The following lines were in an E-mail from Mike Petrie explaining the content of this document.
... I'm also writing a history of QAD which could go on the site if there's
room. I enclose a copy to date, but I'm hoping to get some more from Bill
Sargeant and Mike Parish as well as Don/Doug? Phelps.
But you might want to read it or add to it, eventually I'd like others to
contribute to it on some sort of "open code" basis, but it's probably to
If you can provide any input, I’m sure Mike would appreciate it.
He can be reached at: email@example.com
In an attempt to have some document control, this version has been titled: historyofqad002.doc
Testing: To be Assured!
A Short History of the Quality Assurance Division of British Telecoms.
Edited by Mike Petrie.
Draft Edition 2.
Introduction. Page - 3
List of Contributors Page - 4
Chapter 1 – The Origins of Test and Inspection Branch. Page - 5
Chapter 2 - The 1960’s: The Era of Batch Inspection. Page - 6
Chapter 3 - The 1970’s: From Product Quality to the Quality of Production. Page - 10
Chapter 4. - The 1980’s: From Supplier Assurance to Appraisal. Page - 13
Chapter 5. - The 1990’s: How did it continue? Page - 16
Chapter 6. – The Social Side of the Sections/Division. Page - 20
In August 1956 I joined London Test Section, a part of The General Post Office concerned with the Testing and Inspection of products purchased by the GPO to ensure their quality met that which was expected from the Supplier. That quality was defined as “meeting the Specification” which described to the Supplier, in detail, the product being purchased. Sometimes the “product” was supplied by GPO internal sources, or, repaired items which would be returned to other parts of the GPO for re-use. Other functions involved the calibration of Post Office test equipment for other operational parts of the Post Office to ensure first, national, and then, international, standardisation.
I joined as an Y2YC, an abbreviation for Youths Two Year Training Course, together with 15 others, most of whom stayed with the GPO and its successor organisations for most of their working lives. During that time there were many reorganisations and changing descriptions of the Testing and Inspection Branch which resulted in changes to the work itself, and to the people concerned, and changes to the function and philosophy behind the method of ensuring the quality of items purchased by the GPO and its successors.
In October of 1990 I left British Telecom, as the GPO had become, shedding its Postal function on the way, as a result of one of its major reorganisations, known as Project Sovereign.
Years later, after reading the content of a newsletter which kept old members of London Test Section in touch with each other, I added the contents of a write up that I had produced outlining the Evolution Of Quality Assurance in BT to a web site set up for the same function ( www.ltssac.org ). This write up had been produced for a series of Workshops held in 1983/4 to introduce changes in operation to the staff of what had become, by this time, Quality Assurance Division. The emphasis had changed completely, from the verification of product conformance to the Specification, to an appraisal of a Supplier’s own methods for controlling the quality of his product, including in cases of larger products the design of both hardware and software. In some cases, these disciplines were also in the process of being adopted by British Telecoms’ own staff in installation and maintenance operations. These Workshops were designed to facilitate the introduction of work practices of our own staff to accommodate these changes.
On re-reading this write up I realised that it contained the seeds of a history of the Test and Inspection/Quality Assurance Division, although it generally covered only a period around the 1960’s to the early 1980’s. It needed input from both an earlier period, to explain its origins and early practice and organisation, and a later period (post 1990), to describe what had happened to it following my departure.
This history is as a result of my quest to tap the resources of members, past and present, making use of their memories to describe the organisation I worked for, for most of my working life.
I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to it, but to say, as is traditional, any errors are mine and I take responsibility for its QUALITY.
List of Contributors.
Paul Hindell (now living in
The Early Days: The Origins of the Test and Inspection Branch.
I am currently awaiting some input from any of our older members for information for this Chapter.
The earliest date so far is for a member who joined in October 1932.
Test and Inspection Branch was part of the Engineering Department of the General Post Office which was headed by the Engineer-in-Chief. This, in turn, was part of the Civil Service, and reported to the Postmaster General. The organisation of I Branch was substantially the same as described below in Chapter 2. In origin though it appears that the Birmingham Test Section dealt more with Telephony items and components, while the London Test Section dealt with Postal and Telegraph stores. This distinction faded over time until broadly they mirrored each other.
There was another broad distinction within the Sections viz., between “Manual” and “Auto” parts of the Sections, the former dealing with items used in Manual Telephony, still widely employed at that time. These included Factory Repaired Telephones (including “Candlestick” ‘phones), switchboards and associated components. The “Auto” groups dealt with Strowger equipment including 2 motion selectors, relay sets, dials and other associated components. By 1936 the functioning of the Sections was well organised and had apparently been in operation for some time. The Testing Officers were recruited as Unestablished Skilled Workman grades. (“Establishment” concerned the Pensionable status of the individual involved and seemed to include service counting towards an individual’s pension. Service below the age of eighteen did not count towards this service entitlement). A USW became “Established” after a short period.
