This document is slightly edited (format) from a 'Word' document sent by Mike Petrie

(Dated 1983 - Ed.)

THE EVOLUTION OF QUALITY ASSURANCE IN BT

This first paper traces the evolution of Quality Assurance within BT and its effect on its Suppliers from the middle 1950’s to date. It concludes by looking at a re-organization within BT QAD to satisfy customer demands, a concept basically thought of as new but is in fact the object of any business. Without satisfying customers, or client divisions, no organization can stay in business nor indeed does it deserve to. It is probably, therefore, fitting to consider how QAD has arrived at its present position, through evolution not revolution, and to put this into perspective against today’s needs.
(N.B. British Telecomm (BT) is used throughout this paper although prior to the BT Bill in 1981, Post Office (P.O.) would apply.)

Review of QAD’s History to date

1.1 Manufacture.

1.1.1. Prior to the mid 1950’s, goods were accepted by BT on the basis of 100% inspection by BT staff or even ad hoc, sometimes unofficial sampling inspection. In the mid 1950’s more formal batch inspection techniques were introduced based on the concept of sampling using statistically derived plans. Quality requirements were specified in a new series of Q specs which were basically product related and quality levels were based on achievable quality, i.e. similarly to process capability studies on a machine.
Contractors were not informed of the quality requirements at the tender stage and were not required to declare to BT the method of achieving quality. The onus was still on BT to inspect and effectively sort “good batch” from “bad”.

1.1.2 In 1967 a new Condition of Contract (DC 115) was introduced which imposed a contractual requirement for quality control during manufacture effective from Inwards Goods Inspection through to the final product. Once QAD were satisfied that the system was documented and effective on a particular product line the Contractor was permitted to release this product without direct BT inspection but with the proviso that BT would continue surveillance of the operation of the scheme as well as the product quality.

1.1.3 In 1973 a new series of quality specification (QM series) was issued in conjunction with a new Condition of Contract (DC 800 and others). The new specifications rationalized the numerous quality levels already being quoted at the tender stage, i.e. QM1 and QM2 for general QA requirements, then product range and system specs as appropriate.
QZ416 recently used for pre—contract declaration of a Contractor’s system was originally developed for Optical Fibre Systems then used for Proprietary products and finally used for pre—contract adjudication where applicable.

1.2 Installation
Once manufacturing quality was assured BT could honour its commitment to industry made in 1965 that it would seek to reduce the overall lead time for telephone exchange installation by eliminating duplication of factory testing with the Contractor accepting full responsibility for the installation.
By 1970 QAD were responsible for the acceptance testing of telephone exchanges installed by contract and by the early l970’s a series of QS (Quality of Supply) Specifications and supporting TI’s had been produced. A series of field trials at Crossbar sites was aborted following protracted negotiations at ECOCP3 (Experimental Changes of Practice Committee). In the mid 1970’s SQA (Supplier QA) became a condition of contract for the installation of TXE4 exchanges and to date some 350 exchanges have been installed under SQA. By 1980 this principle had been extended to the installation of TXD (System x) exchanges and a new series of Specifications (QES — Quality of Electronic Systems) had been produced to cover this new situation.

Extension of this principle into BT direct labour work is a new challenge and a series of control procedures has been produced for this purpose, their first planned use is in 1983.

1.3 In 1981 a newer series of specifications (QR) were published. These specs called for the Contractor to have a QA system based on BS 5750 and included a series of modular specs designed for various parts of the contractual cycle, e.g. pre—contract, design, installation etc., as well as the manufacturing process. (The QR specifications were a logical extension of the QSS specifications, which had been used only for System x).

1.4 Impacting on the above is the formal assessment of suppliers by trained BT staff against requirements of BS 5750 to:

(a) Develop information on BT suppliers as an aid to Purchasing Duties.
(b) Provide an input to Department of Trade register of assessed firms.

1.5 There is of course an extension of the above into:
(a) Purchasing duties using only suppliers successful in 1 .4 providing a trade off re staff and quick delivery. It must of course be recognized that factors other than quality, notably price and delivery will affect BT purchasing policy.
(b) Utilization of third party assessment results.

2. Effects of Evolution of BT QA Policy

2.1 During early 1960’s SQC (Statistical Quality Control), was rapidly introduced using Q specs which defined sampling sizes and AN’s as well as process capability derived AQL’s.
This was a time of rapid expansion of the network and services and QAD were able to cope with a larger throughput of product, with substantially the same number of staff.

