Ever wondered how we test the stability of our glass shades, or how hardy our chains are? Have you pondered over how we monitor the perfect paint shade and ensure the trustworthiness of our nuts and bolts? We want you to be confident that your lights, sockets, switches and poles are the best they can be. Just as our products are made by hand, they’re checked by hand too. We caught up with Senior QC Engineer Nick Rogers to find out more about how we test and try our products under the meticulous eyes of our Quality Control team.
Firstly, can you tell us who makes up the team, and how you got into this line of work?
I am the Senior QC Engineer, Mark is Head of Engineering Quality, Lorraine and Shane are our QC Technicians and Harry operates as QC Support to check the glass.
Can you explain what the QC team do at Jim Lawrence?
Well, the overall aim of our job is very simple – to reduce the number of Free of Charge (FOC) items we send out to customer to replace faulty or damaged goods and to reduce the amount of scrap that we produce. If we’re successful, our customers are happy as they have better quality products and the company is happy that we’ve saved thousands of pounds worth of scrap.
There two sides to our QC. One is more of a Quality Assurance role where we come up with strategies to make the company more efficient and cost effective by looking at all the manufacturing procedures we do here to see how they can be monitored to find problems earlier on in the making process. Usually, the earlier you catch them, the easier it is to put right and the quicker we can give everyone the ‘heads up’. This way we prevent mistakes and ensure there is consistency. With a bit of training, everyone becomes their own QC team.
The other side of the job is to test our components and products to make sure they meet the required standards. To do this we work with our suppliers, other Jim Lawrence departments and our customers to get feedback, think of workarounds and solve problems.
Talk us through your typical working day.
I honestly don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day, which is one of the things I love about this job. Any plans you have are usually blown out of the water by about 10.30am! In QC you spend a lot of time looking at problems and how you can resolve them. You’re always asking yourself, is there a problem with this? Why? How did it pass QC first time round? What can I do about it? How can I correct it? How can I stop it happening again?
Every morning we have a meeting with our Returns Dept to go through the FOC orders to see why things are being returned and if there is a genuine quality issue that needs looking at. This is often the issue that dictates what we do for the rest of the day. If there is a problem, we may need to remove the product from sale until it is corrected.
Some days we might find that a shipment of components has arrived that we will sample check and find that they don’t meet our standards, so we have to work with the supplier to see if they can be returned or if we can rework them in the workshop. Other days there may be an issue with a piece of machinery that has affected the quality of a product, or a staff absence which has had a random effect. There is always something to keep you on your feet.
What’s the criteria you look at when testing our products?
Everything needs to be checked to make sure it complies UK standards and our own design specifications. First, we use our own judgement to look at products to make sure the finish is right and that it is consistent. Then we use a range of clever measuring devices to sample check products to make sure they have been made to the standard spec. It is up to us to work with the technical team to make sure the specs are up to date and followed by everyone in the company so that we are all working in the same way. The design team will have considered the durability of the product when designing it, so as long as the measurements comply, it’s a good test that it has been made properly.
What happens if products don’t pass QC?
The first thing we do is put them into ‘quarantine’ so they don’t get muddled up with the rest of the stock, while investigations are under way. If it is a component that is wrong, we have to talk to the supplier to resolve the issue and see if we can correct it in-house or send it back. If it is one of our products, we have to consider how many of them are wrong, whether we should send them back to the workshop to be re-worked or whether they will have to be scrapped. We also have to ask ourselves what we can do to stop the same problem happening again. Do we need new or better equipment? More training? Better components? A new design?
When it comes to more fragile items like glass, how do you go about testing a product without deliberately trying to break it? It must be a meticulous task.
Yes, we can’t go around smashing things. We have a special device that uses a magnet to measure the thickness of the neck of the glass, which is important as that is where you unscrew the shade to change the bulb or clean it. We also use Vernier gauges, calipers and micrometres to check other parts of the glass.
A lot of our job roles are hands on here at Jim Lawrence, but it must be really fun to pick apart our products all day. What’s the best part of the role?
I love the fact it is so varied. No two days are the same. I go home every day having learnt something new, so it is constantly challenging. It’s a funny thing, but no matter how much I think I know about our products and the issues that sometime arise, there is always something new! I enjoy working with the engineering and design teams to investigate issues and working out ways we can overcome them and it’s very satisfying when you get good customer feedback having solved a problem for someone.
With all your expertise, what would you say makes our lighting and homeware high quality?
You can see our products have heart and soul, that’s what makes them different from our competitors. They look and feel better because they are handmade. They may not be perfect, but in my book, they are all the better for it. You can see our products have been made with real care and attention. There are not that many places where you can buy something that has been individually hand forged or glass blown. And everyone, not just the makers, but everyone who works here, cares about our products.
Can you recommend some tips for customers when it comes to taking care of their items? For example, getting the most use out of a light.
A lot of thought and attention has gone into making sure the raw materials are as robust as possible. I’d say you should treat your Jim Lawrence product like a fine wine. It will work happily for years in your room with gentle handling and a bit of care and attention – like using warm soapy water to keep it in tip top condition. If you are worried handling a light, make sure there is someone there to help you.
Finally, what’s the best part of working for a family business like Jim Lawrence?
I like the fact that everyone is very approachable, unlike more corporate businesses, and that you really get a sense of working together. Jim Lawrence is special because here you are part of a fairly small but very dedicated team of people who incredibly good at their jobs and are passionate about what they do. They are always prepared to go that extra mile to make sure our customers are happy with the products we make.
You can browse all of our hand forged products on our website and enjoy other stylish customer homes on Instagram. Don’t forget to tag us in your own imagery on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – we love seeing our products in their new homes.
Working with us means joining an ever-growing family of talented artisan craftsmen and business influencers. Having such a cross section of skills and talents under one roof gives us the chance to offer a fantastically broad range of new challenges throughout our staff, and our exciting career development programmes are tailored to help you grow and make the most of every opportunity within the business.
At the heart of this company we still have a ‘roll your sleeves up and get it done’ mentality that means everyone pitches in and helps no matter what the challenge – there’s no corporate boardrooms here! People tend to stay…we have an amazingly high staff retention rate (averaging 90% annually) which is testament to a genuine belief that our business is only as strong as the links that bind it.
So, if you are looking for an interesting job that challenges and stretches you, in an environment where it’s not unusual to be greeted by a friendly dog (or two) at the door then we are the company for you! We are always keen to hear from new talent, even if your perfect role isn’t currently listed above.
If you would like to apply or request further details on any of the roles, please email us your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org