Quality and job satisfaction seem to go hand in hand. Only 7% of respondents were not at all satisfied with their job, according to our 18th Annual State of the Profession Survey. 

Though the industry is not without challenges, the professionals surveyed seem to rise above them. Their companies are profitable, they are proud of their accomplishments, and they are learning more every year. In other words, things are looking good.

As in years past, the survey goals are to identify trends in employees’ compensation, work hours and job constraints; overall job satisfaction; improvements to quality operations; and provide a demographic profile of industry professionals. 

Read more to see if your experience in the quality field mirrors that of your colleagues. 

Company Overview

Respondents were spread out across a range of industries. The top three were fabricated metal products (12%), medical equipment and supplies (12%), and aerospace products/parts (10%). Other categories mentioned included miscellaneous manufacturing; motor vehicle; plastics and rubber; computer and electronic products; electrical equipment, appliances and components; machinery; test and measurement equipment; energy; primary metals; transportation equipment; and furniture and fixtures. 

A third of respondents work for OEM companies, another third are employed by a components and parts manufacturer, 14% work at a job shop, and the remaining 19% didn’t work at any of these. 

Wherever they work, the company revenue looks strong. Fifty-five percent of respondents said their company’s 2017 annual revenue was between $1 million and $49.9 million. The median company revenue is $15 million. 

Three-quarters of respondents’ companies employ 500 or fewer employees including all locations. The median number of employees was 125, with a mean of 2,575 employees. In looking closer at the number of employees, quality staff size remained consistent during the past year for 47% of respondents while 40% of respondents reported an increase in quality operations staff. 

Quality-related purchases are primarily the domain of the quality control group, followed by executive management, purchasing, manufacturing operations, manufacturing engineering, general administration, research development, and outside contractors. 

This purchase involvement includes need determination and purchase approval, followed by brand evaluations/recommendations, developing product specifications, and placing orders. 

Purchases to improve quality operations are on the way up for 42% of respondents. For 53% of respondents, they said their companies don’t plan to change the amount of resources for improving quality operations in the next year. 

For those that are looking to increase resources, gages (mentioned by 53%) and quality software (51%) top the list. Rounding out the top five, respondents are also looking at increasing resources for coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), laser measurement equipment, and optical comparators.  

In looking ahead to new technology, respondents were pretty evenly split between being early adopters and waiting for others to use a new quality technology before embracing it. 

Production takes place around the world, with 96% of respondents having a production location in the United States. Mexico (21%) and China (20%) were next on the list. 

Fifty-six percent of respondents’ companies have production only in the U.S. The average number of production locations is three.

Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Japan, France, Brazil, and Italy were listed next, following by other Asian and European countries, Australia, the Middle East, other South American countries, Taiwan, Central American countries, Russia and countries in Africa. 

Reshoring is not currently on the agenda for most respondents, with 89% saying they do not currently nor do they plan to in the future. (Keep in mind that 56% of respondents only have production facilities in the United States.)

Employees At a Glance

The companies provide a big picture view of the industry, but now let’s take a closer look at the respondents themselves. Almost half (47%) are in the Midwest, followed by the South (22%), the West (16%) and the Northeast (15%). 

The largest group of respondents (38%) were 50 to 59 years old, followed by 29% in their sixties, 16% in their forties, 9% in their thirties, 5% 70 or older, and only 3% were 18 to 29 years old. The average age of respondents is 54. 

Two-thirds of respondents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Six Sigma certifications were held by 33% of respondents, followed by 28% holding an ASQ certification. 

Quality management was the primary job function for 43% of respondents, followed by quality engineering at 18%, corporate/executive management for 14%, engineering for 8%, manufacturing operations/production/supply chain management for 6%, manufacturing engineering for 4%, and research and development for 3%. Five percent would describe their primary job function as none of the above. 

