Feb 24, 2021 Teena Hart

Quality Management Fundamentals in Aerospace and Life Sciences with Cirris Systems


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Cables are everywhere, quite literally. Quality management for a cable testing company can be challenging, especially with continuous audits from partners, but Gene Vought makes it look easy.

Gene is a quality manager at Cirris and has been with the company for over 25 years. Cirris designs manufacturers, worldwide sales, service, and technical support for cable testing equipment for manufacturers of cable assemblies, wire harnesses, custom fixtures, and other interconnection products.

Ambition and a desire to serve customers have placed cable testers in the hands of thousands of customers on every continent, even including Antarctica. People all over the world rely on Cirris when they test cables that helped drive cars, heal patients, defend soldiers and even launched satellites into space.

Gene has an impressive track record and background, and we're really excited to have the opportunity to speak with him today. I think you'll really enjoy this episode because we talk about his experience in the aerospace industry, his experienced at Cirris and the life sciences industry and his role as a quality manager and how important that is to the success of the company.

Also kind of fun to discuss the music he produced outside of work. Hope you enjoy.

Show notes:

Music by keldez


Intro: [00:00:00]

Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us for another episode of, From Lab to Launch. Really glad you're here. If you haven't already, please hop on over to give us a positive review on iTunes or subscribe to the podcast. We'd love to have you following us.

In today's episode, Robert sits down with Gene Vought from Cirris Systems, a customer of Qualio. 

Gene is a quality manager at Cirris and has been with the company for over 25 years. Cirris designs manufacturers, worldwide sales, service, and technical support for cable testing equipment for manufacturers of cable assemblies, wire harnesses, custom fixtures, and other interconnection products.

Ambition and a desire to serve customers have placed cable testers in the hands of thousands of customers on every continent, even including Antarctica. People all over the world rely on Cirris when they test cables that helped drive cars, heal patients, defend soldiers and even launched satellites into space.

Gene has an impressive track record and background, and we're really excited to have the opportunity to speak with him today. I think you'll really enjoy this episode because we talk about his experience in the aerospace industry,  his experienced at Cirris and the life sciences industry and his role as a quality manager and how important that is to the success of the company.

Also kind of fun what he enjoys to do outside of work. Hope you enjoy.   

Robert Fenton: [00:01:28] I have a lot of things I could ask you about. Uh, some of it will be about your journey to where you are today, but about the great work you folks are doing at Cirris. I'm also going to talk about that awesome background, you've got going on as, as somebody who has got this, right. This is right next to my desk, but I'm not sure we have all the hours in the day, I can also get your advice at hanging guitars, because if you could see behind my screen, you would see masking tape and post-it notes and to identify stilled locations.

So that's a whole other topic. so, I guess to kick off Gene, I know that you're busy. We don't have as much time as maybe we could use talking about all those topics. maybe tell us a bit about the work you folks are doing at Cirris and how it's impacting, know the life sciences industry.

Gene Vought: [00:02:18] Okay. So what we do is, we build cable and harness test equipment, everything that  anything that has a cable or wire. everything from washing machines to aircraft spacecraft, lots of airplanes. We build a lot with the military and the aerospace industry. And so, we sell them test equipment that tests all the wiring and harnesses that goes in to these aircraft and things like that. miles and miles of wire.

And instead of half new, take a meter and, have a meter on one end of the wire, the other end of the wire to see if it's good or in the correct position where it needs to go. our testers, we plug a cable in it'll test the other side and tell them if all the wiring is correct before they actually put it on the aircraft.

So, you know, if you're you push a button on the landing gear, you want the landing gear to go down. When you push that button and things like that, you don't want something else to happen. Yes, of course. Fire off.

Robert Fenton: [00:03:14] So it's interesting. You talk about this wide range of customer segments.

And I bring this up because worked with a lot of companies who come to Qualio because so part of that, a significant part of their work can interact press, like we call them adjacent to life sciences, which pulls people often withstand the Qualio umbrella. You know, specifically how, I guess this, the Cirris fit in with that would you say?

Gene Vought: [00:03:38] Well,  we are AS 9100 certified, but aerospace, standard that gives us lots of little things that we have to do to make sure things are safe and that everything's in place. And so that requires a lot of documentation. A lot of procedures are all documented. how to do things, how to do them correctly, that everyone's doing them the same way every time.

