All engineering production processes and systems need to have someone who is responsible for ensuring that the products or solutions that result are of a consistent and high quality, not only in order to meet internal and external client requirements, but also, in many cases, legal demands. This is the role of the quality engineer.
Those working in quality engineer jobs normally come from an engineering background, although it is possible to move into the sector from other areas, or work up from a pre-degree level of qualification.
The day-to-day role of a quality engineer.
On a day-to-day basis, a quality engineer will ensure that, for example, a manufacturing process is using the right method with the correctly chosen tools and raw materials, that the employees are trained to the required standard and that their training is kept up to date, that the process and workers have all the correct support, and that all the necessary safety requirements are met throughout the factory or installation.
If anything goes awry in the process, the quality engineers will need to ensure that all problems are documented and reported on. This is important for the company itself and also to ensure that any necessary legal documents are produced (for example in the case of an injury to staff on a production line) and a solution to the problem is implemented that also meets quality standards.
The types of projects worked on.
A quality engineer might work in a laboratory, testing processes both from a theoretical and real-world stance, as well as on-site in a manufacturing environment undertaking on-the-spot quality testing. They will be required to make meticulous notes and reports of their findings, and to have the perseverance and attention to detail that will allow them to iterate processes to determine where faults lie and where quality can be improved.
Quality control engineer.
Senior quality engineers will also get involved in setting security standards from the beginning, ensuring that these meet (and exceed) those required legally and by the business itself, and then determine the ongoing processes by which the company will be able to measure and track its success at meeting those standards. Their role is to make sure that processes are set up internally so that all products manufactured, or services delivered, meet the quality levels demanded, and can be proven to do so.
Quality engineers will often be part of larger teams tasked with making ongoing quality improvements to all types of engineering processes across the entire lifecycle of a product and, in some cases, will manage teams of more junior engineers and have responsibility across multiple stages of a process.
A quality engineer might also undertake role specific qualifications alongside their everyday work, such as studying for CQI or NEBOSH distance learning courses in Quality Assurance, Systems Audit or Management Supply Chain. They can also apply for membership of the Chartered Quality Institute as a way of externally validating their professionalism.