Have you ever bitten into a Kit Kat to find it was made purely out of chocolate? Were you angry about the distinct lack of wafer in your mouth? Did you storm down to your local shop and give the shopkeeper a mouthful of chocolatey abuse?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but you shouldn’t have been shouting at the shopkeeper. Your ‘beef’ should most definitely have been with the quality manager at the Kit Kat factory. Please go back to the shop and apologise.
Thankfully, the majority of quality managers get it right every time. These eagle-eyed experts are responsible for making sure every product and service which is provided by a company meets rigorous quality standards.
Quality standards are typically mandated by both internal and external specifications. Internal quality requirements are set by the individual organisation. These are put in place to make sure that every product or service on offer is good enough to meet customer expectations.
These quality standards will govern every part of the manufacturing process, from pre-production to packaging and distribution.
It’s essential that companies go the extra mile to improve and maintain the quality of their products or services. After all, if your company is widely regarded for the quality of its products, then sales will improve and more money will be made.
Often, companies are legally required to make sure the quality of their products or services is maintained. This is where external quality standards need to be taken into consideration. These are usually defined by regulatory authorities and universally-recognised systems and methodologies, such as Total Quality Management (TQM), ISO 9000 and Six Sigma.
Quality managers don’t spend their entire professional life checking each and every product or service themselves. Instead, they focus on defining, implementing and monitoring quality assurance standards. They manage testing staff, training them and ensuring their awareness of quality standards is maintained at all times.
These guys are also responsible for carrying out periodic checks or quality audits to ensure all quality-related policies are being adhered to.
A large part of a quality manager’s job also involves handling lots of performance data, through collecting and analysing it, before writing reports detailing compliance levels in relation to defined quality standards.
Salary & benefits
Annual starting salaries for quality managers range between £20,000 and £25,000, whilst experienced professionals in senior management positions can earn up to £65,000 per annum.
For some quality managers, the standard working hours are from nine-to-five.
However, personnel working in factories which operate on a 24/7 basis will often need to work shifts. This may mean working nights or early mornings on a regular basis.
Entry into this line of work without a degree or HND (higher national diploma) is possible, although you will need to gain a significant amount of experience at a junior technician level before moving into a quality manager role.
Graduates across all disciplines are eligible to take on quality management roles. However, a degree or HND in a relevant subject, such as business studies, mechanical engineering, physics, maths, chemical engineering, textiles or food science, might help to strengthen your application.
You might even want to consider doing a relevant postgraduate qualification to boost your chances of finding work, but this is by no means necessary.
Training & progression
Many entry-level quality managers will learn their trade through structured graduate training programmes. These tend to involve hands-on, practical training and working towards professional qualifications, which are offered by the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI). Trainees will also receive training in the use of methodologies such as ISO 9000.
Quality management expertise can be transferred across many different industries. Consequently, as well as progressing into more senior roles within the quality assurance arena, quality managers may be able to develop their career in other areas, such as health and safety, production management or human resources. Freelance consulting is also an option.