And we have auditors that come in and audit us to make sure that we have those procedures in place. And, they have to be correct. They have to have lots of, follow up. Uh, if we make changes to our documentations, we have documented. The changes that were made. And that's where Qualio comes in is that before it was very difficult, we, we had home grown software and when we make a change, someone had to make sure they remember to mark it down on the paper or bulletin.

We made a change what the changes were. And when you have lots of, lots of people in there making changes, it doesn't always happen. And so we used to get caught a lot of times that are in trouble, that not all of the, updates. We're revs were changed in correctly and the dates so well, Qualio  just does that all for me.

I mean, it just saves me so much time that I don't even think about it anymore. It just happens. I make changes and I can't make a mistake now. Cause every, if I just change one word, it documents it. And our auditors come in, they look at it. They're just happy. They see this, the audit trail of all of the changes that have ever been made and all the ribs automatically get.

Updated and, Oh, it's such a headache. That's gone off of my shoulders.

Robert Fenton: [00:05:15] Well, that is high praise. Indeed. Gene, I appreciate you sharing that, something you mentioned that people often aren't aware of, I would think is without having technology to handle automate, streamline, and connect all these disparate parts of the business. It's you mentioned putting something down on a book. the reality isn't very far from that. And a lot of companies we work with, so really happy that we've been able to impact that a little bit. I'm curious as well from some of the work you folks do. I think there's some new updates with the company over the past few months also, it's been an exciting period.

Gene Vought: [00:05:49] Yeah. Yeah. We've, grown from this little company that was started in a garage. Again, you know, you've heard that story probably many times. Our founder at grown it from a garage business for a need that he found that the company he needed, he came up with an idea which took off and, it's been 35 years that since he had did that and, we have grown and  a larger company has bought us, purchased us that fits in with their scheme umbrella, and we kind of fit this niche. And it makes a bigger company out of us where we have lots of more, avenues to go through. And other, these other companies we work with don't have the quality system that we do and Qualio is a key part of that.

And they looked at our system and we're just light years away from them and they are excited about getting on board as well. And so there's lots of future growth with us in Qualio to get these other companies that we're in partnership with now, in the documentation side.

Robert Fenton: [00:06:52] Thank you very much for flying the flag.

And it's funny, you mentioned that it's actually. You always think bigger companies, more established companies are, you know, they're bigger because they're just more advanced than to have all these resources, but time and time again, when we speak with people and it's this the story of yeah. They looked at us.

So we're just, we're just way ahead. And now we're, we're. Building things out. So I hope that's going to be going to be an interesting project for you and, you know, we're we're of course always a standby to help out any way we possibly can.

Uh, Gene, your career you've been at, you said the company Cirris is35 ish years old.

Gene Vought: [00:07:27] I've been there 26 years. So 35. So.

Robert Fenton: [00:07:31] Yeah. And you've been in Quality roles. Most of that time?

Gene Vought: [00:07:35] Actually, I started there as a repair serviceman. I used to carrying the equipment. I worked at another company. It was broadcast television systems. So I built television studios. And, at that time we used their equipment to, to check out ours.

And so it was kind of, kind of a thing. I, they actually recruited me to come over and work for them. I worked there for just a year and repair and then was in sales for about three years. My liking is more hands-on type of jobs. So I went into the manufacturing, engineering realm there and started to work there where, where documentation was important.

And I have a lot of the documentation was a side job for me. And so when our Quality Manager left, retired back then, I just kind of stepped in and kind of took it over as well. I was kind of in a 15% of my job and it just started to grow in full-time quality at, just a few years ago. And so

Robert Fenton: [00:08:33] it's an interesting path in, by just a few years, looks like, Over 12 years, but maybe just a few years, but yeah, because that's not me, that's not even half of your time in Cirris.

So yeah, a long story leading up to that. I'm curious, coming into that role like that, what, what would we have seen just for the other people who working in quality roles and of such a consistent set of challenges, the amount of which little sub vertical, a part of the industry that, that needs to operate a period deliver on the problems of quality.