During this time Contractors were also having to come to terms with batch inspection/rejection and beginning to realize the implications of BT staff no longer sorting good from bad. This led to an increase in feedback from inspection to production as a protection against rejections which could now be on large batches.

2.2 By the middle to late 1960’s under the influence of the North American Space Agency led philosophy of “zero defects” it was realized that by proper organization during the manufacturing phase, as well a~ careful testing at inwards goods, defects could be prevented from occurring either by rejecting unsatisfactory material or components on receipt or by feeding back quickly the results of subsequent inspections and analyzing and correcting the reasons for the defective material. Thus, a greater emphasis was made on correctly organizing and training the production process operators. An increasing awareness of costing indicated that there was a positive trade off between increased costs due to prevention and decreased costs due to scrap and downtime. For the first time “inspection” began to be viewed as a “cost saver” rather than a nuisance. Under the leverage of QM1 and similar purchasers specifications an assurance that the system was functioning was required and increasingly suppliers began to organize their own auditing and surveillance activities.

With the advent then of this Authorized Release policy of BT our own staff became aware that their role in the release of stores, etc was diminishing. Increasingly, their role changed from quality assessors (batch inspectors) with ad hoc “shop inspection” activities to quality system auditors with little effective training as to what was required of them. What was required varied from a general instruction of “there is your area of responsibility” (usually product based) “get on and look after it” to a detailed week by week surveillance plan drawn up by the local manager. There was also a large number of minor suppliers who obviously could not comply with QM1 and QAD staff never relinquished their release function in this area.

2.3 This general process in the manufacturing field continued and consolidated in the 1970’s and typically AR penetration on Crossbar equipment went from 40% in 1974 to 100% by 1977. With changes in technology from electro-mechanical to fully electronic systems the gestation period for a fully effective AR scheme dramatically decreased. This was a function of the more easily controlled production process as well as the increased awareness of “total QA”.

2.4 In 1981, anticipating the publishing of the QR specs QAD began assessing suppliers on an informal basis to the, by then available, BS 5750 and a large scale program of assessing firms on AR commenced. It was realized that if QAD wanted to be in a position to advise the Purchasing Groups of the quality status of suppliers at the tender adjudication stage then
(a) this had to be objective
(b) it had to be available when required.

Thus began the building up of Supplier Quality Profiles which would be kept regularly up to date using Contract Reports furnished by QAl staff.

Note: With the introduction of QR specifications the term Authorized Release (AR) has been replaced by Delegated Release (DR).

2.5 Concurrently with this evolution in the manufacturing field it was proposed that a similar concept of quality assurance would be used in Supplier Installation of Telephone Exchange Equipment. This concept would force Contractors field staff to feedback problems which they encountered on installation back to the manufacturing or design phases as appropriate. Previously this feedback path only existed on an ad hoc basis but by utilizing some form of transfer costing contractors rapidly realized the cost benefits of establishing this link although this still functions better in some areas than others, i.e. usually the later technologies fare better.

However, the concept was not fully accepted by Telephone Area/Regional staff with the same enthusiasm, obviously due mainly to the impact on staffing levels this would have on COW staffs. It was eventually decided that, rather than spend a lot of effort introducing SQA (Supplier Quality Assurance) into the TXS and TXK field, it would be more appropriate to concentrate on the TXE and TXD fields.

3. Current Activities

3.1 Pre Contract Activity

3.1.1 Conditions of Contract & Documentation

It is apparent that no amount of QA activity is any good unless (a) the conditions are correct in both a technical and quality sense (b) authority for carrying out QA activities is adequately defined.

One area in which this can be defined is the Standard Conditions of Contract DC 800, which is currently undergoing a review. The QA conditions contained in DC 800 have been agreed and when other areas have been decided this will then be published.

The other major area of impact is the QU series of specifications which have been produced to define QA requirements for all phases of activities involved in the production and installation of equipment including, if required, a pre—contract submission.

One other area where longer term requirements can be considered and influenced is by attendance at National (e.g. ESI) and International Committees considering for example, BS 5750 and BS 9000. Although the effect of this is not immediate, it could well have a direct bearing on future BT QA policies and methods.

3.1.2 Tender Adjudication — Quality Input

Currently a supplier quality profile (SQI) is being built up which will become available for QAD to advise Purchasing Duties of the quality status of Suppliers. If we are to have any reasonable impact on Purchasing decisions it is necessary that we are in a position to quickly reply on a GO/NO GO basis to a query are we reasonably safe to use Supplier X? If we already have this information, OK, but if not we may
(a) Carry out an urgent Vendor Appraisal
Or
(b) Ask the Supplier to declare his quality scheme and adjudge it against, say, BS 5750.

