Trend Talks: Anna Claire Conrad

Here, you’ll find suggestions and tips to help you regulate daily operations at your company that can have a wide-reaching, beneficial ripple effect.


This is my first “real world” job after graduating from college, and in the six months I’ve been here, I’ve learned a lot more about the gear manufacturing industry than I ever thought I’d need to know.

And while knowing the difference between hobbing and milling is important, as the associate editor, my job requires a lot of quality control.

According to SME Toolkit, a program of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and member of the World Bank Group, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Quality Control (ASQ) define quality as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy given needs.”

There are also two primary perspectives of defining quality—one from the customer and one from the producer.

The quality of design is from the point of view of the customer. This involves incorporating quality characteristics and features into a finished product.

Then, there’s the quality of conformance, which is from the manufacturer’s perspective. This strives to ensure that the product received by the customer is made according to its promised design. This can be achieved by improving the design of equipment, materials, training, and supervision starting at the shop floor.

Here at Gear Solutions, it’s my responsibility to ensure that the quality of our product meets the satisfaction of our readers. It’s my duty to find content, interview sources, edit articles, send that editorial back for final approval, and, with the help of my co-workers, put out the best magazine I can every month.

I’ve made a few mistakes along this journey, none of which I’m proud of, but like I’ve found with planning my wedding (as I mentioned in my Letter from the Editor), the worst thing I can do is become paralyzed by fear of failure.

On the other hand, the best thing I can do is improve our processing of each issue from start to finish to ensure that the product you’re reading right now reflects the hard work and long hours that are put into it by everyone on the Gear Solutions staff.

The same can be said about quality control as it applies to the gear manufacturing industry.

Say you receive a returned part from a customer. You’re told it didn’t work like you promised it would, and the customer is left disappointed and dissatisfied. Now, you’re left with two burning questions—how did this happen, and what can I do to keep it from happening again.

This is a universal fear in any industry, especially in this tight-knit gear manufacturing community.

Here, we’ll address how to adjust and improve your processing flow of operations to keep something like that from happening or recurring.

As I said before, I’ve only been involved in this niche industry a short while, but one thing that has stuck out to me throughout these months has been how highly the customer is valued. Gear manufacturers and service providers put their customers’ needs first, whether that means shipping them a replacement part, selling them a new machine, or custom-designing a new product all together. To ensure your customers don’t stray, here are a couple of general tips on how to optimize your quality control efforts based on what I’ve learned so far.

First, ask yourself if you value quality ? Are you willing to make sacrifices for it, such as employing quality management personnel or updating your technology? Is it something you currently plan for?

Second, do you manage supplier quantities? In Tooth Tips, David Senkfor listed several ways to approach and comeback from a rejected order. It’s important to hold your suppliers accountable to their products and the agreed upon deadlines.

Third, how do you involve your employees with quality control? Are they trained on this subject. Do you encourage them to continue their education and expand their knowledge on this industry? Knowledge is power. Like we discussed in our December issue of Gear Solutions, taking advantage of educational and training opportunities is key to optimizing your human capital. If you or your employees are at all like me, then hands-on learning is the best way to go. If you educate your people and keep them updated on the latest methods and technology, you’ll put out a better product and better serve your customers.

Fourth, is your communication streamlined? If it’s not, have you explored ways to make your communication more efficient? Direct communication is essential to ensuring effective communication between people working on a project, and it will ultimately result in a smoother process.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important, are your facilities organized? Have you implemented a system of checks and balances to hold everyone involved accountable for the final product? How does your business measure and monitor quality? It’s important to, in a way, copy edit your work before it’s distributed, like we do here at the magazine. By that, I mean get as many fresh eyes on your product as you can before it leaves your facility. This may help catch small errors that can have disastrous consequences.

These suggestions may seem simple but it takes a great deal of hard work, organization, and steadfast dedication to accomplish these tasks. However, once you apply these tips to your business and come up with a method that works best for your company, you’ll witness a high-quality end result that and a lot of satisfied customers.