New to Quality? Here’s What You Should Learn First

When it comes to working in the quality industry, a wise man once told me, “In quality, we don’t have jobs. It’s our responsibility to help everyone else around us do better.” Over the years, I have found that to be incredibly true. So, we must ask ourselves, if we are to be successful in the function of quality, what is important for us to understand and what skills do we need?
Many individuals are drawn (or thrown) into a quality role, which often turns into a “baptism by fire” event. They find themselves bouncing around from one crisis to the next. However, I propose the best way to begin a career in quality is to understand how to become a facilitator of the problem-solving process. The process used doesn’t matter as much as ensuring that it is logical and structured.  
The history of problem-solving processes dates to the 1950s when Ben Tregoe and Chuck Kepner worked at Strategic Air Command. They studied the company’s decision-making process and the essential result stated:
An average group of people can get a superior result if they use a logical, formatted process.
If you work with an ISO 9001 Quality Management System (QMS), there is no requirement for a defined problem-solving process. But when working with an automotive QMS, such as IATF 16949, it is a required process.
The most familiar version of problem-solving is the 8D process which was first put forward by Ford Motor Company. They seemed to have replicated some of the Kepner-Tregoe (KT) steps, which is probably what prompted the lawsuit for intellectual property infringement by Kepner and Tregoe in the 1980s. I couldn’t determine in reading the legal documents if Ford won the suit or simply settled with KT, but Ford’s 8D problem-solving process became the model for many other industry formats, such as AS 13000 (aerospace problem-solving) and numerous OEMs in the automotive industry.
Sometimes, those new to a role in quality find that responses to customers and corrective actions aren’t as satisfactory as they should be. They often discover repeating problems due to an unidentified root cause or that hope is used to make policy decisions. But to be successful in quality, it is essential that you learn to facilitate the problem-solving process.
At the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center), we have offerings to help you become an expert problem-solver. We offer:
  1. Onsite group training at your facility. As our preferred option, onsite training allows for more people to learn the steps together, making future progress easier. It also lends itself to working on an example problem from your facility. During a recent client engagement, $100,000 in annual savings was uncovered while training a group of 110 employees.
  2. Classes at The Center. We offer an in-person, one- or two-day structured problem-solving course.
  3. Virtual course options. Our live, virtual four-hour course discusses the “high points” of the problem-solving process. Exercises are limited, but participants learn key concepts that can help them get started.
MEET OUR EXPERT: Bob Jenkins, Quality Program Manager
jenkins_b-web-PREFERRED-2020.jpgBob Jenkins is a Quality Program Manager at The Center. In his role, he manages and delivers training and implementation assistance to organizations in the field of quality improvements. As an Exemplar Global Certified Auditor, Bob assists clients with Quality Management System implementations such as ISO 9001:2015 and IATF 16949. He provides internal auditor training and consulting services for various groups, including production, production management and corporate management, in disciplines involving the automotive core tools of quality systems consisting of FMEA, PPAP, APQP, SPC, MSA, and Root Cause Analysis/Problem-Solving. 
Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Continuous Improvement, Leadership/Culture, Quality Management