Problem solving

Quality engineer in new position – too busy to learn?

— Nobody ever did similar thing here before. – I was told by a surprised operator when I showed up in working clothes, ready for working on the production line.

–I just would like to learn from you. – I answered.

I took the opportunity in the first week at the new company when usually there are fewer distractions.

I went to the production line to work on the stations which belonged to my responsibility.

I was trained by the working operators, spent at least 2-3 hours on each station. The next day the same.

How does it usually go when a new quality engineer is hired by a company?

The first week: get familiar with the company, the colleagues, someone will introduce the process by walking and stopping by the stations while operators are producing parts.

From next week: meetings, new problems, meetings, and finally meetings again. In the meantime, he/she updates some work instructions, plan some process modifications, and explain the solutions to the customers.

Unfortunately, the engineer is too busy to review existing procedures, but that is not so important as he/she is an experienced engineer…

How can we do it better?

Is it really the right approach? Who is responsible for such a poor onboarding, the company or the individual?

What I did in my last 15 years: did what the operators had to do to produce the parts.

The benefits of working on the line as an engineer:

  • get to know some operators personally
  • understand
    • the process steps,
    • the connections between workstations,
    • the used company phrases
    • the applied controls
    • the difficulty of the work

I gained so much from such a habit in the past:

  • the operators felt that we were equals as I did not keep the usual distance with them
    • I experienced some anomalies in the process which made the operators’ life difficult – with some quick fix, they sensed that they could count on my support
    • they turned to me later when they experienced any special issue, or contradiction in the work instruction, improvement possibilities…
  • during customer issues, I immediately had an idea where the issue could occur,
  • I was confident about my process knowledge in front of the customer during audits

Certainly, with such a method, you will not immediately become an expert of the process, but you make an important huge step to better understand it.

What is more, you will establish open communication and trust with the colleagues on the shop floor.

We do not need to blame the onboarding system at the company and therefore miss such a great opportunity, but we can be proactive and do the first step to improve our own onboarding.

When it is done, we can propose an onboarding system improvement – but we should never forget that we are also responsible for our own learnings, not only HR or our managers.

Do not miss such a great opportunity to learn about the process – and about the colleagues on the shop floor. Think in system.

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