efforts in the manufacture of weapons during the conflict and, now that he had just lost, it was only a matter of time before he was punished for it. In fact, it was about to be split into several pieces as if it had happened to its ally Germany. Finally, the United States occupies the country to ensure that the Japanese military industry pays for it.

The Japanese picture is gloomy. The empire is in a severe economic depression and faces a terribly brutal post-war period. However, the American invaders do not limit themselves to preventing the country from reactivating its imperialist pretensions but also intend to help it to recover economically and scientifically. It is not only the military who trample on the archipelago, but also scientists who have come from the United States to help civilians rebuild their country.

Against this background, in 1947 Ishikawa accepts a professorship at the University of Tokyo. In addition, he decides to join the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), an organization that conducts research on quality control and its delineation. It is thanks to the American scientific “invasion” that Ishikawa has the opportunity to meet two American theorists, William Deming and Joseph Duran. With them, he will develop new management concepts that will be used in Japanese industry.

After the war and the last years

In 1960, after earning his doctorate, Ishikawa began teaching in the field of engineering and received awards for his work, such as the Deming Award and recognition from the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC). That same year in Japan joined the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is responsible for setting quality standards for products and companies. Ishikawa would be part of this organization until 1977 and would become the chairman of his delegation in Japan.

He will later be appointed president of the Japan Institute of Technology Musashi and will continue to provide solutions to improve the implementation of quality systems. With them, he seeks to rationalize and improve processes within companies, and it is at this time that he will develop his great theory of the quality system. Kaoru Ishikawa has always been a hard worker, and the only thing that kept him from continuing was a stroke. After several months, he died in his hometown of Tokyo on April 16, 1989 at the age of 73..

Its industrial philosophy

Kaoru Ishikawa’s quality principles are strongly influenced by Japanese culture, especially the philosophy of learning kanji.. Written Japanese is characterized by three writing systems; the hiragana and katakana syllabaries, in which each symbol represents one or two phonemes, and the kanji, a logographic system, that is, in which each symbol represents ideas. These characters can mean different things being isolated or accompanied by other kanjis.

The kanji system has its origins in China and has virtually endless characters. To be able to read a Japanese newspaper without difficulty, you must have learned 2000 basic kanjis, know how to read and write them correctly and in the right order each of their features. As he never stops learning this system, because it is composed of thousands of symbols, Ishikawa considered that the difficulty of learning the kanji system makes it necessary to reinforce specific work habits.

But his philosophy is not only linked to this very characteristic aspect of Japanese culture. Ishikawa had a conception of the human being closely linked to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea that man is good by nature, Be positively involved in what affects and interests him. Ishikawa criticized the Western model of production, which seemed to ignore Rousseauian thinking altogether and treated it with little respect for the worker.

The Western production model is based primarily on the thinking of Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford. Their conception was tied to the idea that man was inherently evil and reduced the worker to a disposable object, a simple link in the chain which, if broken, can be replaced by another. In the assembly line, it had to be tightened to the maximum and every action it performed had to be controlled to the millimeter to save the production process.

Ishikawa thought of no such thing. He saw workers as more than just parts of the assembly line and that, in order to guarantee the quality of the product, the commitment of the workers had to be obtained by treating them as what they are, as people. Only then will workers be interested in improving the quality of products and increasing production. Once the rights of the worker are recognized, he will have more interest and commitment to the company.

To ensure good product quality in an organization, Ishikawa has established a number of quality principles, focused on increasing control over the entire system.. In the event of a successful implementation, the business will gradually improve and the customer will receive a product of the best quality. Among these principles we have the following:

  • Quality begins with education and ends with education.
  • In order to achieve quality, you must first know what the customer request.
  • Quality control reaches its ideal state when inspection is no longer necessary.
  • They must find the causes of the problems in order to eliminate them.
  • All workers in all fields should participate in the quality control process.
  • The media should not be confused with the targets.
  • Quality is a priority and the benefits must be considered in the long term.
  • Business leaders must accept that their subordinates present them with the facts.
  • Problems can mainly be solved with analysis and problem solving tools.
  • Data without variability should be considered false.

Contributions to the world of organizations

Ishikawa’s main written work is his book What Is Total Quality Control ?: The Japanese Modality (1986). This is a book in which he explains that quality control in Japanese society is characterized by the participation of all parts of the business. It is not just a question of high chiefs and other chiefs; also the rest of the organizational structure, including at the bottom of the hierarchy, must be involved in quality control so that the product is optimal.

In 1943, in the heat of WWII, Ishikawa presented the first scheme intended for WWII help engineers in Japanese industry to find, document and select the causes that have caused the quality of the same product to vary. It was then that his famous cause and effect diagram was born, later renamed the Ishikawa diagram and widely developed by the end of the conflict.

Ishikawa diagram

The Ishikawa diagram is to present the possible causes of problems affecting quality in a company trying to categorize it. It is also called a chevron because it looks like one in its graphic representation.

First, a horizontal line is drawn, which symbolizes the problem being analyzed, then members of the organization identified possible causes and effects by brainstorming. In his book, Ishikawa sees it as the first tool to solve problems in the production line.

Quality circles

Another of Kaoru Ishikawa’s most important contributions is the quality circles, intended to manage organizations. They are developed in the form of working groups made up of staff who carry out similar activities within the organization. and each is headed by a supervisor.

All its members analyze the problems that arise within their circle and propose possible solutions. The main objective of this system is to identify the source of this problem which affects the company and to remove it from the root.

To carry out this task, Quality Circles use Ishikawa’s Seven Tools, which he himself outlined in his book What Is Total Quality Control ?: The Japanese Modality.

  • Cause and effect diagram or Ishikawa diagram
  • Inspection models
  • Control charts to measure and control variations
  • Stratified sampling or stratification analysis
  • Histograms that provide data on the variations of a process
  • Pareto chart
  • Scatter plots

Bibliographical references:

  • Ishikawa, Kaoru (1968). Quality control guide. Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization.
  • Ishikawa, Kaoru (1980) [original Japanese ed. 1970]. QC Circle Koryo: general principles of QC Circle. Tokyo: headquarters of the QC Circle, Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers.
  • Ishikawa, Kaoru (1985). How to make the activities of the QC circle work. Tokyo: headquarters of the QC circle, Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers.
  • Ishikawa, Kaoru (1985) [First published in Japanese 1981]. What is total quality control? Japanese style [Originally titled: TQC towa Nanika—Nipponteki Hinshitsu Kanri]. DJ Lu (trans.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-952433-9.
  • Ishikawa, Kaoru (1990). Introduction to quality control. JH Loftus (trans.). Tokyo: company 3A. ISBN 4-906224-61-X. OCLC 61341428.
  • Kondo, Yoshio (1994). “Kaoru Ishikawa: what he thought and achieved, a basis for further research.” Quality management journal. 1 (4): 86-91. ISSN 1068-6967.
  • Watson, Greg (2004). “The Legacy of Ishikawa”. Quality progression. 37 (4): 54-57. ISSN 0033-524X.
  • Dewar, Donald L. (1988). “A serious anomaly: TQC without quality circles.” Annual Quality Convention, Dallas, TX. 42 (0): 34–38.

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