ABSTRACT

Although the role of the quality engineer can be defined, the role and the status of quality engineering as a profession is a contested issue that relates both to the occupation’s internal regulation and to the professional status of quality engineers within the organizations they work for. In this article, we examine the professional role and the status of quality engineers at COVID-19 pandemic on the field of quality management within organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has changed the patterns of daily life, especially in the work environment, impact on quality engineers, who must find creative ways to ensure that they are meeting quality standards and adjusting their products to meet their customers’ needs.

In this study we mapped, identified, and characterized the ways in which the quality personnel dealt at Covid-19. The issue research through using a quantitative method. This is a two-phase study: first a survey was conducted among local professionals, followed by an international survey. The most of quality professionals were present at work (and not from home) during the pandemic most felt that the status of their roles had not changed with regard to their organizational and professional status, job description, and the importance of quality in the organization. Due to a low response of rate quality engineer around the world, it was not possible to perform a full analysis of the opinion survey. However, it is possible to identify similar trends among these quality professionals as well.

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, several events, involving quality management related flaws in Israel and worldwide, have taken place.  The most known, the pharmaceutical company Remedia changed the formula with no proper quality assurance.  Those occurrences affected consumers' trust, and in some cases, damaged the companies' image and profit, and caused health-related damages.

The damage to product quality has first and foremost affected human life, but also the profitability of companies. Such events have intensified the difficulty of quality practitioners in performing their role in light of the fact that their status varies from one organization to another, meaning it depends on the organizational culture.

The COVID-19 crisis, changing how we live and work by imposing the need to engage in remote behavior and practices, has also intensified the obstacles faced by quality engineers. They must now find creative ways to ensure compliance with quality standards and the adaptation of products to customer needs under suddenly new working conditions. For example, tests, which until recently were carried out on-site, must now be conducted remotely.

Until the date of publication of this work, the impact of the Covid-19 on the field of quality engineer in organizations has not yet been examined. This study is the first study to examine the impact of quality engineer status on corporate culture. A same questionnaire was also administered to quality practitioners around the word. In light of the low response received in the feedback (11 participants), it is not possible to perform a statistical analysis of data, however it can be seen that the trend is the same as the responses obtained from quality practitioners in Israel.

The research integrates with the new reality that has changed the world of work we know which has affected the lifestyle we are used to. This influence has forced quality practitioners to think 'outside the box' to find creative ways to position their stakeholders and stakeholders.

In previous articles we learned that 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 organizations for which they work (Anker. 2019). This article we mapped, identified, and characterized the ways in which the quality personnel dealt at Covid-19

The article consists of two parts: the first part presents the theoretical construct underlying our argument, fleshing out the concept of a role and the status of the quality engineer before the Covid-19, and comparing it to other occupations such as medicine, law, etc.

The second part demonstrates the argument empirically. The data for the research are derived from qualitative method is used. The results provide insights into how quality practitioners perceive their role and the status in the hierarchical structure of a firm.

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 results of the study confirm the research questions:

Research Hypothesis: The status of a quality engineer depends on the Organizational Culture. An analysis of the position survey shows that over 81% think that their role depends on the erogenous culture, a result that does not depend on the position and the organization. From the verbal answers it can be learned that management that assimilates a supportive erogenous culture can influence the status of the practitioner of quality and promote quality in the organization. Reinforcement for this was obtained in the correlation we examined in SPP between the questions whose status has not changed but depends on the erogenous culture.

Strengthening the dependence of the quality engineer's status depends on the corporate culture, can be seen in the responses obtained in a survey conducted for quality dealers abroad, it was found that 64% think their job depends on the corporate culture.

Second hypothesis: there is a dependence on the status of a quality engineer in unforeseen events: An analysis of the position survey found that 70% of the respondents who were present at work think that the status and status of the quality engineer's job has not changed. One can learn from the verbal answers that for the most part the description of his occupation has changed, to which has been added the responsibility of a corona commissioner. Reinforcement for this was received in a strong correlation to the fact that those who were present at work thought that his authority had not changed, as well as their status.

Strengthening the authority of quality dealers has not changed, it can be seen in the answers received in the survey conducted for quality dealers abroad, they are also important that their status has not changed.

