In countless automotive manufacturing facilities, many employees view the quality personnel as “the bad guys”. “Their whole job is to come out and beat up manufacturing when processes don’t produce quality products,” they complain. “We can’t help it. Why are they always on our backs” There’s some truth to that.

Let’s define that a bit. Who is our customer. Believe it or not, everyone is our customer. If you make a product that moves to another employee in your facility, that person is your customer. No matter how many steps there are in the process before product goes out the door and on the truck, the employees involved in those steps are your customers. Ensuring your customers are happy is your primary job.

Put yourself in their place. As a consumer you only want the best value for your money and the best service. Whether you are working on products that go directly to the company’s customer, or you are supplying a product that goes to another station within your assembly line, your concern must be about making your customer absolutely pleased with what you have provided. If everyone did that faithfully, no one would ever receive a bad product.

Quality control personnel

However, people make mistakes, “Spit happens.” That’s why there are quality inspectors.

Let me say that even though I have been a quality engineer and a quality manager, I personally dislike the term “quality inspector.” It sounds as if you are on the police force or a detective who solves crimes. I also dislike the term “quality control” because that has a serious overtone of being in charge and controlling everything.

Quality is everyone’s job. It’s everyone’s responsibility that nothing but a quality product goes to their next customer. For that reason, I prefer “quality assurance” over quality control and over quality inspectors.

We invest in different things to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our lifestyle (e.g., life insurance). In a similar way, we need to re-identify what is and who are protecting our jobs. The quality “cops” are there to make sure we don’t send bad products to our customers. We don’t want unhappy customers taking their business elsewhere. If we lose our customers, we lose our income, which means some people will lose their jobs.

Here’s my new thinking. Why not call our quality assurance people “quality lifeguards” Their job is to guard against us losing an important part of our life—our income. I prefer to think of these folks as “quality protectors.” Instead of thinking of them as the bad guys or bullying cops, view them as the people who are here to protect our jobs by ensuring only quality products reach our customers. We need to appreciate their effort instead of dreading seeing them. They are here to protect our livelihoods, our lives.