By Mary Ann Maloney, QA/QC Manager [retired], NOW Foods
In past articles you may have read about the different functions of the quality departments. You may have asked yourself, "What qualifications do these quality personnel have to meet?" "What characteristics make a good quality inspector?" Every person at NOW Foods, quality department or not, has a job description explaining the essential functions of the job and the qualifications needed to perform the job. The primary traits we look for when hiring someone in QC are commitment to quality and natural products, integrity, accuracy, and the proper education, experience, and training to do the job. In this article, we'll discuss these traits in more detail as they relate to the different positions in QC. In QC (Quality Control), where compliance with our product specifications is measured, we have managers, supervisors, analytical technicians and scientists, inspectors and lab technicians. We'll take a look at these individually.
Our managers and supervisors have college degrees in science-related fields. Degrees include Biology, Zoology, and Chemistry. In addition to the education, we each have over 20 years of QC/Manufacturing experience working in various industries, including pharmaceutical, dietary supplements, food, and cosmetics. The additional skills that are needed on a daily basis include decision making skills, problem-solving, organizational, and good people skills.
Analytical Lab Technicians
The amount of formal education needed to work in the lab varies depending on the activity being done. The analytical staff all have at least a Bachelor's degree, while some have Master's degrees or PhD's. Our technicians and scientists also have at least 5 years experience, but the average is 8 years. The work done by this part of our staff is highly technical, so they need a high level of math and chemistry skills. They also need to be able to comprehend and interpret scientific jargon found in technical journals.
Physical Lab Technicians
The lab technicians who conduct the physical testing have at least a high school equivalent and some have college degrees. They have an average of 10 years experience in quality control. Skills needed include good math skills, accuracy, and being detail-oriented.
This is the crew that is out on the floor monitoring the manufacturing and packaging processes. These folks have at least a high school equivalent and some have college degrees. Our inspection staff has an average of 6 years quality control experience. They must be very detail-oriented, have good observation skills and good communication skills.
In addition to the qualifications above, all of these positions require a person to be organized, accurate, and detail-oriented; be able to communicate verbally and in writing, and have basic math and computer skills. Other important traits of good quality control employees are the ability to work well with people and maintaining a high level of integrity. Sometimes we have to reject material that fails to meet our specifications and it makes things easier for everyone if we can handle those situations in a kind and professional manner. As you can see, NOW's Quality Control employees are properly educated, trained and skilled at their jobs, which are essential for determining the quality of all of our ingredients and finished products.