  Third hypothesis: there has been a decline in quality in recent years. An analysis of the position survey found that over 72% of the respondents think that the importance of quality has not decreased and also over 81% think that their status has not changed. Reinforcement of this was received in coordination between the respondents who think that their status has changed and think that the status of their position has not changed.

Strengthening the non-decline in the status of quality dealers, can be seen in the answers received in the survey conducted for quality dealers abroad, it was found that in their opinion their status has also improved.

The results provide insights into how quality practitioners perceive The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Quality Management in Organizations.

Aim

This work seeks to examine the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on quality engineer in organizations in the framework of two key concepts: quality engineers and organizational culture.  The research hypotheses were formulated based on a literature review by study we mapped, identified, and characterized the ways in which the quality engineer dealt before and after at Covid-19.

The question of status will also be examined in terms of recognition and professional experience. More specifically, we answer the following three questions

1. quality engineer’s status depends on the corporate culture.

2. A quality engineer’s status is influenced by unexpected events.

3. There has been a decline in quality practices in organizations in recent years.

The research hypotheses were examined quantitatively through a questionnaire sent to quality engineers in 2020 through various media: the Israeli Quality Association website, an email to quality engineers, and online platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp).

 Quality Engineers and their Organisational Role

In this section we mapped, identified, and characterized the ways in which the quality engineer dealt before and after at Covid-19. In Israel, strict quality standards and more stringent customer demands have prompted organizations to appoint quality engineers, even when not required to do so. In general, the quality systems that organizations adopt usually operate according to a matrix system. A variety of managerial and technical measures are applied. Typically, a quality engineer is responsible for implementing the quality system and ensuring excellence in the organizational units, where, in most cases, theoretical knowledge and qualifications are required.

The role of the quality manager is one of the most challenging in any organization. Unlike other positions, it is multidisciplinary and requires an understanding of all aspects of the organization’s activities (including, but not limited to, marketing, production, maintenance, and R&D). Therefore, being a good quality manager is no simple matter.

Because there are no official criteria to enter the profession, quality engineering is considered a profession that requires "soft skills" only; there are no restrictions in terms of education, training, and professional background for people to enter the profession. This is reflected in the fact that their status may differ depending on the organizational culture. The key factors in not institutionalizing the role of a quality engineer and in the skills required him, is the vague, and sometimes ambiguous, nature of the job.

It is arguable that in order for a quality engineer to act effectively, his or her status should not depend on the organizational culture.  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 the industry. Here, too, the quality manager is involved in many processes and has a strong standing, albeit with less authority than in pharmaceutical companies. In such organisations, the quality manager is often considered a burden and may be ignored or side-lined for business reasons.

In such organisations, the quality manager is often considered a burden and may be ignored or side-lined for business reasons.

The status and authority of quality engineers varies from one organization to another (Anker. 2019). In the Corona crisis there was a separation between vital and non-essential workers. The decision was in the hands of the employers themselves, out of an examination of the organizational needs and vitality of the employee. Many 'non-essential' workers were harmed by the new and unflattering labeling attached to them. Quality engineers as service providers were required to bring added value to the organization (Anker. 2019). This value is reflected in their chances of remaining part of the organization in routine and emergencies. Some quality activities had to undergo a change through remote work, however the quality personnel required to approve the products in the process (e.g. in medicine) were required to be physically present. The rest had to pass the exam by remote means.

Today, the role of the quality manager is one of the most challenging in any organisation. Unlike other positions, it is multidisciplinary and requires an understanding of all aspects of the organisation’s activities (including, but not limited to, marketing, production, maintenance, and R&D). Therefore, being a good quality manager is no simple matter. The quality engineer is a vital contributor to a company’s commercial success, who, nevertheless, must work to avoid being positioned as an ‘enemy’ or as a control department; rather, the quality engineer should be an important and trustworthy partner in the company’s development and business achievements. In fact, a professional quality engineer can increase a company’s profitability.

In this study we mapped, identified, and characterized the ways in which the quality personnel dealt at Covid-19. For example. In a survey that included 173 participants from the field of quality in automation, the participants were asked.  Survey results showed that more than 50% of the Answer no, the high-tech is one of the industries that has suffered the least significant blow. 15% were fired or expelled, and 8% experienced a decrease in salary / benefits associated with the job (Gal. M. 2020).