During the Second World War the work of the Sections broadened to include the testing and inspection of complex radio and electronic equipment for the Forces, no doubt providing a foundation for much of the work of a later period. At this time female staff were also involved in the testing function to replace men who were serving in the Forces, but after the end of the War it reverted to a mostly male environment.
As well as the testing work the work of the Sections included the repair and calibration of HF amplifiers (London) and the calibration of HF test equipment (Birmingham) partly resulting from a discrepancy in the measurement of the HF milliwatt in Birmingham and London. I Branch undertook this repair and calibration function at the request of Lines Branch (another part of the GPO HQ responsible for the telephone network) to ensure satisfactory national standards for this equipment from about the period around 1950-51. This not only provided the Sections with the opportunity to keep up with technological developments in communications equipment but also to provide work for staff in between tours of Detached Duty. This latter employed the majority of staff in the Sections who were based at different Supplier’s premises testing and inspecting equipment supplied under contract to the GPO. This “Equipment Acceptance” role nominally employed 100% verification of the Products supplied, but in fact included a very basic form of informal sampling based on the discretion of the Testing Officer which may have included a knowledge of the Product and known faults/weaknesses in the Supplier’s process. It also included a form of Shop Inspection, a kind of informal patrol inspection activity, but of doubtful use and was often the first activity curtailed in times of staff shortage or increased throughput.
The Calibration and Repair function above also resulted in the formation of a countrywide transport service to collect and return items to their users to ensure that the work entailed in the calibration function wasn’t undone by careless handling and transport which did occur from time to time if public transport (e.g. Trains) were used.
In the period up until around 1958/9 the basic grade of Technical Officer, which replaced the earlier Skilled Workman grade, worked a standard 44-hour week (often including Saturday morning) which decreased in 1959 to a 40-hour week.
The 1960’s: The Era of Batch Inspection.
The organisation of Test and Inspection Branch in this period consisted
of a Headquarters Unit, London Test Section, Birmingham Test Section, Materials Sections, also at
London Test Section consisted of a Unit functionally testing items supplied to and repaired by the General Post Office (except Telephone Poles which were inspected by GPO Stores personnel) and had its Headquarters at Studd Street, Islington. This included Advanced Sample testing and reporting on samples provided by a Contractor which would represent his production run. This gave the opportunity to discover any discrepancies between the Contractor’s understanding of the product and the GPO’s actual requirements as defined in the Contract documentation. Alternatively, once any discrepancies were highlighted by this exercise, consideration could be given as to their impact and, if necessary, changes made before the cost of production had been entered into.
activity was supported, as was an on-going, in contract monitoring, by the
Physical Measurements Group (Group 5) involved in high precision measurements,
often using magnification devices. Another activity was the testing and
inspection of items repaired by the GPO Factories Division at
The GPO Factory at Brimsdown, Enfield at which LTS had a large outstation (Group 46) was large enough to warrant a management of 3 AE’s and a staff of about 40 inspecting repaired items including switching equipment racks and doll’s eye switchboards (and later small stand-by mobile exchange systems), spread over several acres. The Factory (and Test Section Group) at Holloway was much smaller.
function was the provision of calibrated test samples (obtained from the Post
Office Research Establishment at Dollis Hill,
Telephone equipment components, like relays and dials, as well as completed telephones of various types were tested after being repaired by the Factories Division (Groups 2 and 21 respectively). The telephones ranged from simple instruments to 2+20 master instruments and Key and Lamp units, the forerunner of small customer based switching systems. Scrambler telephones were also tested and repaired by the Audio Equipment Group (Group 3) which also repaired more complex radio equipment in the “cage”, a highly electronically screened repair position as well as testing audio frequency transformers.
