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

early yet…

 

 

If you can provide any input, I’m sure Mike would appreciate it.

He can be reached at:  mike.petrie@ntlworld.com

 

In an attempt to have some document control, this version has been titled:  historyofqad002.doc

 

RG.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing: To be Assured!

 

A Short History of the Quality Assurance Division of British Telecoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Mike Petrie.

 

Draft Edition 2.


 

 

 

Contents.

 

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

 


 

 

Introduction.

 

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.

 

Mike Petrie


List of Contributors.

 

Paul Hindell (now living in Australia).

Frank Helmore.

Eric Broadbent.

Bill Sargeant.

Ian Boniface.


Chapter 1.

 

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.

 

Fordrough Lane (the home of Birmingham Test Section) had been the main depot of the National Telephone Company before it was nationalised before the First World War, whilst Studd Street (home of London Test Section) was the main GPO depot dealing with Postal and Telegraph items.

 

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.

 


Chapter 2.

 

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 and Birmingham, and the Cable Test Section, based at Arnos Grove in London. The Headquarters Unit (at Wood Street) mirrored the lower level units and formed a strategic guiding and co-ordinating function including the production of quality standards documentation. Another function undertaken by the Headquarters Unit was the oversight and analysis of feedback supplied by GPO Users on Defective Stores, including appropriate corrective action which involved collaboration with GPO Design Groups or Stores and Contracts Department personnel as appropriate to change technical requirements, contractual documentation or to arrange the return of defective stores items from GPO Stores for replacement. The total numbers involved in Test and Inspection Branch at this time was in the order of 862, 52 at Headquarters, 260 in Inspection Operations, 280 in London Laboratories and 270 in Birmingham Laboratories. (There was also a suggestion of an Edinburgh Test Section although later this was an outstation of Birmingham Test Section).

 

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.

 

This 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 Studd Street together with similar activities at smaller out-stationed sites at the GPO Factories at Enfield and Holloway. Staff were also based at small out-stations at GPO Stores Depots to perform functions like the investigation of complaints and similar liaison duties, for example, at Kidbrooke. Additionally, the staff at Studd Street carried out a repair function on higher range electronic equipment (Group 4), such as TV system amplifiers and electronic test equipment on behalf of Telephone Areas, some of this latter also being undertaken based at a Telephone Exchange at Clissold near Dalston (Group 40).

 

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.

 

Another function was the provision of calibrated test samples (obtained from the Post Office Research Establishment at Dollis Hill, London), for the testing of carbon granule transmitters, (also tested in an anechoic chamber, at an outstation at Arnos Grove in the north of London). The Acoustic Test Group (Group 11) contained the Telephone Instrument Efficiency Tester (TIET). The calibrated samples of Transmitters (carbon granule type) were carefully kept in wooden boxes and each had its efficiency noted over different frequency ranges. These were used to set up the TIET, which used white noise (recorded on a glass disk) filtered into these frequency bands. Once this was done the samples were replaced by transmitters being tested, which were then compared with the calibrated ones to make a measurement. This was repeated periodically throughout the day as the TIET method could drift over the day.

 

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.

 

The 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 Studd Street” journey.

 

Support for the testing function at Studd Street was given by the Workshop (Group26), which produced and maintained some items of test equipment, and the Test Equipment Development Group, who designed much of this equipment. One use of the equipment was to provide Life Testing beds (for example for Strowger Two Motion Selectors and Telephone Dials as well as Subscriber’s Meters), to test on an extended basis, samples of equipment provided by the main Suppliers. Samples of the newly developed transistors, just coming into use in equipment, were also acceptance tested for gain and noise and then subjected to life testing at a high ambient temperature (in ovens at about 39 degrees C) on Group 27. This life testing, which attempted to simulate the normal usage of the equipments or components, albeit under some degrees of stress, was designed to give an indication of their reliability throughout the lifetime of the items concerned. The numbers involved carried no statistical relevance, they would simply indicate the reliability of the production runs from which the samples were provided. Other life testing included lamps (in the basement Photometry Group) and an extended running operation for repaired Teleprinters (Group 6). Also in the basement (Group 30) were stress testing arrangements for the Safety Testing of rubber gloves (a fully 100% operation as these Gloves were used by other GPO staff in hazardous situations) and the Buckton Tester which could subject materials to high levels of compression or tensile testing (a larger and more powerful version of this Tester was at Fordrough Lane to deal with materials used in the Black Country, the epicentre of heavy industry in the UK). Repairs to heavy duty Rectifiers also took place on this Group. The Photometry Group was also housed in the Basement at Studd Street. This latter compared the light output of different lamps, from small switchboard lamps to large floodlights with calibrated lamps to measure the actual light output as well as the efficiency of various reflective materials. Electric motors and batteries were also tested on the First Floor (Group 25). Characteristics of metal (extension, stress etc.) were also carried out on standardised samples provided from Supplier’s materials.