Organizational Culture

The degree of success of a quality engineer in a position does not depend solely on him or her, but relies to a great extent on the management’s support and on the behaviour of all employees in the organisation. They routinely experience difficulty in persuading management to work according to the methodology they recommend, and they deal daily with resistance to quality initiatives.

Organizational culture, a key concept in the social sciences, is a cognitive system that incorporates beliefs, attitudes, values, norms of behavior, assumptions, and shared expectations that shape the way people act and interact in the organization (Parker, 2000).

One of the familiar models for the study of organizational culture is the model of Edgar Schein (1994, 2004, Schein) which offers analysis at 3 levels It: (a) a basic culture (employees’ behavior towards colleagues and the environment); (b) values of the organization or surrounding culture; and (c) basic organizational assumptions (transparency, teamwork, environmental protection, safety, etc.) The organizational culture is the glue that connects employees to each other, to the organization itself, and to its external environment.

Organizational culture is the glue that connects employees to themselves, to the organization itself and to its external environment. Beliefs, way of thinking, values and norms affect not only the employees themselves, but directly various aspects, which are expressed in the professional and personal aspect of the organization. In this sense organizational culture is a kind of "genetic code" of the organization. Adoption of organizational culture values may lead to improved quality of service and work, strengthening personal working relationships within the organization, reducing the amount of mishaps and preventing accidents and safety incidents and increasing a sense of belonging to the organization.

Researchers have recognized four dominant types of organizational cultures : (1) Market; (2) Clan; (3) Hierarchy; and (4) Adhocracy.

 In Israel in most organizations is a "hierarchical" culture, in light of the fact that organizations lead a set of values dictated by senior management, which influences the organization's goals and guides its members in decision-making. This means that senior leadership has a major influence on shaping corporate culture through their personal example. An organization whose managers will lead and instill this perception while setting a personal example, will create an organizational norm in which quality is in the public domain.

Organizational culture is the most crucial factor that makes it possible to distinguish between an organization that strives for excellence, gives true value to its customers, and therefore will also succeed over time; And an organization that does the bare minimum, does not provide real value to customers, and therefore will not succeed over time.

 Organizational culture is the most crucial factor that makes it possible to distinguish between an organization that strives for excellence, gives true value to its customers, and therefore will also succeed over time; And an organization that does the bare minimum, does not provide real value to customers, and therefore will not succeed over time.

Typically, an organisational 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.  

A quality engineer’s degree of success in a job depends largely on the organizational culture, which is based on values, beliefs, worldview, and behavioral norms, with an emphasis on the issue of behavior.

Because his job depends on the organizational culture, the quality engineer is required to adapt the bones to the organization's rules of conduct so that he can prove success in his job and see that through quality can be reduced "waste and increase profits." The corporate culture = the culture for the quality of the company – customer commitment and customer focus.

In the work done (Anker. 2019)) it was found that the culture about quality, the managers in the organization and himself are the ones who limit his authority. In this work we examined the impact of erogenous culture and unforeseen events on the role of the quality engineer.

EMPIRICAL RESEARCH

Methods

 The research hypotheses were formulated based on a literature review by study we mapped, identified, and characterized the ways in which the quality engineer dealt before and after at Covid-19. Although there was some assessment of the situation abroad, the study focused primarily on the Israeli context.

After studying the literature, a questionnaire was designed and divided into three parts: items examining the perception of the job, its structure, and its limits from the point of view of quality engineers; items examining quality engineers’ perceptions and expectations of their roles within a field of knowledge; and items collecting background data.

The questionnaire was administered from September 2020 to November 2020 in Google Forms and was sent to participants as a link via the Israeli Quality Association website, emails to the attendees of quality management conferences, Facebook, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp. The questionnaire took an average of 10 minutes to complete. Data was analyzed with SPSS software. As a non-probabilistic sample was used, it should be noted that the sample is not necessarily representative of all those involved in quality. 

A pilot study involved 30 respondents with experience in quality engineering management. We used language familiar to such professionals to minimize errors that could result from the format, tool, or order of questions. The pilot examined the wording of the questions and their clarity.

Use of the questionnaire provided uniformity, as the participants were asked the same questions in the same order, and the closed nature of the items made it possible to draw meaningful comparisons between responses. The data analysis was performed using SPSS statistical software.

