Updated: Jan 13
The date is December 1, 1972. It is a few months after I graduated from high school and barely two weeks after my eighteenth birthday. Today I clocked in using my new badge number 245269 for the first day at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft. My job was as a labor-grade 8 Bench Inspector in department 978/142, Gear Inspection. At that point in my undefined, planless life, I never would have imagined that this was the start of a career in quality that would, so far, last fifty years!
From that first job in Inspection at PWA to owning Management Systems Improvement, LLC today, a significant series of fortunate events had to have occurred. There have been a number of people in the first years of this career who gave me opportunities, advice, and challenges that made it all possible. Amongst them:
Mr. Brown; Personnel Advisor at PWA.
During my initial interview at PWA, he recognized from my shallow resumé that I had the basic skillset that would make me a good Inspector. Four years of High School drafting, two years of algebra, and a year each of geometry and trigonometry developed in me, capabilities that I did not even realize I had.
Rueben Bearz; General Foreman at PWA
I worked in the shop at East Hartford for him for more than three years. He encouraged me to take all of the training that “H-tunnel” had to offer. Imagine going to work on the second shift each afternoon and being able to choose to go to class all night instead of actually working! He allowed me to accrue 1100 hours of classroom training and then encouraged me to take a labor-grade 5 Layout Inspector job over the objections of the union leadership. His best advice after promoting me was “Enders, don’t f**k it up!”.
Julian Lazrus; President of Bowles Fluidics
“JL” gave me my first management job when I was only 26 years old. He allowed his new Quality Control Manager to develop and implement a quality system to meet the automotive customer requirements at a time when I could barely even spell “Q 101”. With regard to the Organization Chart I drew for him, Julian was fond of saying that there was “…more space outside of the boxes than in the boxes”. That lesson allowed me to always go outside of my own box and take on responsibilities way above my pay grade.
Jim Emming; Vice President of Operations for Amoco Solarex
“Worldwide” Jim had this Magellan-like goal to have our photovoltaic manufacturing done all over the planet. This was at the beginning of the global supply chains that have made the world a much smaller (and more complicated) place today. Working for Jim, I was sent to Hong Kong, Australia, Spain, Germany, France, Mexico, China, and even Mali setting up suppliers for Solarex. This gave me the opportunity to learn how quality is done in other countries, different markets, and across a variety of cultures.
Ron Mathis; Vice President of Sales, Intertek
Ron’s challenge was to hire a bunch of “quality geeks” (his term) and teach us to sell. He did that incredibly well. My professional interest in this new “ISO 9000 thing” coupled with his sales process resulted in my first hundred ISO-registered clients in less than three years. More importantly, the sales skills taught by Ron meant that I now had the tools necessary to start my own business, American Quality Resources. After a few years, that business morphed into Management Systems Improvement and 2023 will mark thirty years in business for us.
After a lot of other changes (including a different haircut for me), the entire field of quality has radically changed in the fifty years that I have worked. At the beginning of my career, the basic premise was for trained Machinists to make a bunch of parts and for us Inspectors to essentially sort the good ones from the bad. As has been statistically determined, that doesn’t work. Over the years, a more systematic approach to manufacturing was developed. Now, through Engineering, planning, control plans, measurement systems analysis, and other activities, the manufacturing processes are very tightly operated so as to remove as much variability as possible. Using organization context, contract review, risk management, supply-chain management, and management responsibility, the requirements for the products and services are well-understood and communicated throughout the entire organization. Through quality objectives, monitoring and measurement, internal audit, and management review, the health of the company is constantly managed with the intent to continually improve.
In addition to the quality system, we are now expected to integrate environmental, health and safety, cyber-hygiene, and financial / governance control into the management system. All of this is on top of a myriad of statutory and regulatory requirements. The management system can be quite complicated, especially so for a smaller company. Those smaller companies are my particular interest and providing services and expertise to them has been the focus of our thirty years in business.
This has been a fascinating journey and I have been fortunate to do what I like to do. It will be interesting to see what the next fifty years have in store.
Michael P. Enders
Management Systems Improvement, LLC