staff based at Studd Street also served as a reserve staff for the major
function of London Test Section which was the acceptance testing of equipment
produced by independent Suppliers, this testing usually being carried out at
the Supplier’s own premises, in test rooms supplied for Test Section use. Staff
involved in this testing were usually provided on a rota basis from the reserve
from Studd Street if the premises were within a defined travelling
time/distance from Studd Street, or, alternatively, by the provision of permanent
staff if over this distance. From memory, the defining characteristic was a
limit of a total travelling time of one and a half hours from home to the place
of Detached Duty. The exception was a small Group involved full time in
travelling between smaller Contractors in the London Area (Group 24). Staffing
was on a rota basis in agreement with the local Post Office Engineering Union
representatives who usually controlled the individual staffing in accordance
with agreed criteria to ensure fairness. This rota staffing was seen by the
staff involved as a bonus to their “normal” work for the GPO, due to the fact
that overtime payment was made for any time spent in travelling above the
normal “home to
for the testing function at
Support functions were provided by the Training Group (Group 43), responsible
for the recruitment and training of Youths-in-Training and the oversight of the
Technical Officer in Training programme as well as providing information for
other adult training. Y2YC training included Day Release at local
Man-hours control was by the booking by the testing officer of the time taken for each job on a Test Report. These were of two types. For routine testing of repaired items each Test Report contained an estimated time for the completion of the testing against which the actual time taken was compared. These Test Reports were known as Rated Test Reports and it was expected that the staff of the Test Sections would equalise the time taken with the estimated time over the period of the working week, which was 40 hours per week for a Technical Officer. The other type of Test Report was a Works Advice, which was issued for non-rateable work, for example, the repair of electronic equipment by the calibration and servicing groups.
Clerical support was given by the Clerical Office on the First Floor.
sister Materials Section was based at
The Materials Sections were also responsible for the production of materials specifications as well as the oversight of Contractors producing supplies of basically a “materials” nature
also based at Fordrough Lane, was a sister organisation to London Test Section,
mirroring the work of London, the latter covering a geographical area south of
the line between Bristol and The Wash, whilst the Birmingham Test Section
covered the remainder of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It also had staff
dealing with GPO Factories at
Cable Test Section was headquartered at Arnos Grove in north
Cable Test Section was responsible for the on site acceptance testing of
Supplier installed working cable systems, from small audio cables to large
trunk cable systems, including co-axial cables. To do this it provided staff
for this function at any location in the
of the testing and inspection activities performed by the
even the 100% inspection and testing was known not to be 100% efficient.
Studies had shown that boredom and inattention resulted in that only about 80%
effectiveness could be expected. Thus, potentially, 20% of faulty items
inspected or tested could be missed. In order to decrease this possibility
serial inspection or testing would sometimes be employed to minimise faulty
items getting through. This was employed, for example, on the inspection of
components, sub assemblies and assembled items to be used in the undersea
amplified cable systems currently undergoing installation providing traffic
Knowledge was becoming available about a mathematical solution to the problem associated with 100% verification of items at the end of a production process. Two factors were involved. Ford, for example, had pioneered the concept of Statistical Process Control, where in-line measurements were carried out during the manufacturing process performed by machines manufacturing routine items. They showed that it was possible to predict when the machine would begin to produce components out of limits due to wear taking place on the tools involved. This was carried out by taking samples throughout the production process to confirm the wear pattern and feeding back the information in due time so that corrective action could be taken in time, but not too early as down time increased costs as did the production of items too far within the required limits. So any machining or process manufacturing could be adequately controlled without 100% verification.
The second factor, of more importance at this time was the increased understanding of mathematically based batch inspection techniques. If 100% verification was not 100% effective could the quality of items accepted be improved by the adoption of these techniques? Limits could be defined for different items, depending on the complexity, importance or impact of the items, and the probability of rejection of the batch of those items could be defined if that limit were exceeded. The probability of making a incorrect decision based on sampling could also be defined and if this were accepted by both parties to the contract, before the contract was signed, would enable some form of batch inspection using defined sample sizes and acceptance numbers to take place. These Sampling Plans would also include switching arrangements which would come into operation if the quality was not also strictly in control. This method of inspection also included a powerful psychological point that, in future, the Supplier would increasingly take responsibility for the quality of the product instead of relying on the GPO to sort for him the bad product from the good such that he only had to repair those items found to be faulty. Now he would have to rework the whole batch if the quality did not meet the agreed standards. This type of activity would also allow for a much increased verification activity to be undertaken by the staff of the Test Sections without a massive increase in staffing levels at a time of network expansion.
So an exercise was carried out defining what Acceptable Quality Levels would be expected from different items in the Rate Book, and a series of Sampling Plans defined for each Quality Level. These defined the Sample Size and Acceptance Number for batches of items under both Normal Sampling (for when the quality was expected to be under control) and for Tightened Sampling (when previous batches had shown quality not to be in control). This was shown by a larger than acceptable number of faults found during Normal Sampling inspection taken over a defined number of batches. Under Normal Sampling conditions the Supplier was guaranteed that the GPO would not reject any batch with quality at or better than the defined level more than 1 in 20 batches, whilst under Tightened Sampling the criteria became that the GPO would not accept a more than 1 in 10 chance of accepting batches with a quality level worse than a defined level (usually not more than 4 times the Acceptable Quality Level (AQL). Under this condition the Suppliers Risk of an incorrect decision being made on a batch which met the desired Quality Level was considerably tighter than under Normal Sampling.
The General Conditions of Contract were redefined to include these requirements and Batch Sampling was introduced into Section working.
