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.
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.
Quality control managers find a number of detail-oriented jobs open to them. Those with financial backgrounds become bookkeepers, accountants, and loan officers more than anything else. A number with strong interpersonal skills become production supervisors and inventory managers, fields well-suited to their organizational abilities and analytic natures.