Why would you say were the top challenges facing when you started that role? If you can remember.

Gene Vought: [00:09:05] Well, there's  so many homegrown programs that we had. Uh, we have, you know, we've got corrective action quality improvement, continuous improvement programs. and all this has to be documented and we had separate programs for everything.

I mean, we have, eco engineering change order orders like that. And so all of this was going all separately, all these little programs separately. And then when we got Qualio, I was able to take all of those and make one place where everybody could go to find all of our documentation. It all came into one place and all, all of these little tiny systems for people to, to micromanage all of these things and they didn't interface with each other.

Now my manager or a president of that company can go up, click on Qualio,look at the dashboard. He can see what's going on. He can see what processes or procedures that are out there. That would be an issue. The VR are being changed, which ones he needs to review and approve. It's all in one place it's just makes everyone's life so much more simpler.

It's great.

Robert Fenton: [00:10:13] Kind of leading on from that Gene.  Try to kind of understand the journey a little bit more because it's interesting. I always think to drill in there for a, maybe during Qualio, after Qualio, okay. Back over the time, any major lessons learned, because you just mentioned one thing, I think, which is useful, which is in the quality arena that we see.

People have too many systems we call it. Like it's a good classic quote. I call it data fragmentation problem where every small slice can be managed just fine the way it's designed with the challenges becomes there is like we call these 12 pillars of quality. There's at least these 12 pillar jobs to be done that.

Kind of live across the organization. And the quality role is really to be this integrator across the company and to have this oversight of what's going on, and everybody adds a tool as a spreadsheet, adds something else that becomes impossible. So I heard that loud and clear. anything else major that, you know, would've jump out at you as one of the challenges of, of trying to operate in the last decade, I guess, as a Quality leader.

Gene Vought: [00:11:15] Yeah, it's we get audited by some of our customers as well. They'll come in and do an audit of course they're trying to figure out what we're doing and that could take them quite a while just to try to get their mind wrapped around all the different programs that we've got to have to show them, with Qualio now that I bring them in and sit down.

I can print out a, , uncontrolled copy for them. They can take with them. , I can do it over, you know, teams and, and, , we use teams a lot Microsoft teams and, we can do audits now that even with COVID they don't even have to come in. I can email them copies before we used to have to go to the copy machine, make out these copies, stamp them, you know, so they're uncontrolled get in the copy machine and email them over to them.

And it was quite a chore just to do an audit. we're being audited here just at a couple of weeks by a medical company. Biosense Webster , we're doing it all over to on the line and Qualio is  ust gonna make my job so much easier because it's just all right there. I, like I said before, it's all in one place.

I can export a copy of a procedure and shoot it right off to him and he can get it there and just seconds. Look it over. I'm done deal. I can, I mean, I can show him everything all at once. It's just a really nice, I mean, it makes my life way easier, I can't, I can't express that more than I, you know, that I can, other words than that, but the, The nightmare, I guess, is what I had before with all of the documentation and where it was. And hopefully that those people were taking care of it. I have it right there in front of me. I can, I can audit anything at any time I want to and make sure things are being done correctly. And it's just the audit trail.

I'd like to say. I, I can't, I can't make a mistake, as far as, make it a change and not, and forgetting to Mark it down, it's just. It's all they're always there. And you know, that that's been half of my battle and most of the audits that I've had is documentation documentation that didn't get fixed  because somebody to change something and it didnt get taken care of.

Now it's so easy. Everybody can log on, make the changes it's documented. I can look and say, Oh, they made a change there. we get the review and approvals before, you know, it could take weeks for me to get somebody to finally review something. They can look up on the dashboard, see that they have to review a procedure, take a few minutes, have it all done in the morning.

And now it takes days instead of months to get something to approved to the system.

Robert Fenton: [00:13:53] Well, let's see, it's makes my day to hear that Gene appreciated, now before we kind of finish up here. I need to just call out the beautiful items hanging on the wall behind you, and also comment that I, I did check out your website earlier today before our call. So maybe tell us a bit about, you know outside of work, you, you've an interesting career in music. Well Tell me a bit about that.

Gene Vought: [00:14:17] Well I've played in bands since I was probably 14, you know, up until probably, Oh, probably been maybe 10 years ago. I stopped playing in band. I got tired of hauling equipment everywhere, all over the place.