During the middle of the 1960’s the GPO Factories Division accepted the responsibility for the quality of its own output and set up the Factories Division Inspectorate and some of the Test Section staff carrying out this function transferred to this new Inspectorate and Test and Inspection Branch relinquished this function in (1964?). The Factories Division became known later as Fulcrum. Later still it became a private company, Fulcrum Communications Ltd that was taken over by Fujitsu Ltd in the 1980’s. The staff involved were also taken over and lost their GPO pay and pension rights.
By the end of the 1960’s batch inspection was widespread and Suppliers had organised themselves in such a way as to provide feedback during the production phase to allow for the correction of production problems before they became obvious at the final testing phase. So the manufacturing process itself was becoming self healing to minimise costs incurred due to the incorporation of faulty components or processes. Together with an Inwards Goods Inspection and Testing function which rejected faulty components before they could be incorporated into any products, this meant that the production process was itself under control, improving by definition the probability that products themselves would meet the criteria defined by the Specification. Much of this was proved by collecting and analysing the failure costs and causes by the Supplier themselves. This analysis proved the value of controlling the process and minimising the overall costs, rather than producing an output and incurring the costs of an unknown corrective action. The earlier in a product life corrective action was taken, the cheaper the overall costs. Thus the inspection and testing functions were now seen as a positive cost saving process rather than a delaying and negative function which added to product costs.
The 1970’s: From Product Quality to the Quality of Production.
Having achieved a large measure of the control of quality by transferring the responsibility for its achievement and proof to the Supplier (who could cost the benefits) attention could shift from a direct product verification to the oversight of the Suppliers own quality control system. This was accompanied by periodic verification checks on a product basis. Provided confidence in the system could be established as shown in product quality records and by conformance to his own quality control system as described by himself in a Quality Manual, the Post Office (as the GPO became in 1969) could progressively withdraw from the direct acceptance role which it could relinquish to the Supplier on a product by product basis.
In 1967 a new Condition of Contract (DC 115) was introduced imposing a
contractual requirement for quality control during the manufacturing process
from inwards goods inspection right through to the final product. It called for
the Supplier to document his Quality System for the product and, when this was
agreed by the QAD (by this time the Test and Inspection Branch had changed its
name to Quality Assurance Division to reflect its change in function)
representative (usually the Executive Engineer at first) and verified by an
audit by the QAD staff to ensure that his operation conformed to the documented
system the Supplier could release this product without any direct PO
inspection. The Supplier was not allowed to alter his quality control method
described in his Quality Manual without approval by QAD. The QAD staff role
changed from one of product verification to quality system auditors with little
training as to what was expected of them. Often, initially, they were simply
given an “area” with a general instruction to carry out a vague and usually
unrecorded “shop inspection” activity. Later, detailed surveillance plans were
drawn up by the local managers such that some confidence in the breadth and
depth of the coverage could be established and proven. Periodically this
verification would include inspection and/or testing so that actual product
quality could be compared to the Supplier’s own findings. Control was still
held by the PO QAD in that they distributed the Authorised Release approval
stamps which were changed after each validation. In the event of a demonstrable
failure of quality control the stamps could be withdrawn and the Supplier would
revert to Batch Inspection. This would not only be by a failed Product
Validation performed by local QAD staff but could include the results of Life
Test samples performed at Studd Street or Fordrough Lane which could indicate
longer term problems, possibly as a result of material or component failures.
By this time the Suppliers had realised the advantages in the maintenance of
quality due to the minimisation of costs of scrap and downtime, as well as the
reduction in waiting time for the release of the items to the
Thus the concept of Authorised Release (later to be known as Delegated Release) came into operation in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s.
During the 1960’s and early 1970’s, following the influence of the NASA philosophy of “zero defects”, there came about an increasing recognition that it was not only the manufacturing phase that determined the quality of the product. The definition of this had changed over this period from “the conformance to the specified requirements” to the “ability to perform the required function”. Later this would be expanded to include the concept “for a defined period under defined conditions” as the recognition for reliability to be a factor grew. This was assisted by the inclusion of a Group, initially small, which specialised in component reliability at Headquarters to improve the feedback of reliability data in conjunction with the Telecomms Engineering and Manufacturers Association (TEMA) and Post Office Service Departments. This was a time of acceleration of technological innovation, following from a period where Strowger equipment had dominated, now into a period where firstly Crossbar switching was being introduced and later, where electronic exchanges with programmable computer controlled systems and other digital and fibre optics systems were in the wings. From global sources like NASA and local sources like the analysis of investigations into defective store reports initiated by feedback from Telephone Area staff, it was apparent that there was a need, particularly with the increased speed of innovation, to get into the production chain at a far earlier stage such that we could influence the design or specification of the product or system.
