Wednesday, June 20, 2018

TEEX #WomenStepUp: Gracie Zieman, Quality Manager at Accredo Packaging, Inc

What does a Quality Manager do? I manage customer complaints and internal non-conformances. I lead internal and external audits, maintain vendor management system, document control, running the QC lab, and other miscellaneous tasks. Plus, I really like my job. I have always been interested in manufacturing. I have an engineering degree. I went to an engineering school that was already 75 percent men, so I already had experience with being the only girl in the classroom or the only girl in the meeting.

I realized that I really like big picture process; not necessarily inventing electronics or looking under a microscope; something tangible, instead of being focused on one little thing. Manufacturing is a great example of that--there’s a lot of things you can do in manufacturing besides running the machines and developing the product. You can help develop the process, the procedures, and the policies, that kind of thing. I’m much more interested in the whole process.

Many people take quality for granted--they just don’t realize how important it is. Realistically, footage per minute is what’s really important, but Quality Control is important In a different way. It’s what keeps the doors open. We have audits that we have to pass. If we fail just one audit, we could lose half our customers. People say, “Audits, that’s Gracie,” or “Procedures, that’s Gracie, she’ll handle it.” Quality Control is usually a very small department, but it’s integral to the customer experience.

As the Quality Manager, I have to investigate customer complaints, which can come from any process. You have to understand the processes well enough to know what went wrong and how we can fix it. Actually, I don't know how to run the machines, I don't know all the technical, mechanical aspects of it, but I do know enough about it after 4½ years of working at Accredo to figure out what happened.

My biggest daily challenge is that while I like Quality Control because it's big picture, it's also inherently negative. So, if I don't have anything negative to say I don’t show up to the meeting. They know If I do show up, something is going on. It's really hard to convey negative information, to tell somebody that they did something wrong, and that I have to investigate. I try to be positive and try to encourage them and find something good to say.

I take a lot of pride being the Quality Manager for Accredo because I help the company have a good relationship with the customers. Customer complaints are such a big part of my job, and if I can react quickly to the customer, if I can be helpful, if I word things well, using please and thank you, it really changes the dynamic of the conversation.. We also get a lot of positive feedback as well. It's gratifying when I hear from customers complimenting me or telling me that our responsiveness is better than their other vendors. Customers appreciate that they can get a quick response from Accredo, and I work really hard to accomplish that.

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