First in, last out. These are the general hours of good quality managers. They are hands on, always moving, constantly improving machines who aren’t interested in anything but surpassing their own intense quality standards. But what happens when their standards aren’t good enough for the customers?
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The days of 1,000 page binders of procedure and control are still with us, yet online supplier profiles, online corrective action reports, and online database management are now part of the job. This is all while interfacing with suppliers, certification providers, and customers while preparing for what seems to be the daunting task of yet another audit of some kind. This, in a nutshell is what it takes to be a quality manager in the coming year. Does it ever get easier? No.
In order to supply big box stores, we need to obtain an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification, but which one? We need to get certified from a reputable certification body (CB), but which one? Sometimes a specific customer requires a certificate from a specific CB, which yet again forces multiple audits.
Consider the barrage of audits equivalent to a steady stream of guests funneling through your house. It would get a little tiring whether expected or not.
Today, most quality managers and food safety managers are working with consulting firms while simultaneously improving their internal teams. Continuous improvement for internal auditors and lead auditors doesn’t just stop at the latest GFSI or ISO training. It often includes Lean, Six Sigma Yellow, Green, and/or Black Belt certification. Understanding and implementation of Kaizen certification is also necessary, all while running a line which frequently consists of two to three shifts per day, six or seven days a week.
Please keep in mind that these are only the quality needs for outbound business. Internally, a quality manager is responsible for making sure his/her management team understands that the manufacturing product must hold up to stringent standards and pass inspection before being released for sale or further distribution. Often this is met with significant discourse as upper management is receiving concurrent pressure from a board of directors, shareholders, or corporate requirements to hit projected targets. Regardless of projections and pressures from above, it is the responsibility of the quality manager to hold their ground.
So the question to ask now is, why? Why would quality managers want to break into or remain in a role with so many internal and external challenges?
The answer is clear. As a quality professional, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of the general public. Your standards, in conjunction with local/global standards, help to maintain a level of safety that in a perfect world remains uncompromised. This level of safety is what allows consumers to eat a tortilla chip without thinking about bacterial disease, to open up a soda/pop without worrying about contents other than the drink within, and to sit at a dinner table without fear of the table itself collapsing. There really is nothing in your life that has not been created, produced, assembled, or consumed without first passing through inspection.
Take great pride in the fact that your job, though at times can feel thankless, is paramount to everything from keeping babies fed through the production of safe infant formula, to keeping your televisions working through the proper production on an assembly line.
A degree in food sciences or microbiology is the general course of action to step into the world of food safety. For general manufacturing, an engineering degree is most common. If you want to pursue a more senior position, a Master’s degree is generally required or preferred.