So in about 1978 QAD set up a unit to oversee the development of Design
Quality Assurance in certain fields of activity. One such area was the
development of System X, a computer controlled digital
telephone exchange system. NASA had developed a series of specifications which
had also been largely adopted by the Ministry of Defence (the 05-21
specifications), which included a Quality Assurance function covering the
design phase of a project, from performance specification to completed system
ready for manufacture. In many areas, Contractors were unaware of what this
meant but via assessments and the educational role exercised by large scale
purchasing units like the
Much of this new equipment was controlled by software. The concept of a
disciplined approach to its design process was common to that for hardware but,
as it was a field where there was no visible product, this discipline was, if anything,
more necessary as this was the only real way that assurance could be given that
the product (the software) would work when integrated with the hardware.
Concepts like testability, the ability to test modules independently and then
integrate them; maintainability, to be able to modify the software; and
reliability, the ability of the software to drive the hardware for not less
than a defined period before failing due to “bugs” were all required to be
defined and considered during the software design phase. Increasingly it was
also being recognised that the initial Requirements Capture phase was an
important area where problems could be caused unless this was tackled
correctly. QA Division responded to these requirements by setting up a Software
Design Assurance Group based at
Also by this time the role of the equipment repair and calibration on behalf of Telephone Areas and Regions had greatly expanded to 40,000 measuring instruments covering some 400 different types. This work also included the achievement of acceptance by the British Calibration Service of the London Electrical Standards Laboratory and the Birmingham Electrical Calibration Laboratory who ensured the maintenance of the Post Office working standards within the Division as well as other parts of the Post Office. But this expansion caused problems due to the increasingly complex equipment in use which required a higher degree of specialisation and knowledge from the staff involved. This increasingly caused problems when operating alongside a rotating staff required to staff the oversight of a Supplier’s quality system (which also continued to be seen as financially more rewarding by the staff involved). Often, just as sufficient experience had been gained to become effective at the repair and calibration of a specialist line of equipment, the individual concerned would then become due for another turn on the rota thus negating his value. It was not necessarily the case that, on completion of his “turn” at the Supplier, he would return to the same repair Group as when he left as any vacancy depended on who’s “turn” it was next, and thus the whole process would have to start again. Obviously this was a most inefficient way of staffing the Calibration Services Groups and exacerbated the problem of the skill level needed to work on this increasingly complex equipment at a time of technological expansion.
Eventually (in 1983?) this function, together with the staff involved, were taken over by the Factories Division and the Sections were finally only involved with product quality.
This was reflected (in 1983?) in a name change to Quality Assurance Division and a reorganisation when the Division became part of the Purchasing and Supply Department, P&S 4.3, anchoring the Division in its role as part of the PO’s procurement chain.
By 1970 QAD were responsible as well for the Acceptance Testing of Telephone Exchanges installed by contract and by the early 1970’s a series of QS (Quality of Supply) specifications and TI’s had been produced. Concurrently with the evolution of Quality Assurance and Delegated Release in the manufacturing sphere it was proposed that a similar concept would be used in the Supplier Installation of telephone exchange equipment. This concept forced Supplier’s field staff to feedback problems which they encountered on installation back to the design or manufacturing phases as appropriate. Previously this feedback path had only existed on an ad hoc basis but by utilising some form of cost transfer system, the Suppliers rapidly realised the cost benefits of establishing this link, although it still functioned better in some areas than others. Usually the later technologies fared better.
However, the concept was not fully accepted by Telephone Area/Regional staff with the same enthusiasm, obviously due to the impact on staffing levels of Clerk of Works groups. It was eventually decided that, rather than spend a lot of effort introducing Supplier Quality Assurance (SQA) into the Strowger and Crossbar fields it would be more appropriate to concentrate into the Electronic and Digital Exchange installations.
A series of Field Trials at Crossbar sites was aborted following protracted negotiations at ECOCP3 (Experimental Change of Practice Committee). In the mid 1970’s SQA (Supplier Quality Assurance) became a condition of contract for TXE4 Exchanges and Exchanges were installed under this system. By 1980 this principle was extended to newer systems like TXD (System X) linked to a new series of specifications (QES – Quality of Electronic Systems).
