The Quality Control Apprentice

I have begun my 12th year here working at First Source Worldwide and it has been an incredible adventure shaping and guiding our Quality Control Program. However, my journey in the science and art of Quality Control began back in 1973. Having graduated from college and looking hard for any available job, I saw a help wanted ad for a laboratory worker at a dye manufacturing company called Fabricolor in the industrial section of Paterson, New Jersey. I applied for the position and secured an interview with Walter Perron, the company President. I dazzled him with my mathematical abilities and he hired me on the spot for the princely wage of $110/week, and for that I had to work a half day every Saturday morning.

At the time my glorified part in this large process was the exalted job title of “Gopher”. The lab was on the 4th floor of the large warehouse building and one of the primary functions of this job was to — go for this, go for that —. I would take the stairs down to street level and go throughout all areas of the plant production buildings and manager offices, distributing paperwork back and forth (we didn’t have email back then — we had multicopy “memos”).

But that wasn’t all that I did, I was also the designated “pot walloper”. You might ask, “What is a pot walloper?” Well, I will tell you. Back before we had any mechanical and electrical laboratory dyeing equipment, we had “pot wallopers”. All production, standardization, and vendor/customer samples were tested and approved by making laboratory dyeings. The dyeings were meticulously prepared for accuracy by weight of textiles, dyes and chemicals. The textiles were mostly skein material (thread wrapped round and round and about 12 inches long and 5 grams in weight).

The dyes and chemicals were put in an open metal beaker (pot) along with the skein of material and to get a “level” uniform dyeing, it had to be manually agitated (walloped) throughout the dyeing cycle. There were two steam baths with open holes on the top plate into which the pots would be placed. The two baths had a total of 36 openings and were usually filled with “pots”. The dyeing cycle lasted about an hour and the “pot walloper” spent the hour going from pot to pot and walloping each skein within an inch of its life. Pity the poor pot walloper that had streaky dyeings coming out of there pots. At the end of the dyeing cycle, the pots were relocated to the sink where the skeins were removed, rinsed and hung in a lab dryer. The lab dyeings were then “carded”, brushed and the lab manager evaluated the dyeings “by eye”.

Thus, it was that I began my education in quality control of the synthesis and standardization of dyes. I learned about the necessity for accuracy in weighings and volumetric measurements and the use of a water supply of consistent quality and purity. Every day at work was a demonstration of the importance of complete and accurate documentation for all lab work, as well as the high regard for lab cleanliness and organization of notes, files, and dyeing reports. I received training in existing quality control procedures and was given the responsibility in development for new products and processes. It was an education that guided the direction of my career in the years ahead, and left an acquired passion for excellence to last a lifetime.

The dye and chemical industry has evolved on many levels from years ago, to the present. We now have a higher level of technical certification expectation. Spectrophotometric transmission/reflectance testing is the new normal across the board as well as a host of new analytical testing requirements. Here at First Source Worldwide, we take great pride in our Quality Control Program for colorants and chemicals that we have developed over many years of relentless testing and meticulous record keeping.  

First Source Worldwide services a variety of industries that include leather, paper, household and industrial products, agricultural, architectural siding, textiles, carpet, lumber, coatings, and many more including servicing many small niche industries with specialized application needs and requirements. For every product we offer, there is a unique battery of tests and test result limits detailed within our QC systems. Some test parameters are the result of the general inherent properties of each product, and others which demonstrate effective and consistent application for specific customer systems.

Quality Control will always be a three-part process. First, it is critical that a determination is made of all relevant physical, chemical, and application properties that uniquely defines the characteristics of each product. Secondly, and equally as critical, is detailing the process by which each of those properties can be accurately measured as well as the specification of approved values within the range of possible results. Finally, all the previous work will be futile without the ability to securely store all of this test data information. Storage needs to be organized in such a way that can later be recalled and used as a guide for quality determination, as well as retained as an archive for future review. It is only the successful integration of all three parts that results in a comprehensive Quality Control process that can respond to all internal and external needs.

Quality Control is a constant state of mind that requires continual improvement and refinement of internal processes and an uncompromising stand for the highest quality products. At First Source Worldwide, we are committed to these goals and have established our leadership with ISO 9001:2015 certification. We continue to provide a high level of technical support throughout the various industries that we service and look forward to resolve the challenges that lie ahead. If you’re interested in learning more about First Source Worldwide, click the picture below!

By |September 10th, 2018|Blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

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David Zehnacker is Colorants Lab Manager at First Source Worldwide and has acquired over 45 years of experience in the quality control and production of colorants and chemicals. He provides focus and clarity to resolving today’s challenges related to product development, production and customer application environment. While away from work he enjoys reading, billiards and a romance with the piano.