Study Participants

The questionnaire was returned by 137 quality professionals: 58 women (42%) and 79 men (58%). Respondents held a variety of titles: VP of Quality, Global Quality Manager, Quality Engineer, Quality Manager, Quality Manager and Excellence, etc. Of the total, 124 respondents (90%) held full-time quality management positions and 14 worked part-time in quality while holding additional roles (e.g., quality and safety officer).

General findings: The survey results showed that 76% of the quality professionals were present at work during closures due to COVID-19. A correlation analysis found that no significant difference between the sexes among those who were present during the closures (53% vs. 47%).

Findings

The status of a quality engineer depends on the corporate culture.

The examined using the following questions (Appendix A):

1. Does the role of the quality engineer depend on the corporate culture? Yes/No

2. If you marked yes, is this reflected in your organization?

3. Has the importance of quality in your organization changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis? Yes/No

3. If yes, how so?

Survey results showed that more than 81% of respondents thought that their role depended on the organizational culture, rather than on the position or the organization itself (see Figure 1). The participants’ answers suggest that management that incorporates and reinforces a supportive organizational culture influences the status of the quality engineer and promotes quality as a business strategy.

A strong correlation was found between those who thought that their status was not declining and those who believed their status depended on the organizational culture. Eighty-two percent of respondents reported that the importance of quality did not change during the COVID-19 crisis.

The participants who answered that the status of the quality engineer depends on the organizational culture gave the following explanations: promoting quality requires the backing of management (eight replies); an organizational culture should support, influence and promote the quality system (eight replies); the quality role must provide added value (five replies); the quality engineer must be securely positioned within the organizational structure (four replies); and there must be a general awareness of and importance given to quality (four replies).

There are times when a quality engineer must use remote testing to ensure that product quality is not compromised. A strong correlation was found between those who thought the status of quality engineers had not changed due to the COVID-19 crisis and those who believed their role and status depended on the corporate culture, a result that is consistent with this author’s previous findings (2019).

The participants who answered that the importance of quality in the organization had changed following the COVID-19 crisis gave the following explanations: there was increased emphasis on safety and a COVID supervisor has been appointed (4 replies); there was increased emphasis on quality (3 replies); there was increased awareness of process risk management/safety (3 replies); and there was increased quality control of processes (2 replies).

This was reinforced by responses obtained from quality professionals abroad (see Figure 2).

An analysis of the position survey shows that over 64% think that the role of a quality engineer depends on the corporate culture. It was also found that 73% of the respondents think that the importance of quality has not changed following the COVID-19 crisis.  

In conclusion, the results of the data comparison test and the statistical analysis clearly show that the quality management profession both in Israel and abroad depends on the corporate culture.

Figure 1: Does the status of the quality professional depend on the organizational culture? (respondents in Israel)

Figure 2: Does the status of quality professional depend on the corporate culture? (respondents abroad)

The status of a quality engineer is influenced by unexpected events.

The examined using the following questions (Appendix A):

1. Were you present at work during the COVID-19 closures? (Yes/No)

2. Has your job status changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis?

1. Unchanged 2. Improved 3. Worsened/Decreased 4. Other

3. Has your authority changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis? (Yes/No)

4. Has your job description changed during the COVID-19 crisis? (Yes/No)

Survey results showed that more than 76% of the quality professionals who were present at work thought that their status had not changed, while those who did not come to work (or were placed on unpaid leave or fired) thought that their status had been damaged.

Overall, about 78% of the respondents replied that the status of their job had not changed (Figure 3), about 85% believed their authority had not changed, and about 84% thought their job description had not changed during the COVID-19 crisis. Those who answered that their job descriptions had changed during the period gave the following explanations: additional duties had been assigned by the COVID supervisor (14 replies); they lost their jobs (3 replies); their job description changed only in part (2 times).

The participants who answered that the importance of quality had changed in the organization as a result of the COVID-19 crisis gave the following explanations: there was an increased emphasis on the importance of safety with the appointment of a COVID supervisor (4 replies); there was increased emphasis on quality (3 replies); there was increased awareness of process risk management/safety (3 replies); there was increased quality control of processes (1 replies).

