Why get into quality control?
The 19th century art critic, John Ruskin, remarked that: “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.” This is certainly the case in the world of manufacturing and production. Every manufacturing company wants to be known for its quality products.
Consequently, quality control and quality assurance professionals are needed by all manufacturers to make sure that every single item produced is of a premium quality. Nobody wants to buy a bike that falls apart as soon as you go over a speed bump; nobody wants to buy a knife which can’t cut butter; and nobody wants a drink which leaves a disgustingly bitter aftertaste in your mouth.
Careers in quality control and assurance are therefore essential for making sure products are fit for purpose and consistently of a high quality. This mark of quality is not based purely on opinion. Products firstly need to meet consumer requirements, but often they also need to comply with specific laws, standards and regulations.
What careers are available in quality control & assurance?
Careers in this area can fall roughly into two different areas: 1) quality control, and 2) quality assurance. Quality control is all about testing products, finding defects and reporting the problems so that the decision can be made to release a product or not.
Quality assurance is all about ‘good practice’. Quality assurance initiatives attempt to improve production standards and promote consistency in the manufacturing process. Quality assurance is focused on prevention rather than cure and aims to minimise the issues which create defects in the first place.
Careers in quality control and assurance permeate all areas of the manufacturing industry, from aerospace and automobiles, to pharmaceuticals and food. People working in these careers need a keen eye for detail, strong communication, planning and problem-solving skills.
How does quality control typically work?
Quality control officers may also be referred to as testers, inspectors or samplers. These guys check products for imperfections using a variety of different methods and equipment depending on the product. They may be looking for scratches, verifying dimensions or testing moving parts for functionality.
Some inspections might be quick visual scans and others might be meticulous surveys using specialist equipment. Products might also be tested in real environmental conditions, for instance by simulating the effects of intense weather conditions on a car’s bodywork.
The quality control testing process determines how long products will last and allows changes to be made to products that will improve their lifespan. Quality control workers are involved throughout the entire production process. They may test raw materials before production starts, make routine checks during the production process, and make final assessments to finished products.
Quality control is not just about testing though. These guys might repair minor imperfections themselves and are required to maintain detailed documents of testing activity and produce written reports.
Quality assurance professionals are more concerned with the strategic aspect of quality control. These guys evaluate product specifications and develop a sound understanding of customer requirements, before implementing complex quality assurance initiatives.
These professionals ensure that all production work complies with in-house quality assurance objectives, health and safety rules and national/international legislation and standards. They might also actively direct technical manufacturing staff during the production process and run training sessions to ensure that performance, processes and procedures are all operating at an optimal level.
These guys need great communication skills to motivate staff and enhance their understanding of quality assurance issues. They will also need great analytical and writing skills, as they will need to analyse complex data and write technical quality assurance reports.
So, while you don’t get to play around with crash test dummies, working in quality control and assurance has a lot more to it than just tire-kicking and standing at a conveyor belt with a clipboard! If you want a 'quality' career, look no further.