January 24, 2017
Brian Keckler accepted the Quality Management role at Smithers Quality Assessments (SQA) in November 2016. As Quality Manager, he oversees the entire quality management system, focusing on each sector of Smithers’ third party services, as well as the company’s internal processes. We sat down with him to ask in-depth questions about his new position and his aspirations.
Where were you before Smithers?
I was with another certification board for 25 years. As the Automotive Sector Technical Manager for the last two years of my time there, I oversaw the global scheme for the company in the TS 16949 standard and ensured compliance with the International Automotive Task Force (IATF). I maintained documentation and addressed audits and corrective actions.
Why did the Quality Manager role appeal to you?
It stood out as an opportunity to oversee a whole quality management system, rather than focusing on one particular sector. So far, it has been a nice learning experience to work with accreditation bodies, especially for the automotive and aerospace industries, which are currently in transition. Beyond that, I’ve also learned a lot about medical device standards and the accreditation surrounding them.
What particular skill or set of skills makes you a particularly good fit?
My engineering and technical background with a BS in Electrical Engineer gives me an aptitude for attention to detail. I’ve dealt with oversight offices before. Working with ANAB, the organization that provides accreditation for certification bodies, is similar to my previous work.
Your job description says you are involved in both external and internal audits. Do you find one more challenging, and if so, why?
External audits come with a lot of pressure, but internal audits can be challenging too. Despite how well you think you know your system, you still need to be on top of it by making the necessary improvements and challenging people in your own organization. There is no finger pointing at SQA, just proving our system to meet accreditation.
How did you choose this career path?
After graduating from Ohio Northern University, I was doing field inspection with American Gas Association Laboratories. We were training in accordance with ISO 9001, and I got involved in that from the beginning. When the automotive industry transitioned to ISO and third party registration with the introduction of QS 9000, I moved into that opportunity and continued with that focus, eventually achieving management roles.
Quality audits can be a high-stress task. How do you enjoy your time away from work?
I’m married and have four children, along with three grandchildren. One of my daughters attends my alma mater actually. Family is certainly something that keeps me busy. I also enjoy outdoor activities, like skiing, hiking and camping when we have time.
What do you want to accomplish at Smithers?
Overall, I think our system was in a good position when I inherited it. We have a good track record with accreditation bodies, and I’m happy with what I’m seeing. I would like to use my talents to support the ongoing success Smithers has achieved. We are just beginning our annual performance appraisals, and I’ll be setting my goals for 2017 soon. Our biggest goal now is to have a successful transition of the automotive, aerospace, and medical device programs to the revised standards this year, along with the successful transition of our clients.
Brian Keckler and SQA are excited for the future. Learn more about the growing list of services provided by the quality and environmental management systems certification body at smithersregistrar.com/services.