 

Other 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 Technical Colleges as well as intensive training in the day to day work of the Groups in the Section. The Technical Support group responsible for the provision of the correct Specifications and Drawings used during the testing and inspection functions operated alongside the General Office.

 

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.

 

Also based at Studd Street was the London Materials Section which was responsible for the analysis of the various materials used by Suppliers in the construction of equipment or components, as well as products of specifically a material nature, such as paints used for Postal boxes or in Telephone Exchanges or even paper used by Teleprinters. Samples of the paint were exposed to sunlight (facing south) on the roof of Studd Street to determine the amount of fading over time. London Materials Section specialised in the testing of organic materials using a wide range of specialised equipment. Specialist analysis was also available for investigative purposes, for example, the causes of fires in suspicious circumstances.

 

A sister Materials Section was based at Fordrough Lane, Birmingham which carried out similar work, based around Inorganic materials.

 

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

 

Similarly, 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 Sherlock Street and Garrison Lane, Birmingham, as well as an outstation at Edinburgh Stores Depot. Staffing was similar to that in London except that more of it was on a Permanent Detached Duty basis due to the greater distances involved. Both types of staffing had problems associated with satisfactorily staffing the outstations whilst maintaining the suitability of staff with the correct qualifications and/or experience to fit the current job requirements, and of providing a reasonably progressive career path and promotion prospects.

 

The Cable Test Section was headquartered at Arnos Grove in north London in a building which also housed the London Test Section’s acoustic test house which included the anechoic chamber used to provide as near as possible an echo free environment so that transmitting and receiving sources could be measured as point sources of radiated power.

 

The 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 United Kingdom by maintaining a group who travelled from job to job for variable periods of time to perform all the necessary tests appropriate to the cable system. The personnel involved were Assistant Engineers who were also responsible for liaison with the Contractor’s Project Engineers to implement any necessary corrective action. As time went by it became increasingly difficult to staff this function due to the amount of time spent away from home and families and this was mainly responsible for the decision in the mid 1960’s to re-allocate this work to Telephone Regional staff. This meant that many jobs could be carried out reasonably locally to the staff involved which minimised the travelling and disruption to personal life. Many of the staff transferred with the work. The Section was also responsible for the oversight of the production of cables of all types at various manufacturing sites throughout the UK, which was more of an automated or semi-automated process than the manufacture of discrete items from sub components. The Section also maintained a small Workshop which carried out the repairs on test cables, connectors and equipment to support the travelling staff which included dedicated transport for their test equipment driven by a team of drivers who also provided support during the testing processes. A Development Group also supported this testing by developing and building any necessary test equipment.

 

Most of the testing and inspection activities performed by the London and Birmingham Test Section staff was 100% of the Supplier’s production directly supplied to the GPO (at least nominally). But it was important to realise that a large section of items did not go to the GPO stores, but were ordered to be supplied direct to new Telephone Exchanges and installed by the Contractors themselves. The Exchanges were tested on site, the installation and testing overseen by the local Clerk of Works supplied by the local Telephone Area staff. Some of this equipment, including complex Exchange racks which often had specific requirements for the Exchange concerned, was included in an informal “shop inspection” activity by Test Section staff at the Supplier’s premises, but only included a general quality check on such things as soldered joints, cable forms etc. Most of this activity was unrecorded which meant that analysis was weak and therefore the activity was of doubtful value in the short term. But it accounted for a high value output.

