Recently, Michel Baudin wrote a brief post on Quick Response Quality Control or QRQC on his site and posted it also on LinkedIn. He thereby invited practitioners to further contribute to the knowledge on QRQC, among which myself. As I feel a brief answer on LinkedIn would not do justice to the richness of QRQC, I decided to dedicate a post to the topic. Without ambition, however, to try and be complete in this post, which I feel is not possible with a vast topic like QRQC. But let’s dive in and share some of my experiences with and views on QRQC, the way I experienced and lived it at Valeo at the time.
QRQC: My Experience
My experience with QRQC goes back to 2002. I joined Valeo two months after Kazuo Kawashima joined the group, early 2002. Upon joining, I was offered the opportunity to visit the “Ichikoh School” where we studied the way Ichikoh used QRQC, among other elements of their production system. The picture above, in fact, is a picture of the team with which I attended Ichokoh School. Ichikoh was part of Nissan’s Keiretsu, and Valeo already had a financial stake in the group (in the meantime taken over completely by Valeo).
At the time, senior managers from Valeo Lighting Systems (VLS) regularly participated in serious study trips to Ichikoh in Japan (known as the “Ichikoh School”), particularly involving their Isehara and Fujioka facilities. In 2002 alone, over 90 senior managers from VLS across the globe participated in various sessions of the Ichikoh School. Through this Ichikoh relationship, Valeo was already well aware of QRQC, as I have seen QRQC being documented as part of those study trips well before Kawashima joined Valeo. But it only truly started to fly after Kawashima joined.
As of mid-2002, QRQC was fully embraced by the group, and Valeo’s CEO at the time, Thierry Morin, stated that “Valeo’s culture will be based upon san gen shugi”, and that “every site needs to apply QRQC”. Like almost all Valeo employees I was thoroughly trained in QRQC, and in my role as Supply Chain & Logistics Director for the Lighting Systems branch also had the responsibility to deploy it within that function across its 17 worldwide factories, and to coach various teams on their problem-solving efforts using QRQC after it had been deployed.
QRQC: The Philosophy Behind QRQC
QRQC leans on three fundamental elements:
1. “The Three Reals”, or “San Gen Shugi”.
2. Quick Response
QRQC: San Gen Shugi
First, the philosophy of “The Three Reals” or “San Gen Shugi” forces people to always think about the real place and real time (“gen-ba”), the real part (“gen-butsu”) and to be focused on reality (“gen-jitsu”). In my experience, this philosophy drives the attitude and reflexes of the organization. It implies many things that have since become my own standard reflexes when coaching people and teams during problem-solving.
The late Kawashima-san always said: “I only have two tools: my eyes and my legs. These are all I need to see, to judge, to consider, to decide. This is the basis of “san gen shugi”. And it is this thinking which is at the source of all problem-solving techniques in QRQC. The question: “did you apply san gen shugi” was on all our e-mail signatures at the time…
“San gen shugi” implies, that you should see yourself as a detective working on a crime. This means that you immediately go to the actual crime scene (to not lose any clues), to search for evidence, to investigate the mechanism by which the problem came into existence, and to speak to the actual witnesses. It also forces you to check the actual bad part and compare it to a real good part and its accompanying standards, and to establish the non-conformance personally and firsthand. And it focuses you on the reality, on the true facts, to not guess, to look for proof, to verify the facts, and to not assume. It is difficult to convey in words what this means if you truly apply this in your coaching, and when managers challenge their teams like this on a daily basis. It builds “kizuki”: the power to notice.
QRQC: Quick Response
The second fundamental element of QRQC is speed. Quick response implies quick problem detection, an immediate response to secure the customer, and standard (and relatively short) lead times to eradicate the root cause of the problem. The philosophy behind it was to think in hours and days, and not weeks.
So, besides QRQC focusing on root cause eradication, it also had a strong approach in the first moment and hours after problem detection (both following the PDCA phasing, by the way). It included practices like “first defect stop”, parts marking, use of red bin/rack/areas (related to management routines on the genba), problem characterization using 5W1H (from both the producer and customer perspective, interestingly), checking so-called trouble-shooting charts, and executing pre-defined standard reactions. These typically included things like sorting all downstream parts – which also is a good source on factors when done in the right way -, installing a quality wall and executing customer communication protocols.
