Quality Magazine

Quality Management: More Pay, More Challenges

July 1, 2005
Quality professionals are satisfied, but grapple with issues such as management support and offshore production.

Asked what they find most satisfying about their jobs, nearly half-46%-of Quality magazine readers stated a "feeling of accomplishment." It's a good thing they did because, according to at least a few findings of our Fifth Annual State of the Profession survey, that feeling of accomplishment, coupled with overall higher salaries, will need to see quality professionals through a variety of challenges, including concerns over management support, sufficient staff size and a continuing trend toward offshore production.

But let's address first things first: Just who comprises the quality workforce? Since we began our survey in 2001, the average survey respondent has been overwhelmingly male. (See sidebar, The Gender Question: How Many, How Much?). Also similar to past years, in 2005 respondents claimed a mean, or average, age of 48, and have spent 12 years at their current company out of 19 years as a quality professional. Similar to past years, this year's survey shows 41% of respondents having graduated college, with 19% holding an advanced degree.

Salaries and bonuses

And what about the paychecks pocketed by these professionals? First the good news: In 2005, respondents across all job functions-from those in quality product and assurance control, to manufacturing operations and production, to research and development-reported an average gross compensation, including salary and bonuses, of $68,000-an average increase of 5.9% over 2004. When viewed in light of the approximate Consumer Price Index inflation rate of 3.5% for the 12 months ending in April 2005, this compensation appears to be more than keeping pace with inflation.

Of course, it depends on whom you ask. In 2005, high school graduates reported an average gross salary of $55,890, while those holding a master's degree earned $85,350, and those who climbed their way to a Ph.D. brought home $121,180. It should come as no surprise that our State of the Profession survey shows that additional training also begets higher paychecks. In 2002, the first year the survey asked about certificate designations held, an average of 58% reported holding an ASQ Certification compared with 71% in 2005 who earned an average salary of $67,520.

In 2002, the survey response pool was comprised of 17% Six Sigma Green Belts; by 2005, that number had increased to 25% who reported an average salary of $66,850. In 2002, 14% of respondents were Six Sigma Black Belts compared with 18% in 2005 who brought home $83,960. The small number of remaining Six Sigma Champions, 3%, and Six Sigma Master Black Belts, 2%, in 2005 earned salaries of $108,360 and $146,140, respectively.

Of those who claimed "no change" in gross compensation from last year, the reasons ranged from the obvious "no raises," a "pay freeze" and "economics" to "opened [a] Chinese plant [and] froze all domestic spending" and, for one respondent, "hired as quality manager after implementing ISO 9001: 2000; ‘new' salary equals ‘old' salary plus bonus."

Those who reported a decrease in salary in 2005 typically cited smaller or no bonuses paid, or a change in place of employment. It should be mentioned that our quality professionals are a decidedly optimistic bunch: A significant 69% anticipate a salary increase at their next performance review, followed by 30% who foresee no change and only 1% who, like those who cited smaller or no bonuses paid, believe they will see their paychecks take a hit.

Asked whether they received a cash bonus during the past year, 51% replied with a categorical "no" while 49% affirmed that they had. Of those who pocketed a bonus, 39% reported an increase over 2004, 46% replied "no change" and 15% said their bonus had decreased. Of course, company-paid benefits figure into the mix. Respondents claimed the top three benefits available to them are health insurance, followed by annual vacation, and pension

and/or a 401(k).

The accomplished professional

What about the 46% of quality professionals who identified a "feeling of accomplishment" as the top attribute of the job? This likely goes hand-in-hand with the 42% of quality professionals who in 2005 reported "technical challenge" as the number-one attribute, and many in both categories probably fall within the 33% of those who reported feeling highly satisfied with their jobs. Another 58% are moderately satisfied, followed by 9% who likely would rather trade in their jobs for the fairways-or another job. The vast majority-81% of respondents-reported that increases or decreases in compensation are based on overall company performance vs. "my plant's overall operating performance," 45%.


As with each year, these professionals have their share of concerns-but the concerns appear to have shifted over the years. In 2001, respondents' chief worry was sufficient operating budget, 44%, with management support bottoming out at 8%. In 2005, a notable 37% checked off management support as their primary concern, followed closely by economic conditions, 36%. Job security always has ranked a close third, trading places on occasion with salary.

If concern over management support is such a key concern with so many quality workers, the question of "why" begs an answer. Our 2005 survey results show that a majority-62%-of respondents reported supervisory responsibility compared with 38% who don't carry that load. A good number of respondents may not be getting the support they need in other areas. While 27% reported that staff size for their quality operations increased in the past year, 52% said staff size remained the same and 21% saw it dwindle.

How do respondents meet quality needs that exceed their in-house capacity? Good question: 68%, which is fairly consistent with past years, do so by working overtime. In 2005, outsourcing to a third party and use of temporary workers ranked evenly at 30%. A smaller 18% of respondents said, "We do not. The work simply does not get done," whereas 13% rely on suppliers' staff, and one respondent in the remaining 3% stated, "At times [we] have employees inspect piece work at home" and another, "[We] draw from other internal engineering resources."

