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Managing QC Inspectors, Part 7: The quality manager in China

by Renaud Anjoran 

This is the seventh part in the series I am writing about the management of QC inspectors in China.

Many companies in China have difficulties finding the right quality manager. In particular, it is difficult to find an individual who will simultaneously:

  1. Run the day-to-day operations of the quality department and repeat the same principles to his staff and to suppliers 10 times a day — and keep doing this for years;
  2. Be a change agent and guide his/her team to work in a different way (from my observations, QA/QC operations are often very poorly organized in China).

Do you really need a quality manager?

I see buying offices employing up to 20 inspectors that have no quality manager. The general manager and some strong merchandisers/buyers can do what a quality manager usually does. And sometimes it works fine.

If you need someone to handle the daily work and handle the issues that come up, you can hire at the supervisor level — for example, one for final QC, one for pre-production approvals and early production checks, and one for document control and calibration.

What profile to look for in a candidate?

Hubert Delelis Fanien, who has a real talent for evaluating candidates, listed the personality types most suitable to the quality manager function:

  1. An active attitude (a passion in acting, doing, using his hands)
  2. A masculin dominant character (a desire to do well, strong convictions, and a willingness to go ahead)
  3. A rational intelligence (capacity to extract patterns and to identify links between situations)

I strongly encourage you to rate candidates not only on experience, skills, and likability, but also on the three traits listed above.

I will also outline a few mistakes to avoid:

  • Promoting the member of the quality department who has the highest number of years of experience. This person won’t be a change agent AND might fail as a manager!
  • Promoting the employee who best handles problems. The problem is, that person probably likes to be busy responding to urgent issues. If your quality manager puts out fires every day, who will put systems in place and drive their implementation through training and coaching?
  • Giving a “manager” title to someone as a “thank you for all your past work” gift. Some Chinese managers tend to think their job is simply to do emails, attend meetings, and tell their staff what to do. But you want someone who is motivated to get results (e.g. fewer internal mistakes, more efficient internal processes, a better pool of suppliers, etc.)

A good manager will be a good quality manager

First and foremost, you are looking for a manager, not a quality specialist.

If you want to hire a manager, here are the tasks he should focus on:

  • Spend time where work is performed, observe processes, notice problems (e.g. visit your suppliers’ factories, visit your main customers at least once).
  • Train the staff, coach the staff, lead by example, maintain discipline.
  • Ensure the most important procedures and work instructions get written, shared with the right people, and maintained over time.
  • Standardize and streamline the work in order to free up some of his employees’ time (e.g. merge several forms and reports into one simple report).
  • Make management more visual, for better communication and coordination (e.g. putting out boards that show the main issues to follow up on, the responsible parties, and the due dates).
  • Ensure the root cause of problems is addressed in the corrective action planning process.
  • Set up a regular auditing system that detects lapses in the system (including failure to comply to past corrective action plans).
  • Have a rational approach — prioritize actions based on a gap analysis; collect data to address the most important issues; run small experiments when appropriate.
  • Not be afraid of taking decisions and sending them in written form.

What is specific to quality managers? Here are a few things that come to my mind:

  • Writing procedures and keeping them alive — or coaching someone in doing this work.
  • Explaining to suppliers how they should improve, and monitoring improvement plan
  • Ensuring the feedback loop is in place for continuous improvement
  • Being able to apply common quality tools such as the 7 basic QC tools, FMEA, control plan, etc.

In other words, a strong manager from another department (for example in production or logistics) can usually be a strong quality manager… and will usually be more open to the needs of the other departments.

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Managing QC Inspectors:
Part 1 - Manging QC Inspectors
Part 2 - Checklist and Equipment
Part 3 - Training, Coaching and Auditing
Part 4 - Evaluating Their Performance
Part 5 - Avoiding Bribery
Part 6 - Planning the Inspections
Part 7 - The Quality Manager in China
Part 8 - QC vs. QA

Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on

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