What makes a “good” engineer?

National Engineers Week was observed in February. It’s origins and purpose include:

“Founded by NSPE in 1951, EWeek is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.”

A point of differentiation for Pro QC is the engagement of engineers. Engineers are at the heart of the organization, including a founder whose roots are tied there.

It was noted once during an interview that “engineer is not a word, but rather an identity.” And, Queen Elizabeth II herself was noted as saying “at its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It is a noble profession.”

So, what makes up a “good” engineer? At Pro QC, we hire a number of inspectors, auditors, etc. to assist with projects all over the world. Common attributes we look for include:

  • Problem solving ability
  • Enhanced critical thinking, creativity
  • Detail oriented
  • Natural curiosity
  • Effective communication skills

A few questions we ask to assess the attributes noted above include:

  •  To know more about how an engineer approaches problems, ask them to identify which tools they would use to address a particular issue.
  •  To know more about natural curiosity, inquire about projects or hobbies outside of work.
  • Ask for examples of what processes they have developed that have enhanced some example of engineering performance capabilities? What was the impact on the organization?
  • To evaluate critical thinking, we ask applicants to look at a cluttered photo and find a cat. We want to see how the applicant approaches finding it.
  • We ask what people like the most and least about engineering in general.
  • To learn more about someone, we ask them what they get out of engineering that they don’t feel like they would get from another professional.

Learn more about National Engineers Week: [url]https://www.nspe.org/resources/partners-and-state-societies/national-engineers-week[/url]

Breaking up with suppliers is easy?

A recent blog post caught our attention.

Is breaking up with suppliers easier than we think, even if it’s done “with tact, sensitivity and an appropriate level of empathy?”

Our answer is no. It’s not easy at all.

Is it necessary? Sometimes.

According to the article, little value is placed on the supplier relationship and the assumption is that price rules all.  Is it all about price though… or, cost?

With that logic, an alternate idea is suggested…

Prior to breaking up with the supplier, evaluate how much you’re willing to invest in improving their performance vs. the associated switching costs. Identifying a solid supplier is more than a Google search.  Assuming everything they say on the website is true, it’s still recommended to verify if they exist, if they have that capacity you need, what their current on-time delivery is, what equipment is really on-site, how they’re managing in-house QC, etc. And, the qualification process often identifies investments required for the new supplier to meet expectations. Then, there’s the costs associated with updating logistics, etc. It all adds up and takes longer than people think.

Before switching, consider developing.

Many times, a supplier isn’t meeting expectations because they simply don’t have the resources to improve themselves. They need help.

Organizations that partner with suppliers and assist to provide development resources have a win-win situation. They’re investing less than it would cost to switch suppliers (generally speaking) and the suppliers see an overall improvement that results in better products/service for all customers.

Two examples:

You just scored a big deal with Walmart (or Lowe’s, Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc.) and now have to make sure you’re working with a compliant supplier.

  1. You immediately start looking for a new supplier that’s already working with Walmart. How long does that process take? And, how long does the transition take? Will it work within Walmart’s schedule? It usually doesn’t.  And, the cost involved is generally much more than investing in compliance with the existing supplier (assuming no other issues are noted).
  2. You need to find out how compliant your existing supplier is. If they haven’t worked with Walmart previously, a gap analysis is helpful. It identifies non-conformaties and estimates the cost involved in obtaining and maintaining what’s required.

You’ve received three late shipments, and your warehouse has identified similar paint issues during the incoming inspections. Rework is required, and you’re facing back orders and returns.

  1. You panic and are tired of emailing the supplier and hearing that everything is being taken care of. You can’t risk another shipment with issues and decide to switch. That process won’t be quick, or cheap. And, you’re not guaranteed to have any less issues.
  2. You leverage a local quality professional and assess the root cause of the paint issue and shipment delays.  The quality professional identifies corrective actions and then assists the supplier with implementation and ongoing management as required.

As a side note, switching suppliers because you want to diversify or expand your supply base isn’t questioned here. Strategic plans generally make sense and are vetted more thoroughly.

Contact us for help with your suppliers, or for additional information. We have more examples throughout our 35 years of experience to share. We provide solutions in 88 countries.

The Value of Expediting in Supplier Development

It’s not uncommon for us to receive calls and emails related to issues organizations are having with expediting orders, either from new or existing suppliers.

By expediting, the assumption is that a delivery date or other expectation has been provided, but is not being met. Reasons for delays in production might include:

  • New sub supplier
  • Equipment issues
  • Key staff turnover or other lack of resources
  • Packaging issues
  • Larger orders from other clients taking a priority

Whatever the reason(s) might be, communication can quickly become an additional layer of complexity as the supplier continues to assure the buyer that all is well and on schedule.  No fun for anyone involved here.

A quality solutions company, such as Pro QC, can recognize when product quality control might not be the issue.  In some cases, the supplier just needs support to address the root cause issues.

Having a local quality professional assist in expediting adds value:

  • Local follow-up can include regular calls and/or on-site visits as required. Accountability is increased. Any potential language and/or cultural issues are addressed.
  • On-site evaluation of issues noted can be evaluated. Corrective actions are developed and implemented.
  • If the supplier lacks internal resources, a company like Pro QC can allocate internal experts to the team to assist as necessary.
  • Weekly reporting (or other frequency as needed) reports progress and provides advance notice of potential delays or new issues. No more surprises.
  • Regular calls between the supplier, Pro QC and buyer presents opportunity for discussion of various perspectives and options as necessary or required.
  • Professionals on-site are able to evaluate the issues and current situation. A non-biased recommendation can be made to identify new suppliers depending on the conditions or other at the supplier location.