Proposals were also developed for the extension of this principle into
Direct Labour installation work in the 1980’s as part of the introduction of
Quality Management into the workings of the
Even so, it should be remembered that there still existed a long
“train” of minor Suppliers to the PO, particularly on Stores and Tools items,
that were either themselves too small, or their involvement with the PO was too
limited to make changes to their method of production and verification. The
impact on them of the standard conditions of contract was very limited and it
was still necessary for QAD to provide staff to carry out Batch Inspection
activities for these items, although it may have been decreasingly cost
effective on the
Other parts of QA Division were involved in support activities, backing
the product and process verifications carried out over the
Some of these Support Activities were described in an article sent in
by Ray Potter and although the article is dated “July 1981” it describes many
of the functions carried out earlier by the
A 'Telecom' article from
Not just light bulbs, but an incongruous range of complex as well as comparatively simple equipment. FRANCESCA FERRIDGE has been into the Dr Who-style world of Telecom's Quality Assurance Division.
Theirs is an environment of impressive and expensive equipment, with surroundings ranging from rooms lined entirely with glass fibre wedges to spherical and rectangular chambers coated in snow-white paint.
For two days last mouth the
advanced test facilities in the three
Staff demonstrated the Division's vital work - checking equipment, materials and components supplied by industry to ensure that they comply with the relevant specifications. This ensures that Telecom and its customers get the best value for money spent in running and modernising the nation's telecommunications service. It also helps maintain standards for future telecommunications equipment.
Some of the test equipment used is highly specialised. It includes the British Modal Speaking Position machine which uses an artificial mouth and ear to simulate the use of a handset, and even rotates the handset to represent the natural movements of the user.
Microphones are tested in a soundproofed room by measuring levels of noise through different channels.
The laboratory also features an anechoic chamber - a soundproofed and acoustically "dead" room designed to eliminate echoes so that sound can be measured without interference. For experiments in which sound levels need to be accurately measured, reflections from floor, walls and ceiling of the test room must be avoided. To reduce the breakthrough of noise the chamber is built as a room within a room. The inner room is isolated from the rest of the building. It is built of 230mm reinforced concrete and weighs 118 tons.
The entire interior of the chamber is lined with wedges of glass fibre.
Equipment in the photometry laboratory measures the light output and life of filament lamps. Ranging in size iron those used for industrial lighting down to the miniature indicator bulbs used in telephone switchboards. It also measures the light distribution of reflective road signs and the warning lamps used for guarding road works.
In electrical standards, the main task is calibrating electrical measuring equipment. This involves setting equipment to meticulous accuracy standards. The laboratory has received approval from the British Calibration Service for making a wide variety of direct current, low frequency and radio frequency measurements to Telecom equipment.
The electrical standards section also has an anechoic chamber, but designed to work with radio microwaves instead of sound. It consists of a wooden chamber lined with metallised plastic foam wedges which absorb radio waves and prevent reflections which might affect measurements. Its main work is in detecting radiation levels from transmitting aerials and microwave ovens.
Mr Hooker said: "Our work is very complicated and we reach extremely high standards. We have superb equipment and staff who are enthusiastic about their work. Things move very quickly in this field — some of our lads are doing work that only learned professors in universities did in the past."
British Telecom's quality
assurance division also has laboratories in
The Calibration function of QA Division had grown considerably by this time and is described below, in an article sent in by Neil Caldecourt:
An article from the early 80s – (Sent in by Neil Caldecourt)
Telecom's calibration service, - The work of BT's 16 laboratories
A CALIBRATION service is provided by the Quality Assurance Division, which is currently responsible for calibrating over 40,000 instruments comprising some 500 different types. The division's 16 calibration laboratories provide a uniform standard of measurement, with traceability to national standards.
The regular calibration of instruments is necessary to ensure that they are operating within their specification limits and to their full capabilities.
The laboratories calibrate and repair equipment used in the frequency range from DC to microwave. This includes audio, carrier and coaxial test items, cable and line test equipment, radio test equipment, microwave, PCM and Datel test equipment, analogue and digital meters, oscilloscopes, spectrum analysers, video equipment and many other measuring instruments. Some of the calibration equipment used in the division is unavailable elsewhere in BT - if at all. One example is a programmable automatic test rack used for FDM, microwave and radio station equipment. Developed in-house, it has reduced sevenfold the time taken to calibrate a Selective Level Measuring Set No 244A, which previously was calibrated manually. Facilities are also available to repair faulty equipment before it is calibrated.
Data obtained from calibration and repair work provides valuable information on design and component reliability, which means that QA division can offer useful advice on the suitability of new purchases.
The regularity with which an
instrument should be returned for calibration is dependent upon the instrument
type and not upon the degree of usage it receives. Components themselves have
deterioration characteristics which will cause problems even if the item is
seldom used. Every week, as part of the service offered, 19 vans leave the
Once an instrument is registered for calibration, the responsibility for maintaining its measurement accuracy throughout its working life is accepted by QA Division. To facilitate the smooth running of this commitment a computerised schedule is produced, whereby items are automatically 'called in' for calibration at regular intervals. It also ensures that the demands for equipment loans and transportation can be met.