Nearly three-quarters of respondents have been employed at their current company for 15 or fewer years, with 11 years on average, but they have been in the industry for decades. Two out of five respondents have more than 25 years of experience working in the quality manufacturing industry, with an average of 23 years. 

With this seniority comes supervisory responsibilities. More than two-thirds of respondents supervise others, with an average of 10 people. 

Responsibilities and Challenges

About half of respondents work 40 to 45 hours per week, with the mean time worked coming in at 47 hours. For 79% of respondents, this has remained the same for the past 12 months. But 17% reported an increase by an average of seven hours. For next year, the majority expect the work week hours to remain the same. 

These hours are full of quality-related responsibilities, ranging from implementing solutions to problems and interfacing with management at the top, down to preparing and reviewing budgets at the bottom. 

Time is always a concern no matter what field you are in, and quality professionals are no exception. Time constraints (51%) are expected to be one of the biggest job barriers in the next 12 months, followed by the skilled labor shortage (39%), management support (36%), new and existing standards (32%), information overload (22%), budget cutbacks (21%), keeping up with state of the art technologies (21%), integrated in-process measurement (18%), interacting with customers (18%), interacting with suppliers (17%), making new technology work (17%), mergers and acquisitions (12%), and global competition (10%). In other words, if you find yourself bogged down by standards, budget cutbacks, and new technology, know that you have some company in the industry. 

But of course there are teams to help with quality challenges. More than two-thirds of respondents are a member of at least one quality team that sets goals for new processes and/or productivity. 

More than half of respondents (54%) are extremely satisfied with their job, 39% are moderately satisfied, and only 7% are not at all satisfied. 

A feeling of accomplishment, salary and a good relationship with work colleagues were listed as the most important job attributes. Other factors were a pleasant work environment, job security, technical challenge, ability to try new or creative approaches, and a chance to be a team leader. 

Improving skills of the workforce and management support were the top job concerns, followed by salary, economic conditions, a sufficient operating budget, keeping current on regulation and technology, job security, company mergers or acquisitions, and outsourcing/privatization. 

Salary and Benefits

Let’s talk a closer look at salary. About half of respondents draw an annual salary between $50,000 and $100,000. The mean is $85,235. This is just slightly higher than the 2017 mean salary of $82,680, and the 2016 mean salary of $84,615.

Of more than half of respondents who receive an annual bonus, the average amount is $9,500. 

Salaries continue to climb for half of the group. About half of respondents reported an increase compared to the past year, by about 6% on average. More than half of respondents expect a salary increase at their next performance review. 

For those whose salary did not increase, the lack of a performance review or budget constraints were the top factors. Overall company performance and the individual performance review were believed to be the top salary influences. 

In addition to salary, company-paid benefits include paid vacation, health insurance, dental insurance, 401(k) matching, life insurance, vision insurance, tuition reimbursement, on-the-job training, flexible hours, profit sharing, stock purchase plan, pension and childcare. Only 4% of respondents receive none of these benefits. 

Insurance is always a concern, and about two-thirds of respondents expect that they will be paying more for health insurance premiums in the next year. 

Training is ever-present for respondents, with three-quarters having participated in some type of training in the past 12 months. Training regarding ISO, FDA and regulatory standards were the most commonly listed, followed by other certifications, management, methodologies (such as Six Sigma or others), software or PC, and equipment operation/repair. 

Skills development is an ongoing area of interest for respondents. Almost half of respondents wanted to develop their technical skills or obtain certifications in the next year. They were also interested in improving their problem-solving, time management, teamwork, public speaking, employee supervision, report writing, and finance and accounting. 

Survey Details

The online survey was sent to a random sample of active, qualified subscribers of Quality March 19 to April 2, 2018. The survey was completed by 218 people, and the response rate was 1.46%. Three $100 gift cards were given to three randomly selected respondents who participated in the survey. This study was conducted on behalf of Quality Magazine by Clear Seas Research.

Thank you to all those who completed this year’s survey. 


Clear Seas Research.  2018 State of the Profession.  2018.

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