A strong correlation was found between those who thought their authority and job description had not changed during the COVID-19 crisis and those who were present at work.

This was reinforced by responses obtained from quality professional abroad. Survey results showed that more than 82% of respondents who remained present at work during the crisis believed that their status had not changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis (Figure 4) and 81% thought that their job status had not changed. More than 73% of the participants reported that their authority had not changed and over 91% believed that their job descriptions had not changed as a result of the crisis.

In conclusion, the results of the data comparison test and the statistical analysis clearly show that the emphasis on quality did not change during the COVID-19 period, while additional roles or positions were created to handle the crisis.

Figure 3: Has your job status changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis? (respondents in Israel)

Figure 4: Has your job status changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis? (respondents abroad)

There has been a decline in the status of quality engineers in recent years.

The examined using the following questions.

  1. Do you think the status of quality engineers is declining? Yes/No
    1. If yes, what do you think are the reasons for this?
  2. Has the status of quality engineers in your organization been declining in the last 5 years? Yes/No
    1. If yes, how so?

Survey results showed that about 72% of the respondents believed that the status of quality engineers has not been declining (Figure 5). In addition, more than 81% reported that their status in the organization in which they work had not changed, meaning that there is a quality-friendly organizational culture. The remaining respondents believed that had been a decrease in status (unclear customer requirements, unprofessional quality managers, lack of authority, etc.). The participants who reported a decline in status gave the following explanations: lack of management support in light of the COVID-19 crisis (6 replies); decreased product quality and timeliness (4 replies); decreased emphasis on quality, with a focus instead on survival (three replies); and the status of the quality engineer was not legally defined (2 replies).

Those who reported a decline in status over the last five years gave the following explanations: reduced commitment from management (15 replies); lack of expertise, professionalism and authority (5 replies); decrease in product quality and timeliness (4 replies); a requirement to reduce both quality and timeliness (3 replies); and no change (1 replies).

A strong correlation was found between participants who thought that their status had not been declining and those whose status had not changed. This was reinforced by the survey responses obtained from quality engineers abroad. Overall, about 55% of respondents believed that the status of quality engineers had not declined.

In conclusion, the results of the data comparison examination and the statistical analysis clearly show that quality engineers believe that the status of their profession is not declining either within or outside their organizations.

 Figure 5: Has the status of quality engineers in your organization declined in the last five years? (respondents in Israel)

Figure 6: Has the status of quality engineers in your organization declined in the last five years? (respondents abroad)

he importance of the study and its expected contributions

This study links for the first time the impact of the status of the quality engineer in the corporate culture considering the COVID-19 event. This is the first time this effect has been tested.

Discussion and Conclusions

This study examines the impact of the COVID-19 event on the quality management profession based on the experience of quality engineers in the context of two key terms: organizational culture and professional status. The findings show that the status of the quality engineers depends on the organizational culture, regardless of position or company and that promoting quality requires the backing of management and an organizational culture that supports and influences the quality system. Quality engineers who remained at work during the COVID-19 crisis reported that their status had not changed, while those who were not present at work believed it had. It was found that most quality engineers agreed that the status of their positions, their authority, and their job descriptions had not changed during the COVID-19 crisis, although some of them had been assigned additional, COVID-related duties to prevent damage to product quality.

For the most part, respondents did not believe that the status of quality professionals had changed during the COVID-19 crisis, either inside or outside their organizations.

Those who did believe that their status was declining attributed this to decreased commitment by management, unprofessional quality personnel, an organizational focus on survival, a demand for reduction in CA, and the lack of regulations to anchor the status of quality engineers.

Replies obtained from quality professionals abroad were similar. They reported that their status did not depend on the organizational culture, regardless of their position and company. They also replied that the status of their position, their authority, and their job descriptions had not changed during the COVID-19 crisis.

 The following are some suggestions made by the participants to improve their status generally: quality training for senior managers in the organization; raising the professionalism and skill of quality engineers; expanding the field of quality beyond product quality to include organizational excellence, operational excellence, engineering factors, risk management, user regulations and safety.

Research Limitations

The present study has limitations that prevent the generalization of its conclusions to everyone dealing with quality in Israel and internationally. 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 Three months, during which changes may have occurred that are not reflected in the findings.

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