Don’t They Know QA/RA Are Real Professions?

Last summer I was shopping in a local bookstore with my husband and three children. My oldest son, a rising high school junior, and I were in search of a copy of the Occupational Outlook Handbook. As I searched through the titles in the business/
career section, my son turned to me and asked, “Now, what is it that you do in quality assurance and regulatory affairs again?”

Just as I was about to launch into my prescripted monologue of what I do for a living for the millionth time, I found the handbook. I handed it to my son and told him to look up quality assurance and regulatory affairs (QA and RA). He quickly flipped to the back index, then turned to me and stated that QA and RA were not listed in the book.

I took the book from him in disbelief. After a few seconds of looking at the index, table of contents and flipping through the entire book, I was stunned to learn he was correct. QA and RA career descriptions are not listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

At home that evening, I went online and searched the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics website for information on QA and RA. Again, I had no luck. On Monday, I called the Department of Labor and asked a customer service representative to search the database for career information on QA and RA. After about five minutes of searching, she was unable to find a description for either occupation.

That was when I had what felt like an epiphany. In that moment, I understood why there are only a few colleges offering coursework and degrees in QA and RA. Neither the general public nor the federal government recognizes what we do as a formal career. I thought of all my colleagues over the years, sharing their stories of how they got started in this profession, and not one of them actually entered college planning to pursue a career in QA or RA.

Why? It is due to a lack of published career information in the right places. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is one of the first resources offered to young people to research careers. If QA and RA are not included in this book, a huge opportunity to raise awareness of our professions is lost.

If you are wondering what you can do to help this situation, the answer is advocate, advocate, advocate. Contact the Department of Labor and ask how to get the Occupational Outlook Handbook revised to include QA and RA career information. The more inquiries the department receives, the better our chance of bringing about this change.

Tonya White-Salters
Ayer, MA

Saving Money Not Always The Deciding Factor

Your article “Quality Management’s Role in Global Sourcing” by David K. Watkins in the April 2005 issue (p. 24) caught me by surprise. I had just spent six days combing a 500 kilometer radius of Shanghai with our Chinese salesman in search of stamping companies.

The picture on the first page of the article didn’t look close to what I had witnessed on my trip. Most plants were dark and dreary, not light and airy as the picture depicted. Also, there was a sense of orderliness in the picture that was not apparent in most of the stamping firms I saw. Quality is important, but I believe that as stewards of the planet we manufacturers must abide by a code of conduct or ethics prior to outsourcing. My salesman was surprised to hear I was more interested in work conditions including safety, cleanliness, pollution and worker’s age than I was concerned about price.

Price is important but not the only measuring parameter. A picture is worth a million words. We may not know everything, but the company in that picture seemed to be a lot closer to whom we would like to do business with than those companies I visited.

Charlie Solberg
Itasca, IL

Outsourcing Column Hits Home With Reader

As a proud member of ASQ and a quality assurance (QA) analyst with 10 years in QA and 15 years in IT, I wanted to compliment Quality Progress and Greg Hutchins on a highly relevant, informative and timely “Career Corner” column. “Outsourcing Quality” (April 2005, p. 77) is something I am unfortunately intimately familiar with, having been outsourced in 2003 while working as a QA analyst for a midsize software company in Texas.

Being at a crossroads in my career, I find that while I do have solid QA experience, one thing I don’t have is certification in a particular discipline. I am contemplating seeking certification in SQL programming, for example, with the idea that I would be even more marketable as a consequence.

Stephen A. Solomon
Garland, TX

What Is the Future Role Of Quality Professionals?

For the last several years I have been contemplating what the future role of quality professionals might be. Allan Sayle in “Opportunities Are Everywhere” (April 2005, p. 33), hits the nail right on the head.

The quality body of knowledge is much too useful to be the exclusive province of quality practitioners. We have all seen the benefits of using quality related techniques built into the process of producing a good or service rather than after the fact. It is becoming increasingly clear that incorporating quality methods is another facet of good management.

I will even go so far as to coin a new term—quality system integration— which I believe will be the wave of the future.

Richard F. Powell
Santa Clara, CA

COSO Guidelines And Value Added Auditing

Allan J. Sayle is a well-known authority in quality auditing. His recent article “Opportunities Are Everywhere” was well written. However, we’d like to issue a correction on several salient points in his piece.

Sayle wrote: “The new tool (value assessments) is replacing conventional auditing. Not to be confused with compliance auditing properly dressed up as value added auditing, it delivers a real contribution to business results, not bureaucracy.”

Our corrections follow:

  1. Value Added Auditing is a registered trademark of our firm, Quality Plus Engineering.
  2. Value Added Auditing, for the record, is based on the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) risk control methodology that the Securities and Exchange Commission recommends for Sarbanes-Oxley 404 financial controls.

Sarbanes-Oxley 404 requires companies to establish internal controls over financial reporting. These controls are based on COSO guidelines. COSO is a private sector organization that developed the framework for improving financial reporting. The recent framework is based on an enterprise risk management (ERM) approach. These risk controls are now being applied to IT and operations. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of financial reporting.

Value Added Auditing integrates the COSO ERM methodology, the Institute of Internal Auditor’s (IIA) professional practices framework, software’s capability maturity model, ISO 9000 concepts and other assurance technologies. We believe the integration of COSO ERM, the IIA framework and ISO 9000 or 14000 through a Value Added Auditing approach can improve the effectiveness, efficiency and economics of operational processes, provide transparent reporting of controls/risks and ultimately improve corporate governance.

