Merrimack, N.H. – Miguel Diaz-Acosta is listening for the beep.
The 58-year-old quality control inspector is ensconced in one of KMC Systems’ inspection floors. His sky-blue anti-static jacket reflects the bright white lights flooding down from the ceiling above. He sports a jet-black face mask, rectangular metal glasses and a short crop of curly black hair.
In one hand, he is holding one side of a wire harness, his fingers pressing the metal prong of a testing device to one of the cables in the assembly. His other hand, stretched out over his tall inspection desk, is doing the same thing on the opposite end. As the testing device connects on both sides, a high-pitched beep pierces the air.
This part is good to go.
Diaz-Acosta is one of the newest additions to a quality control inspections team working to meet the demand for higher productivity as KMC supplies medical diagnostic instruments that test for coronavirus and other illnesses to healthcare providers around the world.
Since joining the company in October, he has become an integral part of the team of inspectors he calls “a different breed.”
“We are really meticulous,” Diaz-Acosta said. “If you’re working for a medical company, that apparatus could be used on any of your family members.
“You make the extra effort to measure twice, to be precise.”
Susan Edgerly, a manager in the quality group, oversees Diaz-Acosta’s team.
“Being a manager, I have to look at their output quantities each day,” Edgerly said of the inspection team. “I see those numbers increasing every day.
“He knows the importance of doing his job correctly, but also efficiently,” Edgerly said.
Unlike the constant bustle of the production floor only a few steps away, the inspections floor is a place of quiet focus. Four inspectors examine the parts in their charge, occasionally glancing up at the specifications outlined on their computer screens. 80s music floats through the air from a radio sitting against the wall.
Diaz-Acosta’s workspace is personalized with a few artifacts of American culture. On the ledge of the wall next to him stands an action figure of the baby-blue robot Rodney Copperbottom, animated star of Disney’s Robots. A black and white portrait of Stymie, of Little Rascals fame, sits in a binder on his desk.
A poster on the adjacent wall shows a detective looking through a magnifying glass above the caption, “Needs Inspection.” For more than three decades, those two words have driven Diaz-Acosta’s career.
A Quality Career
Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, Diaz-Acosta’s father insisted that despite their education in English, they would speak Spanish in the home. He learned his electrical trade through a series of vocational and technical schools in Manhattan.
Following a four-year stint with NYC Transit, he moved to Puerto Rico for eight years, teaching basic wire work in electrical shop classes.
For roughly a year, he took Electrical Theory at Cuerpo de Voluntarios (Body of Volunteers) in Ensenada. He also held positions on the island with the Rafael Iron Fabrication Company and Schaffer Beer, owned by his then-brother-in-law.
Diaz-Acosta returned to the Big Apple in 1993, working another three years with NYC Transit. He then joined a company that built wire harnesses, where his performance earned him an excellence award from the NAACP, as well as a promotion to inspector — his introduction to quality control.
“Inspection is the backbone to every company,” Diaz-Acosta said. “If there’s any discrepancy or any deficiency that we overlook, it comes back to the quality department.”
Over the next 25 years, Diaz-Acosta completed a number of contract positions in quality control at companies ranging from electronics manufacturers to military and medical solutions providers. He has also worked as a freelance painter, VCR repairman and bakery delivery driver when quality work was scarce, as it was in 2010, following the Great Recession.
Last year, hiring managers for KMC found a copy of Diaz-Acosta’s resume. Despite that resume being two years out of date, they were so impressed with his experience that they asked him to interview for a quality position at the company.
Diaz-Acosta updated that resume and eventually got the job.
After decades working temporary gigs, he knows he has found a home. Asked about his aspirations for the coming years, his answer was simple.
“I want to retire healthy and from KMC,” Diaz-Acosta said. “I would like this to be my last job.”
Diaz-Acosta’s relish in his work has reached a comical level — on two November days last year, he was so eager to get into the building and resume his inspections that he forgot to turn off his car.
“We’re passing a baton in a relay race,” Diaz-Acosta said. “Whatever you put your mind to and you’re willing to do, it will help the next person on the line.”
Diaz-Acosta makes his home in Hudson, New Hampshire, with his wife, Heidi-Ann, his son, Michael, and two stepdaughters, Olivia and Makayla. An avid baseball enthusiast, Diaz-Acosta plays third base in what he affectionately calls an “old timers’ league.”
He is quick to rattle off the highlights of his top line stats — Diaz-Acosta said he has not struck out in two years or made an error in three.
“I bleed baseball,” said Diaz-Acosta, who wears a uniform with his nickname — “The Wall” — emblazoned across his back.
For Diaz-Acosta, baseball is also a family tradition. His father was a pitcher back home in the Dominican Republic, while his son, Michael, now plays in a Cal Ripken league.
“Every team player is an intricate part of the game,” Diaz-Acosta said.
As a new member of the KMC team, Diaz-Acosta appreciates the willingness of his colleagues to lend a hand to him when he needs help.
“They don’t make you feel as though you’re asking because you know less,” Diaz-Acosta said. “No, you’re asking because you want to make sure that what you’re pushing out is right.
“It’s a warm feeling.”
In the era of COVID-19, Diaz-Acosta has found new meaning in his work. He has lost several friends to the coronavirus, while his children continue their education in virtual classrooms, isolated from their friends. These circumstances refocus him on inspecting with the greatest possible care.
“I’m not just getting paid to come in for my 10-hour days,” Diaz-Acosta said.
“We are literally changing lives.”