Independent organisations have shown considerable interest in the calibration facilities available and requests for BT to provide a consultancy/calibration service are not infrequent.
A list of items currently calibrated is published and is continually revised to take account of changes in BT measuring equipment.
Also, from the mid 1970’s, with the increasing use of Automated Testing Equipment, (ATE), a Group was set up to advise staff at Contractor’s works on the validity of that equipment and the operation and problems associated with it.
Other, relatively minor activities were also undertaken by the staff of
QA Division. The Dept of Health and Social Security had employed QA Division
for some time to oversee the quality of Hearing Aid manufacture and repair.
Some overseas Governments had also employed QA Division on an agency basis to
carry out work for them within the
From 1969 the company changed from a Civil Service organisation to a
Corporation and was known as the Post Office. One effect of this was to launch
the development of a Budgetary Control system whereby all man-hours and costs
were collected. This development was to lead in turn to a more detailed Budgetary control and sponsorship system after the
The 1980’s: From Supplier Assurance to Appraisal.
By the early 1980’s Delegated Release was widely established in all areas where it could reasonably be expected to be relevant, although still the long “train” of smaller Suppliers remained. Larger Suppliers were/or already had established control over the design phases of both hardware and software. Many of the larger Procurement Units like the PO and the MOD were recognising the value of purchasing from Suppliers who could demonstrate that they had working Quality Systems and, working with the British Standards Institute via working committees, specifications were written to formalise these quality requirements. Later in the 1980’s many more purchasers would use these specifications to formalise purchases from Suppliers who could show some form of registration, either by in house validations or, increasingly using the results from third party assessment of the potential Supplier.
QA Division was an early adopter of an approach which would increase
throughout the 1980’s. The specification series, which would become widely
adopted in the
This Specification provided a standard that could be used for assessing a Supplier on a fairly objective basis.
Also QA Division were realising that, in the modern procurement environment, our colleagues in the Purchasing Unit wanted answers on the suitability of Suppliers more quickly than we could provide. Vendor Appraisal, where the risks of placing a contract with a potential Supplier of whom we had no knowledge, called for QA Division to carry out a preliminary visit to assess a Supplier’s capability to adequately control the product quality. In order to try and cut down the period between the request and response, QA Division started to build up a Supplier Quality Profile where much information on the Supplier’s quality system could be compiled. Sometimes, the Supplier would be asked to declare his system in advance of the contract being placed which could then be assessed against the requirements of BS 5750 and the risks estimated and if necessary any discrepancies could be negotiated against BS5750. This could result in a less than ideal quality system being in operation early in the contract which could be resolved within a reasonable timescale.
But QA Division also acted to carry out a large-scale programme to
assess Suppliers that already had contracts to provide an input to the Supplier
Quality Profile, following their own training in auditing techniques held at
Later a small team of EE’s was formed to act as Team Leaders and formed a particular specialism in planning, negotiating assessment programmes and carrying out the assessment programme, particularly covering the larger, more complex, Suppliers.
The training programme designed to train the QA Division staff in the assessment function was extended and seats on them offered to any of our Suppliers at a price which reflected the costs involved, plus a small “profit”. These courses were so successful that later they were offered to anyone interested and ran for quite a long period throughout the 1980’s and not only acted as an introduction to many QA Division and our Supplier’s staff (and others) of the requirements of BS 5750, they also reinforced the understanding of the teams involved in preparing and running the courses. Later, these courses were adapted and used during the training of non-QA Division BT staff. (The Post Office became British Telecoms in 1984, shedding in the process the Postal side of what was the PO).
In 1984 BT became a private company which changed the legal situation
in some areas. Although not strictly legally required to the Chairman had
agreed that BT would abide by the same requirements as their competitors in the
market place. One area where this applied was in the Maintenance of Call
Routing Apparatus, which would previously have been known as Small Switching
Systems, or even earlier, as automatic switchboards. Early on it had been
suggested that BT would implement a quality System based on BS 5750 on a wide
basis, particularly as major purchasers of BT’s services were beginning to
reflect the call of the wider market that providers should declare their
quality systems. A series of one day courses were held at
Similar Quality Management Systems were developed covering the main
network installation and maintenance (for National Networks) and the BT
Research Establishment at Martlesham. This latter had been introduced by the Software
Design QA Group operating out of
The position for National Networks was more positive. After a presentation to one Division’s senior management and the appointment of a Level Three (SEE) Quality Manager, QAD staff assisted him via training and on going consultancy work, in the development and implementation of a Quality Management System covering the Division. In due course other Divisions began to show more interest, after the successful assessment and approval of the Division by the British Standards Institute. But increasingly the demand for QAD staff involvement increased beyond that acceptable to the Senior Management of QAD and eventually QAD withdrew from this activity also.