So I've kind of have a little as a recording studio at home and that's where my office is at as well. So I need a break. I can grab a guitar off the wall and play a little bit and, everything's computerized now, you know, I can record, I have a website that I keep all my music. I've probably recorded over 400 hundred songs.

Now, most of them were just, you know, remakes of other people's stuff that they have done. But I, I, do all the drums, the bass guitar, all the synthesizer does all the strings and all of the stuff I can put the whole song by myself. And so it's just. That way, if one of the singers isn't quite singing, right.

I just need to delete him. You know, you don't have to fire the guy, you just delete him, sing it over. And it's all me, so I don't have to worry.

Robert Fenton: [00:15:14] You can't fire yourself with that. That's awesome. Were you still like playing music live before COVID just as in a small scale or is it just all about that?

Gene Vought: [00:15:24] We had a band room at the company and we had extra space there.

And so they let us have a whole big office there. It was a big room and we had our band set up there. We could go play during lunch hours and, we played at the parties and stuff like that. So. Yep. Busy that way. If we would stay after work and practice and play, you know, so at a group of us there that since COVID, we haven't been able to get into the building to do that kind of stuff, but hopefully then in the future, you know, it won't be too long. We can get back together and play around a little bit. ,

Robert Fenton: [00:15:55] have you figured out how to do this remotely?

Gene Vought: [00:15:58] we have been able to share pieces, with, we have the program with our mac computer it's called logic pro and that I can do my pieces. I can send them off to somebody. If they have logic pro they can do their part, send it back to me and we can play around like that, but we haven't played live together yet.

We haven't got that. That good yet. Well, they didn't say it's

still a challenge, you know, quality we're globally remote company. So we, I know we have, I'm certain that we have at least one full land and. A couple of additional members fill out some rare instruments across the team, but we haven't figured out how to get together yet in place.

So it's a, wow. Yeah, sure. We'll figure

that out. It won't be long. Things are getting faster and faster, so they won't be long. Um,

Gina, I'm curious just before we finish up, is there anything for, for people who are listening, who are maybe early in their quality career or thinking about maybe making the switch or pursuing a career in quality, is, is there any kind of advice you might have for them worth sharing?

Boy, you know, you have quality. Quality is one of those. You're almost a standalone person in the company at times. And so you have to be pretty hard-shelled and, persistent. And I guess the thing I always remember is that I'm representing the customer and I'm on the lookout for things that make sure our company are doing things that if I was doing business with a company, I'd want them to be doing as well.

And so quality can be a very important part. uh companies, well, the, the quality that they put out, but if you don't have somebody in the background, Forcing sometimes forcing things and keeping things going. it doesn't take long for a company to fall apart without someone taking care of all of the, documentation of procedures.

It's not a fun job all the time, but it's very, very needed. And boy, if, if you go without a few months, without somebody keeping things up to date, you feel it really quickly and you're cutting your comp. Your company can suffer. Again, that reflects back to your customers as well. And if you're, you're keeping up your quality end of it, you're taking care of your customer and watching out for them.

It keeps that customer minded, perception for your employees as well that you're here. You're, you're not just making a product, but you are making a service for someone that's going to be taking your product. And sometimes lives are at risk, you know, especially with the aerospace. There's no gas station between here and the moon for here in Mars.

You know, they can fix a flat on the way it's got to work a hundred percent when they, when they launch off. And so we, we take pride in being able to accomplish that and help other people do their jobs as well.

Robert Fenton: [00:18:59] That's beautifully said, Gene, thank you so much. I think we're pretty much at the end of our, a lot of times, I'll just say.

I'm really excited to have you folks as a customer. Thanks for trusting us with the important data and information you do at we're excited about this, this new chapter in the company's kind of journey, and I'm going to be spending more time listing some tracks on your website later on. Great.

Gene Vought: [00:19:23] Yeah. Thank you.

Robert Fenton: [00:19:26] Well, thank you. I appreciate thank you. Stay safe and please keep in touch soon. All right.

Gene Vought: [00:19:30] Bye-bye.




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Published by Teena Hart February 24, 2021