Going offshore

Recall the respondent who cited "no change" in gross compensation from last year because the company opened a plant in China and froze all domestic spending? Depending on whom you ask, offshore manufacturing can offer a variety of benefits, including lower wages, taxes, energy rates and improved market access. But there are challenges, including personnel issues, the coordination between offshore production and quality departments, and the integration of quality and inspection strategies.

Certainly, many quality professionals' satisfaction with their salaries and jobs hinges at least in part on how well their companies are managing quality assurance in their offshore ventures. When asked what percent of their company's production was conducted offshore during the past year, 55% confirmed at least some offshore production, or an average of 19% offshore production. This is a slight increase over 2004's average of 17% offshore production. In 2005, the top three countries where companies have production: China, 66%, Mexico, 48%, and the United Kingdom, 31%.

So how do respondents' companies ensure that offshore products meet quality specifications? Most respondents said they do so with "100% inspection," followed by audits, ISO certification, production parts approval process (PPAP), testing and finally, three respondents replied, "poorly." Others cite myriad approaches that give them confidence their offshore products meet specifications-

by doing everything from conducting in-house testing and inspection, to frequent audits and product review to onsite personnel and training.

Clearly, at least some respondents take issue with offshore production, stagnant or decreased staff size, and management support. It may be no wonder that when asked in 2005 what quality-related work activities were part of their key responsibilities in the past year, 81% reported they "implement solutions to problems." Still, most respondents appear to feel their companies stepped to the plate in 2005 to provide the training they need-in everything from methodologies, regulatory standards, management, software and equipment operation.

When it comes to the types of training respondents report they would like over the next year, quality professionals also appear to be taking personal

initiative-both the accomplished and concerned alike-to learn skills in areas ranging from problem-solving to teamwork to employee supervision so that they can effectively meet the challenges of the quality profession today and in the years to come. Q


The total sample consisted of 21,800 active, qualified direct-request Quality magazine subscribers selected from U.S.-only circulation with e-mail addresses whose job titles were: management, manufacturing engineering, manufacturing and operations, quality and product assurance, engineering and technical, and research and development. These workers are from the following industries: furniture and fixtures, rubber and miscellaneous plastic products, primary metal industries, fabricated metal products, nonelectronic machinery, electric and electronic equipment, transportation equipment, and instruments and related products. The same was selected on an Nth-name basis.

A Web-based survey instrument was designed for the study by the Market Research staff of BNP Media. An e-mail message was sent to 18,800 subscribers on April 6, 2005. As an incentive for response, one out of every 100 respondents had a chance to win a $50 American Express gift certificate. The same e-mail message was sent to 3,000 subscribers on the same date. No incentive was offered for responses. The message requested participation by linking to the Web survey via a hyperlink and entering a project password. A follow-up e-mail message was sent to nonrespondents on April 13. The survey was returned by 1,026 people for a response rate of 6%.

The Gender Question: How Many, How Much?

The number of female quality professionals has not changed much in the five years of Quality magazine's State of the Profession survey. In 2001, 10% of females claimed careers in the quality workplace, and in 2005 they had notched up a couple of percentage points to 12%. Does this mean that the quality control industry is still largely a "guy's thing?" Here is a bit more information to ponder:

Job function: In 2005, males-nearly 90% compared with about 10% of females-were in the driver's seat when it comes to corporate management. Relatively more females-nearly 13% of respondents-reported holding jobs in quality/product assurance/control, followed by "other," about 17%. When it comes to supervisory responsibility, nearly 89% of male respondents replied "yes," while about 11% of females claimed the same.

Education and training: And what about the saying that with education and training comes fatter paychecks? Females comprised the largest group of high-school graduates, nearly 23% of respondents compared with about 14% of males. Of those who aspired to higher education, more males, about 18%, held master's degrees, while about 12% of females claimed the honor. Interestingly, more females-2.5%-reported holding a Ph.D, while just shy of 2% of males claimed the same.

Nearly 23% of female respondents held a Six Sigma Green Belt designation and nearly 2% reported completing their Black Belt designation. It also is worth noting that not one female in 2005 reported holding a Champion or Master Black Belt designation.

The number of years employed at their current company in 2005 was roughly the same for both genders, while the number of females reporting having been in the quality profession more than 25 years is fewer than half that of males-about 11% and 27%, respectively.

Salary: In 2005, males earned $68,790-16% more than the $59,140 brought home by their female colleagues. To what extent salary determines job satisfaction is anyone's guess. More males experienced a high level of satisfaction, 33.5% compared with about 29% of females, while about 50% of females reported that what drives them on the job is that "feeling of accomplishment" compared with 45% of males claiming the same.

Quick Tips

Quick tips on the average

quality professional:

• Has worked 12 years with

current employer.

• Has worked 19 years in the industry.

• Works 48 hours a week.

• Receives an annual compensation

of $68,000.