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A Day in the Life of a Quality Control Manager

Quality control managers work in every type of production environment possible, from producing dictionaries to dowel-cutting for boat plugs. A quality control manager samples production, analyzes it, and then makes recommendations on how to increase the quality of goods. It takes a firm grasp of scientific as well as managerial concepts to be a successful quality control expert; quality control managers work hard inspecting, analyzing, and writing reports about production. These people are the last line of defense between quality goods that the public respects and shoddy work that can harm a company’s reputation. Does this mean they are appreciated by coworkers? Quality control managers answered us with a resounding one-word answer: No. If you absolutely need approbation from your colleagues, be warned: Quality control is not the field for you. “People see you as the policeman, criticizing people’s work and telling them that they’re not doing their job right,” said one QC inspector. The best of QC professionals act as educators as well, letting people know that they are only there to help everyone keep product quality high. “I spend more time talking with people than examining objects,” wrote one eight-year veteran of the QC field, “because the object can’t change.” Meeting with workers, executives, and supervisors takes up a significant 30 percent of the QC manager’s day, but another 30 percent is spent testing and analyzing materials. Scientific methodologies are important; those who do not properly conduct their tests are going to make recommendations based on faulty data. The remainder of time is spent writing reports, making recommendations, and doing professional reading. QC experts must keep up with current materials use, statistical studies, and technological advances that affect the field of quality control. For example, construction materials stress-testing can be done using high-pressured pistons to compress them to the point of breakage; a recent advance lets the QC expert analyze the molecular composition of a small sample to get nearly as precise an estimate of its tensile strength.

Paying Your Dues

No specific academic requirements exist for quality control experts, but the many positions in the field that involve scientific analysis require bachelor’s degrees. Candidates who majored in chemistry, physics, and engineering are at an advantage during the job hunt; at a minimum, coursework should include mathematics, statistics, and computer modeling. Some candidates who have only high school degrees are sponsored to take two- or three-year post-high school courses that train them in a particular industry. Many of these industries-automobile, aerospace, and glassmaking, to name a few-have exacting requirements that can only be learned through specific training. Quality control trainees may also have to spend significant time on a production floor analyzing behavior that affects quality control.

Present and Future

Quality control managers first became important with the mass production of similar items that came with the industrial revolution. Large-scale production initially brought with it high levels of variation between goods from the same plant, and consumers were wary. No longer did a personally known craftsman attend to their problems; now they were dealing with a faceless organization in which there was no personal accountability. The need for consistent customer satisfaction inspired the creation of quality control managers. The position has been a central feature of industrialized production ever since. Quality control managers can expect job openings in many industries in the next decade, but positions should grow at a slightly slower pace than the economy in general. As standardized systems that predict levels of quality are developed, and as larger companies dominate production environments, fewer QC experts will be needed to maintain the same level of excellence. Still, a significant number of QC managers will reach retirement age in the next decade, and positions should be available at a rate only slightly below the current one.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

Quality control managers have developed systems of testing during these first two years that give their company reasonable ideas of the quality levels of their product. Many spend their first three months merely orienting themselves to a company’s product line, reviewing past quality statistics, and analyzing methods of production. QC managers work closely with production managers, raw material suppliers, and production line workers during these initial years in order to make solid and sensible recommendations.

FIVE YEARS OUT

After five years, most QC managers have seen their programs implemented and have had to handle many unforeseen complications. Many have been rotated between different production facilities and different product lines, and are required to rapidly become experts in each item’s production process. A number are asked to relocate for two to nine months or longer. Satisfaction is extremely high in these middle years; salaries are average.

TEN YEARS OUT

Quality control managers who have lasted ten years are familiar with their company’s product lines and production processes. They have a strong understanding of raw material suppliers’ costs and quality. Few shift jobs in these later years, as much of the knowledge they absorbed throughout their career is only useful with respect to one company: The one they currently work for. Hours are average and travel is less likely as salaries rise.