 

But 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 across the Atlantic Ocean route (e.g. TAT 1) and linking the Commonwealth countries (COMPAC). These routes and the systems were so important that teams of Assistant Engineers were trained to inspect the jointing in of these amplifiers into the undersea cable systems on board specially designed ships. The inspection process was extremely detailed, both on board the ships and during the amplifier build stages, with detailed signing off and recording at each individual stage. This function was under the control of a specialist unit of the Headquarters Unit. It involved the detailed inspection coverage based on a 24 hour coverage of the Supplier’s Jointing Teams by small groups of AEE’s detached on a rota basis from their normal work.

 

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.

 


Chapter 3.

 

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 PO. He was reluctant to give up this concession which increased his motivation to maintain product quality.

 

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 PO and the MOD they gradually organised themselves to include this Design QA activity. There was a cultural resistance from the, usually, highly qualified designers that QA was unnecessary in that phase, but when the detailed requirements were explained to them (plus the leverage of the customer’s purchase levels) this resistance decreased. It is probable that in this area much of the improvement in product quality was realised, as the manufacturing phase was, by now, largely controlled (at least for the larger Suppliers). But the design had to be suitable both for the job it had to perform and for the manufacturing operation. Judging from the analysis of returned failure rates for pcb’s in Small Business Systems there was scope for the improvements in either the product design or those due to component failures due to design or reliability failure (which may be component manufacturing, inadequate design or usage in an incorrect environment). This also involved a cultural change for the Suppliers to encourage the building of seamless bridges between the highly qualified design engineers, the production engineers whose responsibility it was to develop tools and jigs to enable the products and components to be built and the people responsible for the day in day out manufacture in bulk production.

 

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 Fordrough Lane, Birmingham as part of a support function.

 

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 PO.

 

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 PO’s part.

 

Other parts of QA Division were involved in support activities, backing the product and process verifications carried out over the UK. Increasingly the Materials Sections (QA7) were carrying out component failure analyses and fingerprinting in conjunction with the Telecoms Headquarters design and service groups. British Calibration Services approval was sought for the Electrical Measurements and Standards Laboratory, the Acoustic and Photometric Labs and for the Birmingham Mechanical Measurements Lab. Approval was also sought from the National Testing Laboratory Accreditation Scheme (NATLAS) for the Birmingham Engineering Assessment Laboratory (QA2.4). Laboratory procedures needed to be documented for these Laboratories and a QA manager appointed to oversee these, a scheme which anticipated the implementation of a Division wide QA scheme which would be implemented in the 1980’s.

 

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 London and Birmingham Test Sections:

 

A 'Telecom' article from July 1981 - SCIENCE FICTION WORLD IN STUDD STREET

 

In north London's Studd Street, British Telecom has a machine that talks to itself, the quietest room in the country and thousands of pounds' worth of equipment to test light bulbs ...

 

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 London laboratories, recently refurbished and re-equipped, went on public show.

 

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.

 

The London laboratories deal with acoustics, electrical standards and photometry. In the acoustics section factors such as the performance of microphones, receivers and bells used in telephones are measured. Contract work performed for outside organisations includes testing the operation of hearing aids.

 

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 Birmingham and Islington, London.

 

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 division's London and Birmingham premises to collect test equipment from all over the UK mainland for calibration and repair. (Items are flown in from Northern Ireland.) A loan of equipment is often provided and the calibrated or repaired items are returned, usually within two weeks of collection. The speedy turnaround of the loan/transport service ensures minimum inconvenience and disruption to users of the calibration service.

 

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 UK. In the later 1970’s some Projects were undertaken by QA staff, acting on behalf of the Overseas Liaison and Consultancy Division of the PO, outside the UK. Projects like the Libyan Cable Project called for staff to work at the main Supplier’s works in Italy as well as the oversight of the installation phase in Libya itself. Other work undertaken included the supply of an Inspection Manager to STC in Australia, work in Canada on the QA of hardware and software for the Bahamas Telephone Company and work on submarine cable systems.

 

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 PO was privatised in 1984.


