ABSTRACT

This article discussing the status of a quality engineer, taking into account the effect of quality events that have recently occurred in Israel and around the world. The first article examined tension between expertise on the one hand and authority on the other in the role of a quality engineer (Anker, 2019). The second article examined the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on quality management in organisations (Anker, 2020). This article examines the correlation between professionalism and the degree of job success, and the characteristics of the job. The previous articles emphasized that management support is necessary for job success, as it can be difficult to measure success of quality processes in the organisation carried out by those in the safety professions, as the results are necessarily long term.

A survey of attitudes and the accompanying verbal comments reveal that participants   presume that there is a correlation between professionalism and the degree of job success. Characteristics considered important to the role of the quality engineer include an ability to pay attention to details, teamwork skills, and analytical ability, while relevant knowledge in the quality field were deemed less important. Most participants identified the effects of the success and added value of a quality engineer as raising awareness of quality among all stakeholders, improving motivation among employees, and helping management understand the company’s quality status.

In summary, while success depends considerably on professionalism, it depends more on organisational culture, and the application of different communication styles across the organisation.

KEYWORDS: quality; quality engineer; organisational culture

  INTRODUCTION

The professional authority of quality engineering is a contested matter that relates both to the occupation’s internal regulation as a professional association, with clearly defined standards of expertise, and to the role and status of quality engineers within the organisations for which they work. This paper examines the correlation between professionalism and the degree of job success, and the characteristics of the quality engineer position in light of noteworthy quality failures that have affected both companies and consumers. Recent events involving quality-related flaws in production, manufacturing, and construction in Israel and worldwide have highlighted the need for professionalism in quality engineering and the issue of the authority – or lack thereof – of quality engineers. For example, a pharmaceutical company in Israel, Remedia Inc., changed its non-dairy baby formula without following quality engineering protocols, which resulted in the deaths of two infants and severe injuries to another 23 infants (State of Israel v. Balak et al., 2013). Such events have raised critical issues regarding the professional ethics of those involved in the quality field, and many working in the field find that their status varies from one organisation to another and depends on the organisational culture.

Results published in 2019 and 2020 (Anker) suggested that professionals in the field believe the role of quality engineer depends on organisational culture regardless of the type of organisation (Schein, 1990). However, to date, the degree of success and the role of a quality engineer in organisations have yet to be examined This study was intended to confirm the hypothesis that professionalism and success as a quality engineer are interdependent. Previously, we found that success stems from changing and raising awareness of quality, savings, improving motivation among employees, and helping management reflect the image of quality.

The current article focuses on the situation in Israel, although its insights are relevant to companies around the world. It consists of two parts. The first part presents the theoretical foundations of the argument, elaborating on the notion that the role of a quality engineer depends on corporate culture. The second part demonstrates this argument empirically. The data for the research were derived from questionnaires. The results provide insights into how quality professionals perceive their authority as depending on corporate culture.

Aim

This study is intended to confirm the research hypotheses that there is a dependence between professionalism and success in the role of quality engineer.

Two hypotheses were examined in this study:

·  H1: There is a correlation between professionalism and success in the role of quality engineer

·  H2: There is a correlation between the roles of quality engineers in Israel and abroad.

In short, what is success? What is failure? What is the added value of the perspective of quality engineers?

The research hypotheses were examined quantitatively based on a questionnaire sent to quality practitioners in 2021 through various media — the Israeli Society for Quality website (https://il.linkedin.com/company/israel-society-for-quality-isq-#:~:text=Israel%20Society%20for%20Quality%20(ISQ,business%2C%20public%20and%20defense%20sectors.iasq), email, and sharing the questionnaire on collaborative media (Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp).

Quality AND Success

Quality Engineers

There are two main types of organisations for which quality engineers work. The first type includes organisations working according to government regulations (for example, pharmaceutical companies, food). In such organisations, the quality manager is involved in almost all processes, enjoys correspondingly high levels of authority (conferred by laws and standards that are clearly defined), and is unlikely to be opposed. The second type includes organisations involved in Manufacturing industry. In such organisations, the quality manager is often considered a burden and may be ignored or side-lined for business reasons.

In Israel, the stringent requirements of quality standards and the tightening of customer requirements have prompted organisations to appoint quality engineers, even when not required to do so. In general, quality systems that are applied in organisations usually operate according to a matrix system. A variety of measures are applied, some of them managerial, others technical or engineering oriented. Typically, an organisational quality manager and/or a quality engineer is responsible for implementing the requirements of the quality system and ensuring excellence in the organisational units, where, in most cases, theoretical knowledge and qualifications are required.

