Kaoru Ishikawa was born in 1915 in Tokyo (Japan) in the family of a prominent industrialist. In 1939 Kaoru graduated from the Tokyo University with an engineering degree in the applied chemistry. He was called up to serve in the army and worked in the navy, but then returned to the University of Tokyo to devote himself to laboratory experiments.
After World War II, Japan was interested in the transformation of the industrial sector of its economy. Then Ishikawa in 1949 enounced to respectful scientific circles the theories of management by W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran which he highly recommended to be applied in the Japanese system.
In 1952 Ishikawa was elected as a chairman of the Chemical Society of Japan – an organized team that participated in the study of samples in mining. On grounds of the results of the samples, a team, led by Ishikawa, developed the industry standards for many industries in the Japanese economy. These standards are based on standards set up by the International Organization for Standardization – “ISO”. Since 1969 Ishikawa was a member of it, and since 1977 worked as a chairman of the Japanese unit of the International Organization for Standardization, being later elected a member of its executive committee.
It was Kaoru who in 1962 introduced the concept of “Quality Circles”. The responsibilities of such groups (quality circles) include a statistical quality control on a voluntary basis at all levels of an enterprise, problem analysis and the development of optimal solutions to solving such problems. Nowadays, quality circles in Japan are very popular and are an important part of management systems based on quality management (Total Quality Management System).
Still, Kaoru Ishikawa is mostly famous in the world for a causal diagram, often called Ishikawa diagram, or "fishbone" diagram. It allows a researcher to identify and classify a variety of factors and conditions that affect the production process in general and in particular. This chart identifies key relationships between the various factors and allows more accurately to understand the process which is under study. So, with the help of this chart, one can consider various issues, such as the causes of defects in production, the problem of personal interaction in a team, or the operation of the production as a whole.
Kaoru Ishikawa, in his book “What is total quality control? The Japanese way” noted that the quality control would be effective if all employees of the company, starting from the president and finishing with production workers will participate in it. As we see, Japanese private enterprises alongside with public offices strive to follow this main rule (1985, p. 121).
Moreover, in contrast to those who have understood the word “quality” in the narrow sense – as product quality only, Ishikawa considered a notion of quality to have a broader sense: a quality is a quality of work, a quality of service, a quality of information, a quality of processes, a quality of people, including workers, engineers, managers and operational managers, the company's quality, quality of objectives, etc. (Ishikawa, 1990, p. 87).
Moreover, Ishikawa formulated the basic ideas about the role of a quality management in the Japanese economy:
1. Engineers that assess on the basis of experimental data should know statistical methods by heart.
2. Natural resources are limited in Japan, and it has to import raw materials and food, and, thus, expand exports. Time of manufacture of export goods at low cost and low quality has passed away. Japan should make every effort to produce high-quality products at the minimum cost.
3. In Japanese society and the Japanese economy, there are imbalances that can be corrected by learning of techniques of quality management by corporate administration. Quality management will revive the economy and will realize a change of consciousness of managers of firms and enterprises.
Kaoru Ishikawa died in 1989 in Tokyo where was buried.
Ishikawa, K. (1985). What is total quality control? The Japanese way. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Ishikawa, K. (1990). Introduction to Quality Control. Tokyo: 3A Corporation.
“Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa” (n.d.). Process Improvement Japan. Retrieved from http://www.process-improvement-japan.com/kaoru-Ishikawa.html