QA Division also carried out a review of its District facing operations and decided that the time had come to withdraw from the support for Telephone Districts. By this time most of the Districts (as Areas had become) had SARCRAM schemes up and running and a number had developed similar schemes covering the installation of Call Routing Apparatus as well. Although there was still a large demand for our continuance it was decided that, as the Consultancy exercise had run for approximately six years and had been expected to be limited to cover only the initial phase, our involvement should end.
During the early part of the 1980’s QA Division was also included in a reorganisation which saw the Materials Sections joining some Telecoms Headquarter’s Units involved in component specification and verification and becoming the Materials and Components Centre. Many of the Engineering Assessment Laboratories were included in this new organisation, continuing to provide support for Life Testing and Electrical Safety, for example.
QA Division, as such, continued with the Supplier Appraisal and monitoring activities, but reorganised itself to match it client units such as BT Enterprises, a strongly entrepreneurial unit whose main aim is to get products quickly into the marketplace to beat the competition to the punch, and worry about contractual quality conditions later. This was largely in the area of direct Customer facing equipment. Other areas, for example Major Systems Division and BT International were dealing with the more traditional supply and installation of large systems which were increasingly covered by Supplier’s own Quality Management Systems, although still overseen by QA Division staff.
(One final area was that covered by Central Services, thought of as “servicing the Ratebook”. Although there was a proposal to withdraw from this area and rely solely on a tightened “Conditions of Contract” stipulating the Supplier’s legal requirement to bear the cost of consequential action, I don’t know at this stage what the outcome was).
In about 1988 both QA Division and its associated Materials and Components Centre carried out an intensive review of its operations under the heading of a Priority Based Budgeting scheme. This involved each Head of Group in the two Divisions recording and justifying on paper each of the activities of his Group for each Client Group from whom they received a sponsorship from an outside (of the Division concerned) Group. After this paper exercise each Head of Group had to appear before a Board of the Senior Management of the twin Divisions to answer detailed questions on the justification of the work carried out by his Group. This allowed a more detailed review of the workload of the Divisions.
The 1990’s: How did it continue?
I am awaiting some form of input from staff to update this section of the history of QA Division and other legacy parts of the Division such as Factories Division and the Factories Division Inspectorate and the former Calibration Services. Also to include some idea of the history of the Materials and Components Centre.
From Paul Hindell in
The Social Side of the Sections/Division.
The above Chapters outline the evolution of the business side of Test and Inspection Branch, later known as Quality Assurance Division.
But there was also a large Social function involved, as you would imagine with such a large, diverse and often highly qualified, group of people.
Much of this activity revolved around sport, for example, football,
darts and tennis. Other activities took place in association with other Civil
Service groups, for example, sailing. In
Another highly regarded activity of the LTSSAC was the Gardening Section, where members could obtain information or solutions to their gardening problems, and even buy gardening products cheaply. This latter expanded later into a more general product range, forming a small, lunch-time based shop which raised funds, via its “profits”, for LTSSAC use, e.g. to supply kits for football teams.
I am conscious, while writing this, of the memories brought back to me of many of the individuals involved in the running of the Club and many of the Sections. It would have been time and effort consuming for the individuals involved, but they did it to provide a set of social activities which benefited the Branch/Divisions and Sections concerned which made it not only enjoyable, but much more efficient in my opinion, because there were a lot of business based interactions which went on between different geographical or functional parts of the Organisation. The Social Clubs “oiled the waters” a great deal and made it much easier to deal with colleagues from “different bits”, even sometimes with conflictual situations, but made that much easier because you may even have remembered that “that bastard” at the other end of the phone was the same person you shared a drink with at the previous London/Birmingham match.
By the 1980’s, with the multiple reorganisations that had affected the
Branch/Division, much of what had earlier been known as the Social and Athletic
Club had splintered, although there was a ghost of it still operating on the
Birmingham site as, although the organisations were distinct, they often
operated still in some physical presence at Fordrough Lane. I don’t know
whether this still continued at the
That this section of the history of I Branch/QA Division is so short
probably reflects the fact that I did not make more use of the Club’s
activities, although I recognised their value. Maybe this also reflects the
problems associated with trying to arrange Social activities over such a wide
But the fact that it lasted as long as it did, even longer than the organisations from which it grew, shows its value and I believe that the feeling in the Branch/Division of working “for a large family”, whose members would help each other out over a wide geographical area if anyone suffered a problem, reflected the spirit of the Officers and members of the Social Clubs of the London and Birmingham Test Sections. This feeling of working for a “family” was one that was expressed many times to me over the many years I worked for the Branch and many times was able to see the benefits in operation. For these I believe the “GPO” etc. should also be grateful.