 To date, no criteria have been set for the position of quality engineer. Professional articles suggest that one should choose the most suitable person, that is, an individual with abilities or attributes that will enable him or her to perform the role in an optimal manner (Anker 2019, 2020). The quality engineer is responsible for the input of the organisation (building an organisational culture for quality, providing employees with tools to produce a quality product), while the management and employees are responsible for the output (working according to the established quality infrastructure).

In a survey conducted in 2012 by Liat Milo and Moshe Ekroni, examining how the respondents entered the field of quality, most of the respondents answered, ‘I entered the field by chance’ and had not entered the field from a specialized occupation. Many respondents took on quality positions by chance or lack of choice and not necessarily because they viewed quality as a real vocation or part of their career development. Some previously had enjoyed long-standing careers in business or operational fields, and had reached high-level positions, with all the authority accompanying such ranks. When they entered the field of quality, they initially felt a regression in both the image and the authority they had (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: How you entered the field of quality

Success in the Job

Researchers around the world have been trying for many years to crack the riddle of what is success, and how can it be achieved. We will first define the contrasting terms ‘success’ and ‘failure’ (Yehezkelly, 2015

Success – Achieving a pre-defined goal within a predetermined timeframe.

Failure – Failure to achieve a defined goal within the predetermined timeframe.

If we ask ten different people what success means to them, we will likely receive ten different answers: one might say that success is winning the lottery, another might say that success is becoming the CEO of the company where he or she is employed, and so on. Perception plays a role in defining success and varies from person to person; therefore, it is not possible to comprehensively define success (achievements and accomplishments) based on our personal results or those of others (Ericsson, 2007).

Success refers primarily to professional knowledge and experience gained over time. For example, expertise in chess, music or sports results from a combination of professionalism and success. Consequently, expertise in a field may be tested according to three criteria: whether the results of one’s work yields concrete results; (2) whether one’s performance consistently exceeds that of one’s peers; (3) whether expertise can be replicated and measured (Ericsson, 2007).

It is very difficult to measure success in the field of quality, in part because of the difficulties in quantifying preventive activity, which is the essence of the world of quality. As a result, evaluating short-term success can be problematic, and measuring long-term success quality professionals poses challenges. We need to measure ourselves, to see where we stand in the face of the goals we have set for ourselves, and to see if we have been able to meet them.

For example, Amnon Margalit said, ‘I often experience a clash between the realisation of quality solutions and the time of delivery of a system to the customer’. These barriers can limit the quality professionals’ authority and impair their ability to perform their duties as a partner in the organisation’s business success (Anker, 2019). Regarding the correlation between professionalism and success in the role of quality engineer, a lecture by Roni Hamatian, Afcon Group Quality Engineer is edifying. He found that ‘the quality engineer does not necessarily affect business results, given the difficulties arising from the organisational culture, the state of the relevant knowledge, the inadequacy of appropriate techniques for addressing problems that have developed, and the multidisciplinary nature of this work’ (Khamatian, 2019).

Success in a quality-related position may be deduced from a survey conducted by Moshe Ekroni (2012). Most participants think that ‘a quality engineer can be measured on compliance, standard quality tasks, or organizational performance – this measurement is done even though he is not directly responsible for achieving goals. And its activities contribute and influence “indirectly” by focusing on helping to improve the organization’s business processes’ (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: How is your success in a job measured?

EMPIRICAL RESEARCH

Methods

The present study examined whether there is a correlation between professionalism and success in the role of quality engineer. It also aimed to define the characteristics of the position of quality engineer, and what is success or failure in such a position.

The quantitative questionnaire was built using Google Forms and was sent to participants as a link via the Israeli Society for Quality website, email, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp. Each questionnaire took an average of 10 minutes to complete. Data analysis was carried out using SPSS software and based on a Chi-squared split (Firestone. 1987)

Study Participants

Forty-nine (49) quality personnel [25 men (58%) and 18 women (42%)] from a variety of positions, including VP Quality/Global Quality Manager, Quality Engineer and Quality Manager responded to the survey.

Findings

Analysis of the survey responses revealed that some of the respondents did not begin their careers in the field of quality, but ‘fell’ into it from other fields, e.g., engineering, promotion by the CEO, recruitment by a friend, coincidence, personal recommendation, a managerial career, via project management, and more.

Although the respondents did not seek careers in the field of quality, they now view the position as a real vocation chosen as part of personal career development. When they entered the position, they did not feel a regression in either the image or the authority they had, a trend that emerged from a survey conducted by Moshe Ekroni and Liat Milo 2012.

Findings

There is a correlation between professionalism and success in the role of quality engineer.

This hypothesis was tested by asking the following question:

– Do you think there is a correlation between your professionalism and the degree of your success in the job?

