|A ‘Quality’ Career?|
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Quality is defined, ultimately, by the customer. This simply means that a quality product or service is one that meets customer requirements. Not all customers have the same requirements of course, so quality management emphasises continuous improvement, with the aim of increasing the level of satisfaction of all an organisation’s customers. Quality is all about gaining an understanding of customer needs and meeting or, preferably, exceeding them. Careful and sustained attention must also be paid to the internal culture of the organisation and this requires a company to adopt a philosophy that quality is every employee’s concern, not just that of a quality function or manager.
As part of this focus on customers, organisations need to produce innovative products, services and delivery systems to a high standard which naturally leads to financial savings. However, alongside the traditional quality focuses of continual improvement and customer satisfaction, companies are increasingly concerned with environmental impact and sustainability of their products and processes. It’s in this growing area that quality will be especially important over the coming decades. Why? Because a good quality assurance system is objective and independent. It reassures management and customers alike that an adequate level of quality is being achieved.
Many aspects of quality management are covered within published standards, of which the most well known is probably the ISO 9000 series. Intended to help an organisation to design and implement a quality system, it also allows a company to demonstrate that it will supply goods or services consistently at the level agreed with its customers. A system can be used solely as an internal guide by the organisation or can provide a basis for external audit and certification.
In general, those who become responsible for quality management come from within an organisation, with a background of relevant knowledge and experience. In larger companies, people from administrative or production areas may increase their involvement in quality by taking part in specific projects, for example implementing the Excellence Model for business improvement, or they may be asked to train to carry out internal quality audits or inspection activities.
Certain jobs in quality control require little more than on-the-job training; others require skilled technicians who have a qualification in their discipline. As experience is gained, it may be possible to move to functions such as quality assistant, full-time internal quality auditor or assistant quality manager. Progression to a management position may be open to those who have acquired good professional qualifications on top of their experience.
The person responsible for managing quality improvement processes in an organisation will often have a job title such as ‘quality manager’ or ‘business improvement manager’. He or she would normally have membership of a professional body, such as the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), and/or a degree in their discipline, alongside sound experience in their particular industry and in quality. Quality management consultancy is another field open to those who have considerable experience of implementing quality.
An alternative for those with good understanding and knowledge of quality is quality system auditing. Auditors are employed by certification bodies such as LRQA, BSI and NQA to assess companies against the requirements of ISO 9001 and other quality standards. Auditors need to have appropriate academic and professional qualifications, experience of quality and experience of carrying out audits. Many are certificated by auditor certification bodies such as IRCA (www.irca.org) as competent to perform audits.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 28 May 2008 )|
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