Quality 2022: Two Big Changes Ahead

Industry professionals are needed more than ever

Jeff Dewar

January 13, 2022

With membership in ASQ down, ISO 9000 series certifications down, and an unnerving reduction in quality management staff in many companies during the pandemic, today’s quality professionals are justifiably concerned about their future and career choice.

Here’s my take on the future of quality: It has never been a more needed and noble profession. There has never been a time in industry when the tools, strategies, and hard-earned wisdom of a quality professional has been more valuable. The degree of complexity of some of our production and service processes is astounding; couple that with the zero-defect expectations of customers as well as those of your own CFOs as they guard the company coffers from liability lawsuits.

At Quality Digest we see an increasing number of areas that need the expertise of quality professionals. In my 2021 interview with Ann Jordan, CEO of ASQ, she said:

“The pandemic, as horrible as it is, has put quite a spotlight on how critically important quality processes are. One perfect example is in the development, storage, transportation, and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines. It has been nothing short of amazing how this has brought C-suite awareness of the critical importance of quality processes and the professionals who manage them.”

However… not everyone sees their profession with such optimism. One of my sarcastic colleagues loves telling me how the quality industry is full of dinosaurs or “stiff-necked compliance people.” These are the people who look more to the glorious past than the unknown future, and most certainly aren’t looking at their organization in a holistic, flexible way, where all areas can contribute to value and profits. And they hate change, sometimes even sabotaging it.

Two areas of breathtaking change, among many others, will change the face of the quality profession.

Digital transformation

Digital transformation is changing the quality profession—and for that matter pretty much everything on the planet. The new and future skills of a quality professional will look very foreign compared to those from your parents’ era.

For example, one of my favorite users conferences to attend is that of Salt Lake City-based MasterControl, makers of an EQMS that focuses on the life-science industry. At their 2021 users conference, CEO Jon Beckstrand spoke emotionally about the value of harvesting your data faster, telling a real-life story about a young girl’s hand reattachment after a terrible accident. Due to the speed the quality data was able to be provided, an FDA audit was passed quickly, allowing her surgeon to have the confidence to perform a cutting-edge procedure.

This is how today's quality professionals are involved in critical high-volume data acquisition, advanced data analytics, and of course AI.

I can speak with confidence when it comes to AI in this context. At QD we love our traditional advertisers, many have been with us for decades, but we’re also seeing new advertisers from emerging areas, most notably AI. The results they are getting from our advertising products are simply outstanding. Conclusion: Our readership is highly interested in these new products and services. This enthusiasm confirms for me that AI is just now becoming part of a new paradigm of quality.

Quality as a profit center

Perhaps most astonishing is how the posture toward ISO 9001 is shifting. You could see the drop in ISO 9001 certifications coming as CEOs began to ask what it does for their bottom line. The answers that used to work started looking like feeble arguments: ISO certification is good for our marketing. It’s an industry expectation. Our customers want it. Our competitors have it. It forces us to do certain things.

Yet, in quiet little corners, driven by bold people, quality is starting (with baby steps) to be treated as a profit center. For example, rather than using ISO 9001 as a compliance tool, we’re seeing it embraced as a strategy for business excellence. Some fearless quality teams are asking: “Why should we deal with ‘risk management?’ Why don’t we focus on risk avoidance? Why can’t our processes be set up to completely sidestep risk altogether? Why do we have the equivalent of a line item in our consumer products division’s product liability budget to cover the cost of killing two people annually? Let’s not have to plan for that! Let’s make very sure we don’t.”

When you start thinking about risk avoidance that results in not just saving, but creating piles of money, you in fact are thinking of quality as a profit center.

So! The future of the quality profession? The work isn’t going anywhere—but it is changing, and changing fast. Quality Digest will be there covering all aspects of it.

“The future depends on what we do in the present.”
—Mahatma Gandhi

About The Author

Jeff Dewar’s picture

Jeff Dewar

Jeff Dewar is CEO of Millennium 360 Inc., Quality Digest’s parent company. During his career he has presented quality-related topics to thousands of people on six continents, all but Antarctica.


Quality as a profit center

I'm a couple months late to the party, but the point this article makes is exactly right. Quality does matter! I try to make the same point in a blog post that just published today, where I actually reference this article. You can find the blog post here: https://pragmatic-quality.blogspot.com/2022/03/is-iso-9001-really-worth-it.html