Again, it is difficult to convey what it means to culture, but I can tell you that if you are true to this element of the QRQC philosophy, there is a constant buzz on the shop floor; a buzz that is different than what you might be used to, as visitors at the time – but also some recent clients that I have taken with me to visit Valeo sites – have told me.
I also still remember one of Kawashima-san’s strong coaching sessions in 2002 when he proverbially threw the well-known principle of Pareto or 80-20 analysis into the garbage bin; still a quality 101 tool you would say. He explained in his own personal way (he was quite a strong personality, I can tell from experience…) how stupid we were to first collect enough data for a long enough period of time to be able to make such a chart, and to only then start problem-solving. The point was clear.
The third fundamental element is referred to as “control”. Control in QRQC implies rigor and discipline in both the logic of our thinking and our execution of the method (and following its rules and using the prescribed standards). I still remember the big banners that were hanging in the QRQC areas reminding us in all capitals to apply “LOGICAL THINKING”.
It is here that you should highlight some of the problem-solving techniques like Factor Tree Analysis (FTA) – which is an extended and far more rigorous form of the well-known Ishikawa technique that included verification of the actual relevancy of the factor at the so-called control point on the genba, the 5x Why analysis, and the 3A’s. I recommend reading my posts on these topics. These techniques are not “rocket science” nor new, but what was different was the way in which they were used: rigorously and with an extremely strong focus on shop floor verification and evidence.
A powerful addition, I have always found, is that QRQC explicitly focuses on both the problem of occurrence (why did the problem happen?) and the problem of detection (why didn’t we catch it before it happened?). What G8D refers to as the “escape point”. QRQC uses all its rigor on both elements of the problem, of course applying “san gen shugi”.
All the mentioned steps and techniques made use of templates that were incorporated in a comprehensive QRQC form, which forced problem-solving teams to be disciplined in their problem-solving efforts. Truth is, that, as often is the case, in reality, it also depended a lot on the team, their manager, and their possible coach. This is why building the culture and leadership around any approach is always so important. Just think of the impact of a plant manager telling the problem-solving team to recreate the problem when they “think” they found the root cause…
What I also found to make a real difference with other problem-solving approaches is the communication structure around QRQC, with its line-level QRQC, department QRQC meeting, and subsequent plant QRQC meeting. It included standards and forms for capturing problems, assigning problems, review frequency, and more; all in a very visual way.
Control in QRQC also implies discipline in the implementation of the actions coming from QRQC (in time and as decided), and discipline in actually verifying both the implementation thereof and its effectiveness, over time, and by multiple layers of management.
And control subsequently means that effective countermeasures are followed through until they are standardized and fully integrated into the company’s system of work. It meant that the consequences are translated into updated (visual) procedures, instructions, operator training and certification, design rules, specifications, checklists, FMEAs, and so on.
QRQC: Beyond Problem-Solving
It should be known, that QRQC as a whole is much more than just a problem-solving method we typically focus on when discussing QRQC. Problem-solving is referred to as (only) step-1 QRQC.
QRQC as a whole also encompasses more: it involves problem prevention through Yokoten, standardization as far-reaching as product design, and on-job-training on kaizen, to name a few. And all of these subsequent QRQC steps also, again, included multiple techniques and templates, for instance like a lessons learned card (LLC). More than a single post can cover.
I am sure, this post is not able to convey the real impact of a practice like QRQC, when done right. But I hope this post provides you at least a somewhat better understanding and feeling of what the power of a detailed, rigorous, and comprehensive approach to problem-solving, embedded in a philosophy of “san gen shugi” may mean for a company. It allowed Valeo to win Toyota’s Supplier Quality Award, and to reduce defects to single digit ppm levels; even triggering discussions in some plants to maybe change the ppm scale to a ppb-one…
For those that would like to read more about QRQC, I recommend Hakim Aoudia and Quintin Testa’s books on QRQC, which pretty much describe the technical approach as used at Valeo (and later also Faiveley Transport). And for those that genuinely want to experience QRQC: find yourself an experienced coach.