Supplier development solutions are customized depending on needs and the priority of those needs.  Development activities can incorporate a range of services and resources, from product testing to compliance auditing. Whether it’s expediting, inspecting, auditing or testing, an organization with experience and a global presence can find the right mix of resources to address and solve problems. Contact us for additional information.

The U.S. – China Trade War Creates Demand for Sourcing Diversification

Written by: Alexander Parker, Account Manager (Tampa, FL)

Pro QC International works with businesses to develop and maintain their quality programs. Many of these clients have their primary suppliers based in China. Due to recent trade escalations between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China, U.S. corporations are finding ways to adapt and avoid extra costs as the tensions continue to escalate.

Some prominent U.S. companies have already directly indicated that the U.S.-implemented tariffs will force them to pass down higher costs to customers and revise their earnings forecast downward. However, there is an alternate solution to pushing costs onto customers.

Large U.S. companies, like Honeywell, Hasbro, and Boston Scientific, have indicated that they will increase the use of supply chain sources from non-China countries to counter growing costs related to the rising tariffs. Compal, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer of electronics, has mentioned that while “assembling notebooks outside of China could cost at least 3 percent more per unit, the possibility of U.S. tariffs could wipe out its gross profit margin of slightly above 3 percent last quarter.” (Wu, 2018) (“Factbox – Impact of U.S.-China trade tariffs on U.S. companies”, 2018).

This is in fact one of the purposes of these U.S.-tariffs, to protect domestic industries and to make goods produced in an outside country less enticing. The goal is to eliminate the cost benefit that leads to companies purchasing from a country in the first place.

Despite some larger companies having opportunities to appeal to the U.S. government for exemptions from tariffs that would directly affect them, most companies do not have the resources or power to make such an impact on the U.S. movement. Being that these tariffs are out of their control, many companies, some of which include Pro QC’s own partners, have begun to diversify their supply chains to prevent and avoid major business disruptions. With tensions escalating and potentially further tariffs to be added in the upcoming months, companies are rapidly looking into this option before costs in China become too high.

For example, we have had clients cancel Initial Supplier Evaluations in fear that the tariffs will no longer make the potential new Chinese supplier a more affordable option than suppliers elsewhere. This uncertainty leads to a risk that is not worth taking.

Diversification to suppliers from various countries will lead to a more robust supply chain that allows for resilience in times of uncertainty like now. However, companies that have limited resources or time to find new suppliers may find it very difficult to locate and transition to these new facilities.

Pro QC can assist during this time with services like supplier selection and identification, supplier development, and inspection services to get new suppliers up to speed and ensure their products are meeting a company’s quality standards. If it is desired to replace an existing supplier, we provide help in identifying or transitioning to suppliers in countries that will not be affected in these trade disputes.

As written about in a separate Pro QC blog post “China Sourcing Alternatives: Thailand,” other reliable manufacturing nations, notably Thailand, as well as Vietnam, India, and Mexico, also offer affordable costs and business environments. With local Pro QC teams in each of these locations and services in a total of 88 countries, our quality professionals will assist in executing any range of solutions required.

It is important to remember that despite China potentially losing some market share to other countries, they will still account for a major portion of trade in the world. For example, China still accounted for 35 percent of global clothing exports last year. Rather than China backing down during this time of intense pressure, the Chinese government and factories are going to respond by searching for methods to increase competitiveness by finding alternative markets, increasing factory automation, and creating more value-added products. Factory owners are not going to be willing to give up and shut down their businesses, but will become increasingly more innovative. (McDonald, 2018)

This trade war will ultimately resolve itself, but when this will happen is unknown. China will remain a prominent player in the manufacturing arena, and removing all connection to the country may be impossible or too inconvenient for many companies. However, diversifying a supply chain can help create a buffer during times like these. Whether it’s needed to maintain relationships within China, or find a way to diversify, Pro QC is here to assist you create dynamic and innovative solutions.

The Importance of Vision & Values to Quality

Within the body of knowledge of many quality and other industry certifications, such as ASQ’s Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence, there is a focus on strategic planning and the successful creation and integration of a unified vision and values.

Per ASQ:

The vision statement is future focused and paints a vivid picture of where you would like the organization to be or what you would like it to accomplish in the long term. Values reflect core behaviors or guiding principles that guide the actions of employees as they execute plans to achieve the mission and vision.

Benefits: A clear vision helps in aligning everyone towards the same future state or objective, providing a basis for goal congruence. Values make clear behaviors that are expected of everyone.

Forbes Insights issued a report after a global study of more than 2200 senior executives and quality professionals. The report indicates that a “clearly stated quality vision and values, and unequivocal leadership are key components to a successful culture of quality that can help organizations drive results.”

Read the full report here: “Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise

With this, Pro QC has recently completed regular strategic planning activities that resulted in a refresh of the vision and values of the organization.

We are proud to announce our vision:

“To nurture the trust of our customers and our team through dynamic interactions, creative supply chain solutions, and integrated partnership.”

In addition, we have committed to the following defining values:

Excellence 

  • Client satisfaction is our priority.
  • We work as a team.
  • We have pride and ensure quality in everything we do.

Trustworthiness

  • We hold ourselves to a high standard.
  • We are reliable and demonstrate strong ethics.
  • We earn trust by acting with integrity and dependability.

Passion

  • We are proactive.
  • We offer support.

We’re interested in hearing from others. Share your vision and values, or comment regarding ours.