“Quality control” is a common phrase in the engineering world, but the public may not know exactly what it means. Quality control (QC) not only ensures that quality products make it to the market, it also protects consumers. As Carmagen Engineering, Inc. puts it, “[quality control] is a periodic sampling of a contractor’s or vendor’s engineering performance during the course of a job.” Quality control begins shortly after a contract is accepted, and it often continues even past the product’s rollout.
Quality Improvement Techniques
Quality control affects all aspects of engineering; thus it affects all of our lives. Chemical engineers ensure that our drinking water is clean, mechanical engineers ensure that products and structures do not hurt anyone, and civil engineers ensure that our cities’ infrastructures function properly. Quality control is a constant process, and past engineers developed many quality improvement techniques to make certain products and systems pass inspection, and innovators have come after them to improve their measures.
Engineers are so good at quality improvement techniques that other disciplines look to them for best practices. As a 2007 peer-reviewed study on quality improvement techniques found, “the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine recently recommended the systematic application of systems engineering approaches for reforming our health care delivery system.” Given the recent overhaul of the U.S.’s healthcare system, quality improvement techniques have come to the forefront in healthcare. Using techniques developed by engineers over decades, healthcare professionals are streamlining the process of quality patient care.
Civil engineers use a number of common quality improvement techniques to safeguard our roads and cities. Before construction can begin on a new road, soil analysis determines if the land will support it. Understanding how natural processes like erosion affect manmade structures prevents accidents down the line. Quality control saves not only money but also lives.
While most people understand the need for quality improvement techniques in professions like electrical engineering, some other engineering quality control processes are foreign to the public. Chemical engineering is one area that is a mystery for non-specialists.
The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on quality improvement techniques because “Drugs must be marketed as safe and therapeutically active formulations whose performance is consistent and predictable” (Levi, Walker, and Pugsley). A world without pharmaceutical quality control would be a scary one. Drugs are tested and retested constantly, even after making it to market. Quality control measures like extractable and leachable impurity testing and residual solvent testing are necessary to guarantee the public’s safety.
What It Takes
If phrases like “extractable and leachable impurity testing” and “residual solvent testing” are confusing, you are not alone. Fortunately, quality control engineers know what they mean and why they are important. Quality control is necessary in every industry, and it is a specialization that requires direct instruction. A job in QC is not for everyone. It requires a methodical mind, someone analytical and thorough. While the skills necessary to quality control do not come easy, many engineers have established rewarding careers in the discipline.
Quality assurance, or QA, engineers must have bachelor’s degrees, although post-graduate degrees are common among those seeking supervisory positions. Some programs offer direct instruction in quality control, including programs for a Master of Engineering Management online. Many working engineers find that the flexible options of online education suit their busy schedules, and engineers can apply what they learn in coursework immediately to their jobs.
What It gives
Quality control engineers make a stable living. According to Payscale.com, QA engineers earn, on average, around $65,000 a year. Quality assurance managers earn an average of $102,000 per year. However, quality control engineers enjoy a number of benefits beyond pay. The sense of making a difference in the world is palpable, as without quality improvement techniques and the professionals who carry them out day after day, people will get hurt. Not many jobs have that sort of importance, and quality control engineers take their jobs seriously. The methodical collection of data and its analysis saves lives.
For those considering careers in engineering management, quality control is paramount. Engineering managers must keep close watch on the quality of the products and systems their teams create and maintain, and juggling those responsibilities in addition to other management concerns is no easy task. A firm educational foundation in quality improvement techniques is necessary, as is staying current in the field. Degree programs like an online Master of Engineering Management program can provide not only the initial training but also the professional networks necessary to maintain high standards of quality across a range of industries. The decision to pursue a Master of Engineering Management degree online is an important one that many make every day, and we are all safer for it.
Learn more about the A-State online MEM program.