Day in the Life of a Product Quality Manager

Taragay Toros

Have you ever want to know what it would be like to work in a different job or industry? PEX Network's twice monthly "A Day in the Life" series continues this week as Taragay Toros, product quality manager for global furniture retailer IKEA describes what it's like leading quality work at the company, and why each day is an opportunity to learn.

My background is in textile engineering. I studied four years in that field at Istanbul Technical University and graduated in 1997. After college, I worked at a medium-size textile manufacturer, where I was responsible for everything from production planning to quality control. During my three years of factory experience, I had the chance to learn much about production and people dynamics. It also gave me the opportunity to observe traditional bulk production, which focuses on producing big volumes with high stock levels.

Taragay Toros is Product Quality Manager for IKEA

The thinking and behavior was that the machines should not stop. Every day, the focus was on planning the production of each machine. Waste reduction and variation reduction were not in the picture in those days because the textile market was in its golden days, where you had a high number of customers with few challenging demands.

In 2000, I was hired by IKEA’s service office in Istanbul as a textile technician, performing the purchasing activities in Turkey where IKEA was buying from a certain number of manufacturers. I was responsible for coordinating the period from preparing the prototype until the dispatch of the final products.

In 2003, I became the TQE manager, where I was responsible for leading the quality and environment work within the organization based on the IKEA global strategy. I also had the matrix responsibility for the technicians in the organization to develop their competencies. QuaIity and environment evolved every day during those years. Customers began to ask and demand more. I started to work purely as a quality manager in 2008 to focus more on this area.

Since 2008, I have been the product quality manager in the Southeast Europe trading area. This area coordinates the purchasing activities for IKEA from Southeast Europe (consisting of the Balkan region, Turkey and the Middle East), working with a significant number of manufacturers. We purchase a wide range of products – from ceramics to textiles – which are ready to be sold in IKEA stores all over the world.

Looking at my everyday professional life, I am responsible for implementing the product quality strategy in our organization and within the manufacturers with whom we work. I lead the quality work and direction to improve customer satisfaction and reduce the cost of poor quality. I also have the matrix responsibility for the technicians in different material areas. These are engineers who work on the production floor with the manufacturer to secure the product and oversee quality.

It is a part of my daily responsibility to work on their skills development. Also, I lead the quality team, which consists of a group of specialists. This team supports the business in terms of quality assurance and process improvements. Quality assurance is about securing, standardizing and sustaining to comply with the business system. It requires training, audits, follow-up and specialist knowledge. For example, the team oversees a routine for starting up a new product, measuring the business in terms of quality performance and assessing the manufacturers.

Basically, the team’s work: 1) ensures that the manufacturer complies with the quality standard and maintains it (through audits and follow-up action plans); 2) secures that the organization follows the quality routines; and 3) supports the business to improve the quality performance. We work to change the traditional thinking related to continuous improvement and waste/variation reduction thinking and behavior, internally and in the manufacturer. It requires training, good examples, projects and change management.

Therefore I have a very dynamic set of responsibilities each day; these bring plenty of opportunities and plenty of learnings. It is an advantage to operate in different countries and work with different cultures each day. This offers a wealth of experience. I need to travel much for internal and external meetings, global forums, training and supplier visits.

One of the biggest challenges I have is to create the continuous improvement thinking within the organization. Therefore, I started to focus on basic lean and Six Sigma training for everybody and to focus on creating good examples to motivate people. It will make it easier to explain why we should work in this manner. Everyone can learn how to use waste reduction and variation reduction methods. But the real challenge is to bring people on board during this journey and to make them understand why we all need to work in this manner in today’s conditions, where the competition is exceptionally high.

To successfully complete the journey, it is very important to understand people dynamics. Quality is something that nobody can do alone. That is why we need to make sure that people understand that it is an integrated part of the business for better business quality. My priority today is to work with people dynamics, to be available to support them and to secure COPQ (cost of poor quality) understanding.

I am a certified Six Sigma green belt and also have received training toward being a black belt. I am planning to get the black belt certificate in spring 2012. I strongly believe that this way of thinking will be coming more into the picture. The ones who will be able to use it are going to have a big advantage in the the current competitive environment.

I have been working 12 years in the quality field. In my company, every day is a new opportunity to learn and to develop. The everyday dynamics keep me motivated and proactive to be better than yesterday.

Do you want to share your story with PEX Network? If you work in process improvement we'd love to hear what your day is like! "A Day in the Life" submissions should be between 700-1000 words and can be sent to us at Please include a brief professional biography, and a jpeg photograph. Please note: submission does not guarantee publication.