Analysis of the survey found that over 86% (see Figure 3) of the quantitative respondents believe that as their professionalism and success in the position improves, they are granted greater authority with stakeholders to prevent quality events, matching the authority of other professions, such as doctors. The characteristic of expertise is not innate, but is acquired over time through practice and the accumulation of knowledge, specifically professional experience.

For example, there is a correlation between professionalism and success in chess, music or sports. These results are consistent with those obtained in a study by Anker (2019), in which over 62% of the respondents agreed that a role in the field of quality requires knowledge in that field.

A strong response was noted among respondents who answered regarding the correlation between professionalism and the degree of success, and the question of how they came into the position. Those who did not begin in the field of quality and ‘fell’ into the job believed that professionalism is required to be successful in the job. There was also correlation between how a respondent came into the position and his or her added value in the organisation.

Being a quality engineer requires mastery of professional and organisational knowledge and skills. If those engaged in the field undergo long-term training and dedicated specialization, they will be able to carry out their duties effectively (Anker, 2019).

Figure 3: Correlation between professionalism and the degree of success as a quality engineer

 There is a correlation between the roles of quality engineers in Israel and abroad.

To examine this, we asked the following question:

Which characteristics reflect your role in the organisation?

Analysis of the attitudes survey found that over 70% of quantitative practitioners believe that teamwork skills and critical thinking rate higher than relevant knowledge in the field of quality and authority to perform the job (59%). ‘Soft Skill’ is seen as more important in performing the job than relevant knowledge in the field of quality and authority (see Figure 4).

These results are consistent with those from the tests of the previous hypothesis, where most respondents felt that specializing in quality increases their success in the job. Although the respondents believed that specialisation in the field of quality is required, and that the quality engineer must be familiar with and apply different communication styles at work across the organisation, success depended considerably on motivating people to implement necessary changes, and on ‘taking on’ authority as a leader and supporter in matrix management when called upon to prove the need for quality measures (Anker, 2019).

In conclusion, the results of the data comparison test clearly show that the participants believed that teamwork and critical thinking skills are important elements in job performance, while specific knowledge received a lower assessment.

Figure 4: can you capitalize the word Leadership in the figure for consistency?[1]

What is success? What is failure? What is the added value of the perspective of quality engineers?

We examined these issues through the following questions:

Analysis of the attitude survey revealed that in the opinion of those engaged in quality, success refers to repeated themes: with change and improvement of quality through organisational culture, repeated most often (a result consistent with the earlier study by Anker); raising awareness of quality, recruiting management to the issue and employing a knowledge person for the organisation, with all management and employees as partners who understand and care about quality (repeated 11 times); examination and improvement of processes from data collection and analysis: assimilation of work processes as a way of life, a reduction of defects and customer complaints, failure to repeat a mistake (repeated 4 times); meeting customer requirements, for example, so that the customer and not the product returns; customer retention; reduction of customer complaints; zero malfunctions (repeated 6 times); achievement of the goals and objectives of the organisation, for example, involvement and influence in achieving the goals of the organisation (repeated 4 times); colleague discourse, such as field inquiries and open discourse; peer inquiries for advice and help; and, finally, achieving goals and objectives (repeated 3 times).

It was anticipated that analysis of the attitude survey on the issue of failure would reveal results contrary to those related to success. The opinions of respondents about failure in the quality field referred to themes that had already repeated several times, with organisational culture raised most frequently. The main issues mentioned in the survey included lack of recognition of quality; quality out of fear; authority due to position and not out of recognition that quality is important; the voice of quality not being heard in management and organisational decisions; performing the tasks required by law or regulation standard only, management’s not seeing any value in the position (repeated 10 times); many disqualifications, defective product reaches the customer due to a failure in quality processes that were not identified by the quality department within the framework of internal audits; a decrease in production yields; multiple customer complaints, (repeated 5 times); failure to meet organisation or customer goals (repeated twice); quality perceived as something ‘interfering’; lack of influence; and failure to provide value to stakeholders.

Analysis of the survey revealed that, in the opinion of respondents, value-added quality refers to themes which also have been repeated several times. Here, improved processes and reduced repetitive costs appeared most often. The main points included: saving; improving motivation and satisfaction among employees (repeated 9 times); work across the organisation; raising awareness of the issue and importance of quality; assisting management in promoting a quality approach in processes; and identifying and flooding gaps (repeated 6 times); contributing to the business goals of the organisation (repeated 4 times); improving processes and reducing costs; savings; process flow; business achievements; improved employee experience, with high potential to bring the organisation to new heights via creative, original thinking, requiring fewer resources to achieve results.

