Companies that want to achieve long-term success must continually improve their processes to cut down on costs and deliver an ever-improving product. As a manufacturing quality engineer, much of this responsibility falls on your shoulders.
When interviewing candidates for this role, an employer wants to see a proven track record of ensuring safety, quality and delivery of products, services and manufacturing processes.
You’ll need to show how you effectively bridge the gap between manufacturing, engineering, operations and materials to drive better, faster and less expensive production.
Can you clearly convey the value you’ll deliver in this area? To put your abilities to the test, practice with these manufacturing quality engineer interview questions and answers.
Bringing a brand new product to market is a daunting task. The safety and success of the processes involved lie in your hands. Use this answer to give a broad overview that shows your understanding of the many interconnected steps that go into bringing a new product to market.
Example answer: “I use advanced product quality planning (APQP) principles any time I’m dealing with a new product. We first define and verify the product itself, then do the same for the processes that will be involved in production.
We conduct validation and gather feedback, then take any corrective action that’s needed based on that feedback. This usually requires several rounds of back and forth. Finally, we launch and conduct ongoing assessments to control and optimize the manufacturing process.”
The first article inspection (FAI) is a necessary step after an initial production run or any time a change is made in the production process. Demonstrate your understanding of this important quality control process and how you’d take the lead on ensuring that it’s completed correctly.
Example answer: “I conduct an FAI any time there’s a change in a process or material, or if it’s been a while since the last time one was done. I conduct a thorough assessment of the individual components in a product, checking for things like diameters, distance between edges, weight and surface finish. I also assess the assembly as a whole for fit, form and function. If there are any variances from our agreed-upon specifications, make sure to clearly address them with the approprate parties so they don’t show up later in production.”
There are many sets of standards governing quality assurance, and they vary by industry and product. Here, cite the ones that are most relevant in the industry you’re applying to. This not only conveys your knowledge, but if you’re transitioning from one field to another, it shows that you’ve done your homework.
Example answer: “As a manufacturing quality engineer in the aerospace industry, I rely on AS9100 as the framework for my quality assurance activities. These guidelines ensure we meet the quality standards of our clients while managing our risk, refining our processes, preventing counterfeit parts and accounting for the human element at play in our operations.”
As the leader in charge of the QA team, you’re responsible for establishing the protocol that governs your staff’s work to achieve a consistent product. Here, talk through how you develop and execute plans for quality control, citing relevant examples of times you’ve successfully done this in the past.
Example answer: “In my current role with a company that manufactures metal parts, I developed a quality plan that clearly defines our production processes, team responsibilities, workmanship standards, material standards and acceptable tolerances. All of my staff were familiarized with this document and regularly refer back to it in the course of their work. We refined it to meet the specifications of every client we worked with. This ensured a high standard and consistent output at every phase of production.”
A manufacturing quality engineer’s job is never done. A key part of your role is to continuously look for ways to deliver a better product while saving your employer money, time and resources. Explain how you accomplish this core job task, citing specific quality engineering principles as needed.
Example answer: “I prefer to use a Six Sigma approach to improve the processes I work with. This approach focuses on identifying and eliminating the cause of defects that cost us money and slow us down. We can do this through careful observation, continuous testing, and a mindset of ongoing optimization. I’m Six Sigma Green Belt certified and working toward achieving Black Belt certification.”
This basic quality control principle is one of the most widely-used methods to assess system reliability and safety. Show your interviewer how you’d put it to use in your day-to-day work for the company.
Example answer: “A fault tree analysis is a great way for us to test the different failure modes within our systems. It can help us ensure that the breakdown of one part doesn’t lead to a failure of the entire system. It helps us think through potential failures from many different contexts–hardware, software, and human–and put fail-safes in place so any issues in one area don’t bleed into the next.”
Part of your job will include successfully communicating with your counterparts in supply chain and operations. Highlight your communication skills by explaining how you’d collaborate with other departments during a vendor switch.
Example answer: “I’d work closely with our supplier quality engineer, who would take the lead on vetting potential new vendors. I would make sure they were equipped with the necessary information about our material and process specifications and weigh in as needed in the decision making process. Once a new vendor was selected, I would familiarize them with our quality control protocols and make sure they had a solid understanding of our processes up front to minimize the time it takes to get back up and running.”
It’s no small task to make a change in materials, but it’s often necessary to reduce costs or improve various product qualities. Use this question to show your grasp on the high stakes of a material change and show how you’d navigate it.
Example answer: “Material qualification is extremely important for any new material we’re introducing. It’s not sufficient to take the supplier at face value. We must assemble the proper experts to conduct our own material qualification process, since the performance and safety of our product depend on it. I would work with our R&D and engineering teams to define the material properties required by our product and develop the qualification methods to be used to ensure the new material meets each of those properties.”
From software to machinery, there are countless tools that can help you get the job done and interface more easily with other departments. Here, cite the ones you’re most proficient in, or better yet, speak specifically about your familiarity with one of the pieces of technology mentioned in the job description.
Example answer: “Most of my time on the computer is spent in SAP. I use SAP to centralize our manufacturing quality operations and house all of our data. I use it to prepare reports for management, share data with external suppliers, track defects and corrective actions, map out timelines and more.”
As a leader on the engineering team, the training, mentoring and professional advancement of your staff should be a priority. This not only contributes to a better work output, but breeds employee engagement that lowers turnover and promotes job satisfaction. Cite a few ways that you encourage continued learning among your staff.
Example answer: “ASQ’s Quality Engineer Certification is an invaluable credential for developing quality control systems, and I strongly encourage anyone on my QA team to pursue it. I’m also a fan of the Project Management Professional certification for anyone who’s interested in deepening their skills as a project manager.”
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