QUALITY IN THE FIRST PERSON
Assuring Quality—A Lifelong Quest
by Paul Blevins
Every person, at one time or another, has been associated with quality—it is called pride of workmanship.
Throughout my elementary and high school years, I took pride in my schoolwork—I just didn’t know to refer to it as quality. When I worked in a grocery store while going to high school, I took pride in my work, and no matter how hard the work was, I always strove to do it right the first time. As a young man, I remember my father telling me to always do work right the first time because it would take twice as long to do over. I have embraced this philosophy throughout my adult life, marriage and career.
I was first introduced to quality in October 1976. I was a machinist working second shift at a Hoist manufacturing facility. As we punched in for work, we would find our work assignments in our timecard slots. Whatever my assignment was that day, I was responsible for getting the work to my machine, setting up the machine and inspecting the first piece to ensure the machine was properly set up prior to the production run.
Throughout the shift, a roving inspector would check our work every hour on the hour. It didn’t take me long to figure out I had better be my own inspector and check the quality of my work. If I had to wait up to an hour for the inspector to come around, how did I know I was doing the work correctly and the machined parts were within the drawing specifications? I could be producing rework—or even worse—scrap. I couldn’t wait an hour to know if the parts were correct, so I checked them myself.
After a few checks, the inspector realized I was checking my own work. As I gained the inspector’s confidence, his checks would be three times a shift instead of the usual eight. There is satisfaction in doing the work right the first time, not to mention gaining a reputation of being quality minded.
The job led to a promotion in April 1978, working for the quality engineer at the facility. He took me under his wing and introduced me to the world of quality. He showed me how to do inspection reports. Whenever I proved proficient in one facet of quality, he would introduce me to another, and I worked to retain what I had been taught earlier. That is when I decided I wanted to make quality my career.
Over the next 26 years, I would obtain my bachelor of science in engineering technology and certification as a quality engineer and Six Sigma Black Belt. My career in the quality field has taught me to be patient, empathetic, methodical, focused, creative and disciplined at both work and home. Quality has taught me to gather all facts before jumping to conclusions.
The companies I have worked for reaped the benefits from the discipline and knowledge I have acquired over the years from attending ASQ seminars and reading books from ASQ’s bookstore. I implemented the quality tools instilled in me over the years to reduce process variability, scrap and rework, enabling that amount to be added to the bottom line while increasing customer satisfaction.
My quality career has also enhanced my personal life by giving me the confidence and boldness to step out of my comfort zone, think outside the box and welcome new and challenging opportunities with an open mind. My commitment to quality is as strong, if not stronger, today than it was the day I was introduced to the world of quality, never wavering or compromising.
Over my 26-year quality career, I am certain I have been let go from three companies because of my commitment to quality. Although I have spread the quality message and proved time and time again throughout companies that quality works, the message sometimes falls short of its goal.
In its simplest form, the message is this: If companies would totally commit to quality, then production would take care of itself, resulting in a reliable quality product and a completely satisfied customer.
PAUL BLEVINS has a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology from Virginia State University in Petersburg. He is a member of ASQ, a certified quality engineer and a certified Six Sigma Black Belt.