In conclusion, the findings of the study show that in the opinion of the respondents, success in the field of quality requires knowledge and professionalism in the field. This success depends on ‘soft’ traits and organisational culture.

Discussion and Conclusions

This is the third article written about the status of the quality engineer, in view of non-quality events that took place in Israel and around the world, affecting the trust of customers and consumers, and resulting in discussion of the weighty issues regarding the professional ethics of quality engineers. In this study, the basic assumptions of the previous two studies were re-examined, namely that the role of a quality engineer depends on organisational culture (Anker, 2019; 2020), meaning that success depends largely on management support in light of the long-term results of quality processes in the organisation

Analysis of the results of the survey of the attitudes and verbal comments of the participants reveal that most of the participants believe there is a correlation between professionalism and the degree of success in the job. They identify the characteristics that reflect the role of the quality engineer as: ability to pay attention to detail, teamwork skills and analytical ability. On the other hand, relevant knowledge in the field of quality receives a low ranking. For most participants, success entailes changing and raising awareness of quality, working with partners, and understanding quality. Failure is defined by pursuing quality out of fear and authority and not out of the recognition that quality is important. Added value includes savings, improving motivation and satisfaction among employees, introducing the issue and importance of quality, helping management reflect quality, and identifying and filling gaps.

The differences between the research hypotheses are due to the fact that although the respondents believe that knowledge and professionalism in the field of quality are necessary, they are also required to know and apply different communication styles at work across the organisation, with success depending on motivating people to implement necessary changes. Thus, according to participants, it is very difficult to measure success in achieving quality, which is the very essence of the field.

Practical Implications

Being a quality engineer requires mastery of professional and organisational knowledge and skills

 Characteristics considered important to the role of the quality engineer include an ability to pay attention to details, teamwork skills, and analytical ability, while relevant knowledge in the quality field were deemed less important. Most participants identified the effects of the success and added value of a quality engineer as raising awareness of quality among all stakeholders, improving motivation among employees, and helping management understand the company’s quality status.

However, the findings of this study show that the quality profession is perceived in an overly broad and general manner that fails to distinguish between different areas of quality. We therefore believe that further research is required regarding the influence the authority of a quality Engineer that depend at corporate culture.

 Such research would contribute significantly to advancing our understanding of the issue and would encourage industry leaders to act according to clear policies and systematic methodologies.

Limitations

The present study has limitations that prevent the generalisation of its conclusions to everyone dealing with quality in Israel and internationally. First, the respondents were not selected at random from the population, but were volunteers who responded to contact. Second, the sample in the quantitative part of the research was homogeneous in several respects; all the respondents were veteran quality practitioners, and almost all were members of the Israeli Quality Association, which affects their position in the field. Finally, it should be noted that the research was conducted over a period of two years, during which changes may have occurred that are not reflected in the findings.

REFERENCES

Anker, S. (2019). 'Expertise and authority in the work of a quality engineer'. Thesis submission work. Research work in the field

Anker, S. (2020). 'The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on quality management in organisations'. Research work in the field

Ekroni, M. (2012). 'Facing Forward to Quality’, Quality and Excellence Journal of the Israeli Society for Quality, 51: 26–9 [Hebrew].

Ekroni, M. (2012). 'Challenges and Ways to Empower the Quality Manager', Quality and Excellence Journal of the Israeli Association for Quality, 50: 12–14 [Hebrew].

Ericsson, K. Anders, Prietula, Michael J., and Cokely, Edward T. (2007). ‘The Making of An Expert’, Harvard Business Review, 85/7–8: 114–20.

State of Israel v. Bar-Ilan et al. (2000). <shalhevetold.co.il/pub//psak%20din/psak_makabiya.doc> accessed 7 September 2019.

 Schein, E.H. (1990). 'Organizational Culture', American Psychologist.

Zonnenschein, A. (2016). 'We Must Uproot the Culture of the Loose Slapdash in the Food Industry', The Marker <https://www.themarker.com/opinion/1.3103885> accessed 7 September 2019.

Firestone, W. F. (1987). 'Meaning in method: The rhetoric of quantitative and qualitative research.' Educational Researcher, 16, 1621.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc5FY8uzMkLUDtZG0-oMhWfpWsans_a0Eh4yDlWUuRzpBkxHw/viewform?usp=sf_link

Khamatian, R. (June 2019). 'The role of a quality manager, the miracle of quality management

           – fulfilling capabilities'. Milo maximizing capabilities.

 Pinchas, Y (2015). 'Success and failure: The results of the race to the goal'.

הצלחה וכישלון: תוצאות המירוץ אל המטרה – ייצור ידע (xn--7dbl2a.com) (Hebrew)

[1]Top 10 Characteristics of Quality Managers (accountlearning.com)


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