I started my career as plant metallurgist in the metal casting industry. Just as many other quality professionals, my quality journey actually commenced with reviewing non-conforming products, process variations and variables, and customer complaints. To some degree, it is a bit ironic that many of us began quality journeys with task that involve“lack of quality”. I have to be honest here; I did not know much about quality when I started. In time, I started to learn acronyms such as PFD, FMEA, CP, PPAP, C&E, RCA, CAPA, PDCA, COQ, TOC, and on and on.
A few years ago, I was sitting in one of the quality training classes offered by American Foundry Society. One of the teachers was Ted Schorn, who was VP of Quality and Technology at a large manufacturing firm in Indiana. I was amazed not only by the content of the class but also by Ted’s knowledge on quality history, quality gurus, quality philosophies, and quality anecdotes. So inspired by him, during a class break, I asked Ted for career advice in quality arena. Ted replied, “You should start with the Certified Quality Engineer Handbook and try to get the CQE certification.” A year later, I received my certification. The preparation for the certification helped me put together the “puzzle pieces” of my quality skills and knowledge. Ever since, I have been blessed with opportunities to lead quality initiatives, manage Quality Management Systems, and now head a quality department consisting of ten quality professionals. To this day, I still find new meanings to the classic quality tools, concepts, and philosophies. Looking back, my quality journey can be distilled into the following:
- Base quality on data or fact-driven decisions
- Rely on a structured process
- Involve the team
- Cultivate a quality culture
Let me try to elaborate. The first a few years of my career taught me the importance of making informed decisions based on data / fact. Later on, the CQE journey enlightened me about a structured process and prepared me for developing, implementing, and maintaining such a process. However, it was not until the very recent years did I realize that it is not quite enough just being respectful of data and having a structured process. One has to recognize that systems needs to be maintained and continuously improved upon by the team, who are collectively responsible and committed to a common goal for which they hold themselves accountable. For any quality system to be effective in a long run, the quality leader must actively involve the whole team, by which I mean everyone from production floor to middle management all the way to the very top. Since each team member has his or her own priorities, the leader must make sure the quality message is simple, clear, and right to the point. The message needs to be communicated by all means (e.g., via process controls, audits, trainings, meetings, emails, etc.) to all interested parties (e.g., the suppliers, internal teams, the customers, etc.) on regular basis until it becomes the quality culture, or part of the DNA of the company.
So far, it has been a great journey for me.
Naiyu earned his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Alabama at Birmingham. He started his career as a Metallurgist, then served as a Supplier Quality Manager, and currently is a Director of Quality in the manufacturing industry. He has been a CQE from ASQ since June 2015. He is a Senior Member of ASQ. In his spare time, Naiyu enjoys playing soccer with friends, reading, and traveling.