The state of the quality profession may have changed in 2020, but some issues remain evergreen.

Today’s quality professionals are concerned with their company’s commitment to quality, skilled labor shortages, and keeping current with regulations, along with their salary, job security, and new technology, according to our 19th Annual State of the Profession Survey.

Despite the challenges—and there are many—quality professionals are largely satisfied with their career. According to our survey, 81% of quality professionals say they would recommend the field to a high school senior.

For some, it’s because of the rewarding nature of the job, the ability to solve problems, or the chance to make a difference. As one respondent said, “It makes you feel like you’re doing what you can to ensure the highest quality product makes its way to customers.”

Perhaps you’ve been wondering what your peers have been up to since 2018. In that case, you’re in luck. Clear Seas Research, in conjunction with Quality, has once again conducted a State of the Profession study in order to provide detailed information on professionals involved in quality.

The study was done to look at trends in employees’ compensation, work hours and job constraints; overall job satisfaction; improvements to quality operations; and demographic profile of industry professionals.

Let’s meet your colleagues.

Company Overview

First, let’s look at the big picture. Quality management is the job function most held by the respondents (32%), followed by quality engineering. Nearly half of respondents (47%) hold an engineering-related job function.

Respondents came from a range of industries. The top three were aerospace products and parts; motor vehicle body, trailers and parts; electrical equipment, appliance and components.

Forty-two percent of respondents are involved with OEM manufacturing. Twenty-nine percent work in components and parts manufacturing, 13% work at job shops, and 16% work for others.

About one-quarter of respondents have been working in the quality manufacturing industry for over 30 years. They’ve gained some supervisory skills along the way. Four-fifths of respondents supervise 10 people or less.

Two-fifths of respondents’ companies report their 2019 annual revenue to be $100 million or more. The median company revenue is $40 million.

About half of respondents’ companies employ 500 or fewer employees including all locations. Quality staff size remained mostly consistent during the past year, though one-quarter of respondents reported an increase. The median company size was 350 employees.

Following the United States, China and Mexico are the countries most likely to have production facilities. Over two-fifths of respondents’ companies have production exclusively in the United States.

How’s the job?

We hope you’re one of the quality professionals who are satisfied or extremely satisfied with your work. If you’re interested in moving up in your organization—or moving on—there are a lot of options in terms of additional training and certifications.

The job overall is the most important factor that contributes to their job satisfaction—93% of respondents said it ranked as one of the top factors. Other top factors are the work environment and the company’s commitment to quality. (It was an encouraging sign to see how quality is a priority for those in the industry.)

Pay for job done, benefits package provided, and corporate leadership came in next. On the opposite end of the spectrum, opportunities for advancement are the least important.

Are they satisfied with their job? Definitely. Eighty-three percent of respondents said they are satisfied with their work.

But it’s not all sunshine and CMMs. There are still a host of job-related concerns.

Workforce skill improvement emerges as the largest job-related concern. Other top concerns are management support, salary, economic conditions, and keeping up-to-date with technology. To a lesser degree, respondents also expressed concern about job security, a sufficient operating budget, and keeping current on regulations. And of the least concern was a company merger or acquisition, automation, and outsourcing or privatization.

Let’s Look at Salary

Though it wasn’t the top priority, salary is still an important factor. The mean salary for respondents was $85,421. Sixty percent of respondents draw an annual salary of $75,000 or more. Of the more than half of respondents who receive an annual bonus, the average amount is about $7,000.

Sixty-four percent of respondents report a salary increase compared to the past year, on average by 5%. The same amount expect a salary increase at their next performance review.

Salary is obviously important, but job satisfaction is a good barometer of the industry as well. Would you recommend a career in quality to a high school senior? If so, you’re in good company. For the majority of respondents, the answer was yes. Respondents cited the interesting challenges, low education costs, and interdisciplinary skills that can be used across industries. As one respondent wrote, “Quality is important regardless of industry and the concepts learned are universally applicable.”

But not everyone is endorsing the field. For those who wouldn’t recommend it, the difficulties outweigh the benefits. One respondent wrote, “It requires very proactive thinking, and it can be very disheartening if you are not proactive.”

Others said it could be a thankless job that was often underappreciated. Perhaps it’s time for your company to provide more recognition.

Training & Technology Today

If you’re like most respondents, you’ve taken some kind of training in the past 12 months. This often includes internal company training classes, cited by 63% of respondents, along with third party online courses, and third party in-person training classes. Next up was supplier or manufacturer partner provided training, followed by trade associations and university courses. Only 1% said they did not participate in any training last year.

Of those who received training from an association, ASQ was the leader with 68% of those choosing an ASQ course.

While there are always new skills to develop, respondents were particularly interested in data analytics, programming, and/or automation in the next year.

In terms of education, a bachelor’s degree was deemed the most valuable type of education for a job in quality and manufacturing.

Looking ahead, it’s no surprise that respondents to the Quality survey said quality assurance was the most important area for companies to focus their improvement efforts.

In terms of adopting new technology, 39% would prefer to wait until others successfully use it. Only 13% would like to be on the leading edge.

Let’s take a closer look at those technologies. Fifty-nine respondents report that their companies are currently using cloud computing, followed by about two-in-five reporting use of automation/digitization, robots, and/or 3D printing.

Among those whose company uses or plans to use robots, half report that their companies are currently training their existing workforce to effectively integrate robots.

Robots may be a common sight on manufacturing floors, but we haven’t been able to poll them yet. If you’d like to know a little more about the respondents, here’s a snapshot for you.

Eighty-four percent were male, the largest category was between 50 and 59 years old, and two-thirds have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Half do not have any ASQ certifications or Six Sigma belts. In other words, if you’re a female in quality age 70 years or older with a Ph.D. and a Six Sigma Master Black Belt, you are in the minority.

Survey Details

The survey was fielded March 9-10, 2020. It was sent to active, qualified subscribers of Quality with an email address on file. Each respondent that participated in the study received a $10 gift card. We received 203 useable complete surveys for a response rate of 0.95%. Thank you to all those who completed this year’s survey. We appreciate your help and couldn’t do it without you.

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