Chapter 4.

 

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 UK, was that of BS 5750, which was in three Parts. They were not a modular system but were each a stand-alone specification. Broadly, Part One dealt with a complex system which included the design and production of any type of product, but was meant to cope with highly complex, usually high technology systems including electronic systems. Part Two was meant to cover products which were complex but did not include any design functions. Part Three was meant to cover the manufacture and hence the inspection of fairly simple items. The fact that they were not modular did cause problems, for instance, if design was called for Part One automatically was invoked which demanded much more from Suppliers than was necessary in many cases. Often the control of the production phase might demand much less than the Specification called for and problems could be encountered trying to make allowance for this when dealing with the Suppliers concerned. But the usage of the Specifications increased and later they were adopted on a Europe-wide basis as the ISO 9000 series. Calibration of test equipment or gauges were covered by a specification which was supplementary to BS 5750, known as BS 5781 and during any validation exercises the services of QA Division laboratories were called on for advice and input to the assessment process.

 

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 Portsmouth Management College. Initially Teams were formed to visit these Suppliers at agreed times to carry out a formal assessment. A large training programme was also formulated to train the staff involved from all grades. The Teams involved included representatives from all parts of QA Division depending on the specialisms required to cover all the aspects covered by the Supplier from hardware and software design, calibration of gauges and test equipment, selection of sub-contractors, contract review as well as the production process including the goods inward inspection.

 

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 Harrogate at which many non QA Division personnel attended and the benefits of QA were outlined. But failing a high level commitment at that time, that BS 5750 should be adopted, nothing happened. But the requirement for Registration in the field of Call Routing Apparatus forced the introduction of BS 5750 into this area. BT Areas (which became Districts as BT itself reorganised following its change of status) were forced to firstly, appoint a Quality Manager and secondly, develop and implement a suitable quality system which would then be subjected to an independent audit (in this case by teams from the British Standards Institute) and entered on a Register as an “Assessed Firm”. None of the BT “Quality Managers” at this time had any concept of BS 5750 or what was to be required of them or their Areas and it was apparent that the management of BT had thought that the appointment was enough to “satisfy” the Standard in the same way as the earlier appointment of Safety Officers. When QA Division was asked to provide a Group to assist and educate the Quality Managers on the actual requirements, many had the view that it would never happen. So did many of the Area’s staff. But over the next few years, starting with the Tunbridge Wells Telephone Area and spreading via Lead Areas in other parts of the country, a Quality Management System based around the Scheme for the Assessment and Registration of Call Routing Apparatus, known as SARCRAM, was developed, refined and introduced and subjected to independent audit by the British Standards Institute and on-going monitoring in the same way that QA Division monitored its Suppliers.

 

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 Fordrough Lane but, lacking the quasi-legal bite of the SARCRAM scheme, had not been fully developed. Following the introduction of the Total Quality Management initiative, in which priority was given to TQM schemes and a parallel organisation set up, a Position Paper was presented to the Martlesham Board proposing a method of harmonising the twin activities and QA Division withdrew.

 

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.

 


Chapter 5.

 

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 Australia who mentions that QA Division vacated Studd Street in 1992 when he moved to Euston Tower but this in turn was closed in 1993 when what was QA Division was absorbed and dispersed between various Procurement Groups based at Weston House, Holborn and Swindon. Initially they were offering a QA support function but it would appear later that progressively the staff became Buyers. Weston House itself was closed down in 1996 and at least part of it concerned with Satellite Systems and GPS Procurement moved into Mill House at Ilford. Paul left BT in 1998.


Chapter 6.

 

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 London, this took place under the auspices of the London Test Section Social and Athletic Club (LTSSAC), which was funded by a small subscription from members. It is this Group which has given its name to the Website where this write-up first appeared. A similar organisation was also formed in Birmingham, the BTSSAC. As you can imagine a football match between the two Sections became highly competitive, but also highly enjoyed as it gave the two parts of the one organisation the opportunity to see how the “other half” lived. Various trophies were awarded for these competitions.

 

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 London end.

 

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 area as London and Birmingham with the associated problems of commuting in highly populated and large urban areas.

 

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.