Greg Hutchins
Quality Plus Engineering
Portland, OR

There Are More Variances To Consider

I really enjoyed reading Willy Vandenbrande’s “Design of Experiments for Dummies” article (April 2005, p. 59). For those interested in further information on design of experiments (DoE), written in a nonintimidating manner, I suggest Mark Anderson and Patrick Whitcomb’s DoE Simplified: Practical Tools for Effective Experimentation, Productivity Press, 2000.

I have some issues with the article. First, since the test result means were separated only by 8% and the goal was to show 20% improvement, even the statistical novice’s interpretation would be that the improved fertilizer failed to live up to expectations—without regard to analyzing the variances. Of course the box and individual value plots show the difference visually, so there’s no 20% improvement. A better example would have been one in which the results of the experiment showed the means separated by slightly more than 20%, yet due to the individual variance, the decision is made that it is not significantly above the target.

The other point the article makes is the broad assumption that the cost of producing a tomato is equal to the cost of the fertilizer, when there are many other costs involved in tomato cultivation. If we include the cost of insecticide (organic or conventional), infrastructure (trowels, fences, trellises), land (lease or amortization) and labor (does he pay his daughter to help?), then the incremental production cost increase imparted by the extra 20% spent on fertilizer could easily be diluted to, say, a 5% increase in overall cost of production. In this case, all that would be required is to demonstrate a 20% increase in fertilizer cost results in at least a 5% improvement in yield.

Taking both points together, it would be interesting to see his analysis with the goal of improving yields by 5%. In this case, the data show the new fertilizer improved the yield 8% on average. But, applying his alpha and beta selections of 0.05 and 0.1 respectively, would we conclude the new fertilizer is worth the extra money?

Marc C. Bush
Cisco Systems
San Jose, CA

DOE for Dummies Was Great Article

The article “Design of Experi-ments for Dummies” by Willy Vandenbrande is the best article I have ever read in Quality Progress.

It was written in such a simple way that it’s easy to understand and makes it easy to carry out the test experiment. Thank you for this article.

AKM Rashiduzzaman
Edulinx Canada Corp.
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Reader Suggests An Easier Procedure

I enjoyed the article “Design of Experiments for Dummies” by Willy Vandenbrande and want to comment on Figure 5 (April 2005, p. 64), which displayed the individual weights for the two treatments.

A test by John Tukey known as the “Outside Count Test” (Technometrics, No. 1, Feb. 1959, pp. 31-48) can be applied to these data, which would quickly lead to the conclusion that there is no statistical significant difference.

The procedure follows:

  1. Count the number of observations in either group that are greater than the largest observation in the other group.
  2. Count the number of observations in the other group that are smaller than the smallest observation in the first group.
  3. Add the two counts.
  4. If the count is equal to or greater than seven, the samples are different at the 0.05 level.

In Figure 5, the red tomato treatment had one observation larger than tomato lover; tomato lover had three observations smaller than red tomato. The count sum is four, which is less than seven. Therefore, the samples are not different.

Rudy Kittlitz
Alpine, TX

Author’s Response: Thank you both for your comments. The Tukey end count test is indeed a simple alternative to a more complex statistical test like the t-test used in the article. In fact, the application of it to the tomato data shows there is no real significant difference between the two fertilizers. A t-test would come to the same conclusion.

This more or less confirms the major criticism by Marc Bush, saying in the example it is too obvious that the goal (20% improvement) was not reached. As for the amount of improvement we want, the calculation made by Bush is more professional, but it is up to the experimenter to decide with what improvement he or she is satisfied.

Again, even a 5% improvement cannot be confirmed based on the data, but there is a more interesting point to this. If we had wanted to be able to detect a 5% improvement with an alpha of 0.05 and a beta of 0.10, the sample size of the test would have been different.

From the previous year (Table 3), we know the average weight is 4.77 kg with a standard deviation of 0.41. An improvement of 5% corresponds to 0.24 kg or 0.59 sigma. To detect such a small difference with the above mentioned alpha and beta risks, Sam would have to treat 51 plants with tomato lover and another 51 plants with red tomato! Looking at the size of his garden, this is simply impossible. It shows testing for small differences requires large sample sizes.

With the sample size used (six plants for each fertilizer) and the obtained test results, for an alpha of 0.05, the corresponding beta would be 0.72. This means we have a 72% risk of deciding the difference of 5% is not there, when in reality it is!

Willy Vandenbrande
Quality Solutions Consult
Brugge, Belgium

Middle Management Should Design Change

In reference to “The Human Side of Change Leadership” by Jim Folaron (April 2005, p. 39), there is another aspect to a worker’s inability to perform a process differently from what he or she has done in the past.

There are times when the supervisor will not allow workers to change the way they do things because the supervisor has not bought into the process change. In the cases where upper management desires the process to be changed, middle managers and supervisors need to be the ones who design how the changes will actually be implemented. This will give them ownership and ensure the workers are measured on the changed process.

Jim Franklin
Samuel Son & Co.
Hamilton, Ontario


The article “Volunteer Trains Black Belts in Romania” (April 2005, Robert Lochner, p. 67) stated, “Romania is considered the poorest country in Europe,” referencing wages. Accord-ing to a report by Deloitte & Touche in the Romanian Business Digest, 2004, wages in Romania are the second lowest among eight central European countries. Bulgaria’s wages are the lowest.

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