Behind every great product is an even greater Quality Engineer
All engineering production processes and systems need to have someone who is responsible for ensuring that the products that result are of a consistent and high quality. That person is Claire Abrahams.
When most people think about quality assurance and controls, they imagine the process of testing products prior to delivery to the customer. In manufacturing, it involves much more. The core function of a quality engineer is to evaluate the many processes which lead to an end product and to recommend modifications. They help formulate quality assurance policies and procedures and conduct training on key concepts and tools. It also involves a lot of relationship building and good communication skills.
“People don’t necessarily associate engineering with needing to have good people skills but it’s such an important part of my job. Internally, I work with multiple teams including R&D, production, goods in and engineering and I speak to suppliers every day. It’s so important that information is shared clearly and efficiently. Sometimes I require the designers to go back and redesign elements of a product and these difficult discussions often require diplomacy! Soft skills are definitely necessary for success.” Says Claire.
For the love of science
Claire is an Operations Quality Manager at Smiths Medical with over 15 years’ experience in the field. She is a qualified auditor, holds a Diploma in Quality and is a member of the Chartered Quality Institute. She decided on a career in engineering early on in life, following in her father’s footsteps and studied Combined Science at university. After she finished her studies Claire decided to enter into the world of medicine, working for many years in laboratories studying everything from hematology to immunosuppressants and gene technologies. It wasn’t until she joined a company specialising in genetic targeted medicines that she discovered her passion for process improvement and quality assurance.
“I’ve always enjoyed science from a young age, I liked the way you could apply it to the real world to help improve people’s lives. I think this is what drew me to the medical industry in particular. While I was working as a research chemist for a company developing DNA microarray technology (whose owner was a Laska prize winner) they were looking to become more commercialized and needed someone to oversee their processes so I completed my quality and audit qualifications and set up a quality system for them. This is where my passion for process improvement and quality assurance really began.”
“As technologies evolve, so do the ways engineers need to test them, which makes Quality Engineering a dynamic career path that requires a mix of technical capabilities, curiosity, and the desire to work collaboratively.”
Stepping up to support the national need
At the Smiths Medical site in Luton, Claire oversees all the quality control processes and procedures, including for the paraPACTM plus ventilator as part of the VentiltorChallengeUK Consortium working with companies such as GKN and Rolls Royce. This device has been used to help save lives by ambulances and hospitals in the UK National Health Service (NHS) and overseas for more than a decade and has been integral to the UK Government’s effort to combat COVID-19. Quality control and assurance has been paramount throughout the manufacturing process and Claire has played a key role in enabling the site to increase production from 20-30 life saving ventilators a week to hundreds.
“I love being the bridge between the development team and the rest of the world. I get to understand the whole process from start to finish. Products and technology are constantly changing and so are customer expectations. In essence, we as engineers are never finished, we always have things to improve! Having the possibility to improve products that contribute to the well-being of another human, is a privilege and is what makes me proud to be an engineer.”