I'm looking for some advice/mentoring. I've currently accepted a position as Lead Quality Technician at a smaller company that specializes in injection molding. This is the most senior Quality role within the company. The hierarchy currently consist of the Owner, an Account Manager/Production Manager, Industrial Engineer, and myself as the Lead Quality Technician. This company is currently struggling in all Quality aspects. They have experienced a high turnover of upper management, which resulted in several quality concepts implemented, but not followed through. A couple of years ago, the company was booming with business until, they brought in an individual that attempted to use bully tactics and fear to manipulate staff and increase revenue. This resulted in a significant loss of customers, employees, and tribal knowledge. Since then, they have discontinued the employment of this individual but the negative effects are still present.
The company does have a generic QMS and manual, but no one is familiar with it or the concepts. There are many gaps between what is written and what is really done. As of now, the company is in what I like to call "survival mode". Basically, they are attempting to manufacture products within spec and hoping that it is "good enough" for the customer. There are no effective controls in place. There are two quality inspectors that are very new to the field (less than two months). They are instructed to perform first article inspections, however, this is usually done after the run has started. After the run, the inspectors have to visually 100% all parts. So far, I've assisted the measurement of parts and all have several dimensions that are out of tolerance. I discussed this with the Owner and the Production Manager and their response was that the parts are exactly similar to those produced previously, and that the customer hasn't complained. I started digging into the history of the parts; the previous quality associates fabricated the values of the prototype runs. All 1st pieces of each run is saved, so I was able to measure them and compare my results to what was recorded.
This is just one of many lapses in the system that I've witnessed. Other lapses include:
90%of the gauges haven't been calibrated in several years, or have never been calibrated, the lack of SOPS, and the absence of a non-conforming procedure.
I've been granted permission to implement any plans that I feel will contribute to the success of the company, as long as it doesn't cost a significant amount of money (over $1000.00) or doesn't disrupt production. This place is ISO 9001 certified. As of now, I can't see how they would pass a basic surveillance audit. I have half a mind to jump ship before I get in too deep and it has a negative effect on my reputation, but then again, I think this would be the perfect opportunity to apply some of the concepts of quality that I have read about. I just don't know where or how to start. Should I rewrite the QM to reflect the current practices of the organization, should I pick which gauges are more important and send them out to get calibrated, should I focus on eliminating the 100% final inspections, should I attempt to introduce the process control concept, or should I focus on the training of blueprint/drawing reading and interpretation and measuring with the two quality inspectors?
Any and all advice and comments would be helpful. Thank you in advance.
Sounds like you have your hands full! This is a great group & I'm sure the community will provide insight. I also see that you posted your request for a mentor in the general board too - GOOD. More traffic. You may also want to check out the Technical Communities too. https://my.asq.org/communities/categories/3
I read your detailed post with concern and empathy. If you've been in quality long enough, you tend to see it all, so I can understand where you're coming from. I would start with the fact that your company is ISO 9001 registered. This is not an insignificant investment by your owners, and you will not pass a surveillance audit with 90% out of calibration measuring devices. In ISO 9001, there is a significant section on Management Responsibility (Section 5). This is not to be taken lightly, and requires management to provide adequate resources to the QMS. "Not disrupting production" or "under $1000" would probably not meet this criteria. So you definitely need a better commitment from top management before you can attempt to tackle the problems that you have mentioned.
This is not an easy discussion to have with your managers, but understand, a quality system is not the sole responsibility of one individual; everyone has a part to play from top management, quality department, engineering, purchasing and at the product floor level. Try to determine where your company is and whether there is a viable plan to get you into compliance, then you can consider all of your personal options. It may be necessary to move on.
Hi John. That's a tough spot and I have empathy for the position that has put you in. Possibly suggest to management that you need to do some internal, self-assessment ISO audits to get ready for the next re-cert? Document your findings, show where you're not in compliance with ISO and have a RCCA plan. Their reaction to any of the above may give you some clarity on your next step.