12 January 2012

Reader's question: QA and QC Managers

QI'm a Quality Manager of a manufacturing company, and the group involved in QA activities and the one performing QC activities, both report to me. My question is: Can the same person be manager of QA and QC departments? Or each department must have its own manager? ~Greg~

A: In my opinion, the ideal situation would be the existence of 2 separate departments, QA and QC, each one with its own manager. However, it depends on tons of factors like: how big the company is, how many people are involved in quality, how committed is the upper management (CEO) to support quality tasks, the times of financial crunch such as now, etc.

Based on my experience in the software field; in the company I worked for, there was just one quality department with one Quality Manager; who was responsible, among other responsibilities, to represent the organization on matters pertaining to quality management, and provide expert assistance to project personnel like auditors on QA issues, and software tester on QC issues (she wore multiple hats!). Everything worked perfect.

However, I think in the manufacturing environment, things are little different from the software one.

Let me cite an example to clarify my point: In a software project, one of the customer’s requirements was “Excellent-user experience or friendly Graphical user interface”. You, as QA personnel can check if the requirement is traced along the project as the process specifies, and as QC personnel you will check if that requirement passed all the testing specified; both can report to the same manager, no problem with that.

In the manufacturing environment, there are specific requirements, that are more precise; I will say no that much subjective than some software requirements like the one I cited above. Let’s see the following example I read on a management consultant blog:

“There is a QA person who determined that milk during the production of xxx product must always be between 38 degrees and 42 degrees; and there was an inspector (QC) who samples the milk to ensure that requirement is met. Now imagine if the QA and QC people both report to the same person. What happens when the milk is consistently over 42 degrees? Does she change the standard or does she find a solution to the problem?

In that case, the Quality manager will face a dilemma; so in those environments is why QA and QC should typically not be managed by the same person. That doesn’t mean that in software, that kind of dilemma never occurs.

So, we have to analyze the pros and cons in each scenario; unfortunately there is not a phrase or book that tell you the correct way to do things, when there are so many factors to keep in mind.

Something I would like to add on before finish is, that some people think that the same person can be manager of both departments in every environment, as long as he/she provides an unbiased criterion, independent oversight, delivers ethics and creates a transparent-healthy environment.

You can read the post about the differences between QA and QC here.

So, what do you think about it?

NOTEIf you are a member of the ASQ group in LinkedIn, you can read more answers to this question by clicking here.