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QC Issues


Jan 22, 2024
Hi everyone,

Our shop has roughly 20 employees. We have a QC manager but in my opinion he doesn't seem to do much? We hired him to help us set up a more robust and "by the books" QC system. Is it unreasonable for us to expect him to ensure all the gages are calibrated, randomly spot check machinists in the shop that they are following our system, that he manages a set of gages different from the shop with calibration dates established, start tracking KPIs.. etc.

I am wondering if I need to make the investment and hire an experienced Quality Engineer instead? Maybe someone with some big company experience. Does anyone have any experience getting an actual experienced quality engineer involved to set up a quality program? I know this is an extremely open ended question, but QC is for sure our biggest issue in the shop and I am not sure what to do.. Our current system involves close micromanagement from the owner but it's just not practical. Thoughts?
That is absolutely what he should be doing. The quality managers job is to have and execute a qualifying program for all measuring tools in the shop. And yes he should have a separate set for the QC of any parts he's checking. Depending on what you require or if you are an ISO shop etc... all measuring equipment should be qualified at least once a year, labeled and recorded. A quick look on the internet and you can find a couple different outlines of what a quality program should look like. You can adjust it to fit your needs
I have never met a good quality manager. I am sure they exist, but they are unicorns. The quality managers I have known and worked with are not really capable/dont have the background to execute actual work. Their function seems to entirely regulation administration. Filing documents, organizing audits, talking to vendors, etc. These functions dont seem to be needed until a company is over 75ish employees or $20M+ revenue in a regulated market.

That being said, I think your idea of a good quality engineer is the right path forward. A quality engineer tends to be more hands on, well versed with production, well versed with inspection techniques, and a rockstar with documentation. I would expect to pay $80k a year for someone pretty new in a role like this. I am in a HCOL area though.
"Quality" isn't doing something right. Quality is doing the same thing over and over again, regardless of if it is right. If you want to actually improve things, you need a process engineer. If you want things to stay exactly the same you need a quality manager.

Is it important that things stay exactly the same? Sometimes. If you have a product that runs in a regulated market, pharmaceuticals or airplanes or whatever, then you need someone to make sure that it is being done exactly how you submitted it to the regulators and got approval for. But if you have to ask, you don't need it.
I think a 20-man shop might do well with a gauge man who could imagine and make (or design for out sourcing) Go / no / inspection gauges / spotters and the like. Likely some surface grinder and lathe skills. Would help. Certainly he would do other work in between gauge work and calibrate existing measuring tools.
Olick dial indicator plates with a simple master can cut measuring time and mistakes greatly.
Prints with a prior or caution here note for past part errors.
Often a gauge guy knows what to watch out for and how to best check/avoid errors, a QC manager may not know such things
Measuring can be the bugaboo in manufacturing, very often a gauge will be faster and better results to avoid scrap.
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One shop I worked for had the QC manager who was on paper pretty much top dog in the shop under the owner himself.

The guy was a long-time machinist and was the most anal about perfection, ran a lathe for most of his career. From what I remember the owner had at one point pulled him off the lathe to run QC. My guess (he had already been the manager for years by the time I got a job there) is he was slow at making stuff but always made good parts so the transfer was ideal.

All the apprentices like me and most of the other guys had to have him OK the first article before they ran the rest of the job. If I had issues on getting a part in tolerance he'd usually be very helpful with tips to get it in. Learned most of my GD&T from him. Us machinists kinda hated the guy and the other QC ppl because if they wanted they could take their sweet time with inspection while we were under the gun, but the system worked well enough otherwise. This particular dude had a hobby of keeping potted ferns and stuff in the QC area and earned the nickname "Plant Manager" by those of us who griped about it.

From what I can tell, hiring a QC only guy is like hiring a fresh MBA as the production manager for your shop. He's gotta be hired up from excelling as a machinist before he's really qualified for either QC or PM.

QC manager was responsible for quality- basically, if I as an apprentice didn't take my 1A parts to him for a double check, I'd get fired or in trouble. If QC manager checked my parts and OK'd them, then later it turns out he neglected something, he'd get fired or in trouble.
Whatever quality system you have, he's responsible for it, including doing all the homework and making his own schedule to make sure it's followed. QC can override Production Manager. If Production Manager wants to override QC, (assume the minor diameter thread of an inconsequential part is undersize a hair) it has to get escalated to the owner who can make the call.
QC manager is in charge of making sure everything is calibrated, the guys have the measuring tools they need, he's ordering things within his allotted budget, etc. etc. He's not an employee that needs hand-holding to figure this out, he should be considered a C-suite type of person and has buy-in to the future of the company, be it profit sharing or just a high salary or whatnot. I'm pretty sure most good shops bite the bullet and transfer one of their senior trusted machinists to this position. It's expensive, but not as expensive as shipping $200k of bad parts to a customer, so should be considered as a form of insurance/loss prevention.
Do you have a written job description for the position you are calling QC manager, that spells out in some detail what your expectations are as to what the person in that position should be doing?
Yes I do. All of our expectations are clearly stated in the job description and were communicated to him on the first day.
Ah, good! So you have a performance review meeting, explain that he's not meeting the expectations spelled out in the job description, and either fire him and look for somebody else (or re-envision the position) or give him X amount of time to get his act together. If you choose that latter course of action, it might be worthwhile to investigate what (if anything) might be holding him back -- does he have the resources that he needs? is there additional training that he could benefit from? etc...
I see two questions here:
1. Are the things you described reasonable to expect from a Quality Manager? Yes.
2. Are the things you described reasonable to expect from this particular individual? That I cannot answer. I mention that because I've seen cases where someone, for whatever reason, either is hired or thinks they were hired to be an inspector, and then discovers there's a whole world of other things expected. I've also seen cases where the QM needs to outsource 90% of the work, particularly calibrations, because they simply aren't equipped to do all of that in addition to any inspection work required, but the owner didn't think of that when they planned budget for Quality.
We've hired a mechanical engineer right out of school and "worked" him into a QA supervisor.

He seems to be doing a good job but QA is still the main bottleneck in our operation.

Maybe you should contemplate moving a numbers guy into the roll. As long as they're trained to do inspections and keep records, you shouldn't need to hire a big buck engineer to essentially be a record keeper and file filler.