Stone takes a hard line when it comes to standards

Thomas McLachlan

Thomas McLachlan

Ever feel like throwing your toys out of the cot? Or flinging a glass against a wall to see if it breaks? Or bending a spoon? Or just doing something downright destructive? Katlego Stone does this every day, and he gets paid to do it.

Stone is a hard-line quality technologist at retailer Edgars Consolidated Stores (Edcon). He is in charge of hard-line products for CNA and JetMart, which means that he has to test all the new products that hit the shelves and push them to their limits.

"I have to ensure that all new products are up to Edcon's standards. I look for any faults and then advise suppliers if there are any," Stone says.

"I really enjoy my job. Every day I get new products to test and every morning I wake up not knowing what they'll be. It's always a fresh challenge," he says.

Stone is responsible for about 90percent of the products in CNA stores around the country. He deals mainly with toys, cutlery, crockery and stationery.

"Toys have especially high standards. Think about it: every time you buy a child a new toy, what's the first thing he does? He puts it in his mouth. You have to make sure that the material that the product is made from doesn't contain any poisonous substances or parts that might hurt the child," he says.

Stone did not expect to be in his current position when he completed his national diploma in clothing management at Wits University in 2004. In fact he thought he would stick to clothing when he was placed in a training position in the menswear section of an Edgars store. Then he was offered a permanent position in ladies-wear department before he applied for a position in quality assurance.

"Edcon had bought out CNA and Jetmart, which stocks mostly hard-line products. Before this they were into mostly clothing products so it was a new area and they needed someone who understood the manufacturing process so that they could assess the quality of new products," he says.

The interview was tough for Stone, especially having come from a clothing background. The interviewers put toys in front of him and asked him what he would do to en-sure that they were safe for children.

"It was a big change for me when I took the job," says Stone.

His new job requires that he tests the new products and if there is something wrong with them then he has to go back to the supplier and explain what needs fixing before the company will stock the products on its shelves.

It's a difficult mix to get right and suppliers sometimes need help to make their products better to avoid a nasty reaction from customers.

While it can be stressful to have the responsibility of up-holding the image of a company such as Edcon, he says that he enjoys it so much that he will stay in this industry for a long time.

"I'd encourage anyone to come into this career - products are changing every day and it's great to be the first person to know and test them out," he concludes.