Due to time constraints it is possible that the latter may result in a less than ideal quality system being accepted but at least the risks can be assessed. If a contract is awarded there may be time then for an improvement to be negotiated.

3.1.3 Supplier Assessment

Obviously here we can talk about Vendor Appraisal or Supplier Evaluation, i.e an assessment carried out either
(i) before placing an order and against a defined standard, e.g. BS 5750.
or (ii)after placing an order and against a contractually agreed standard.

However, we are all aware of the program undertaken during the last year or so to assess suppliers using the disciplined techniques used for roughly 9 years by the MOD.

At a recent QAl conference, it was disclosed that of the top 140 suppliers (by cost) there were 45 or so who had not been assessed or were in the planning stage.

An initial team of 15 EE’s were then tasked with
(a) carrying out these assessments
(b) considering problems raised with using BS 5750 and 5781 with a view to proposing Divisional standards.

It is proposed that this first round of assessments would be completed by June, 1983.

With smaller items, e.g. Central Services purchases, there is scope for reducing QAD involvement and for reducing the QA conditions currently in use. For Example, it may well be enough, for a small firm making a simple item, or for a proprietary hand tool, to rely on the protection given by DC 800 and not to quote a QR spec at all. The risks are minimal providing that the supplier is known or assessed and that items are only procured from those sources. The Purchasing Departments are showing interest in this approach.

3.2.1 Design Quality Assurance (DQA)

Currently, DQA is being performed for example in the System X, Tier 2 Payphone, Private Circuit Digital Data Service, Fibre Optic and 10KB Digital Line System areas. Additionally, where BS 5750 Part I is relevant even though formally BT are not involved in DQ& activities, the spec requires that the Supplier establishes a DQA scheme. In many areas, Contractors are unaware of what this means but via assessments and the “education role” exercised by monopolistic purchasing units like ourselves, gradually they are organizing themselves to meet this requirement. There is, in some cases, cultural resistance from the, usually, highly qualified designers that QA is unnecessary but when the detailed requirements are explained, plus the leverage of’ the customer’s purchasing levels are realized mostly this resistance lessens. It is probably in this area that much of the improvement in product quality at a reasonable cost can be found, i.e. the design must be suitable prior to production and an objective monitor of the design process should help to achieve this.
Judging from the measurements of returned failure rates for p.c.b’s in Small Business Systems it would appear that most of the problems are either Design related or due to component failures which could be said to be design/reliability failures. It is likely that we have achieved our objective of control of manufactured quality and it is probable that having got our message across in that area that we must now move to other areas like DQA, QA of Direct Labour installation both of Exchange Equipment and of, say, Small Business Systems and other related functions.

3.3.1 Software QA

Software QA is pretty much-like DQA and in similar areas. The concept of a disciplined approach to the design process is common but as it is a field where there is no visible product this discipline is, if anything, more necessary as this is the only real way that assurance can be given that the product will work. 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, e.g. “bugs” are all required to be defined and considered during the software design phase.

3.4.1 Support Activities

Apart from the well known support facilities, e.g. product verification by BT QA testing, there are a number of others.
Examples are: -

3.4.1.1 Failure analysis and finger printing of devices by QA7.
An eye is kept on the devices produced by component manufacturers and periodic checks against agreed characteristics will highlight trends. This is known as finger —printing. Failure analysis is also carried out on devices including field failures to try to identify the causes.

3.4.1.2 Approved measurement labs.

Currently BCS approval is held for Electrical Measurements and Standards Labs, approval is being sought for the Acoustic and Photometric Labs in London and will be sought for the Birmingham Mechanical Measurement Lab.

Shortly NATLAS (National Testing Laboratory Accreditation Scheme) approval will be sought for the Birmingham Engineering Assessment Labs (QA 2.4). One way in which this affects us is that not only will all our procedures have to be documented but also a QA Manager responsible for the Labs will have to be appointed.

3.4.1.3 ATE Consultancy.

This group was set up in the mid 70’s to advise QA staff on the use and operational problems of ATE.

3.4.1.4 Training Activities

Apart from the well-known TTA and TOIT training, other training has been carried out by QAD staff.

Examples are the QAl Assessment Techniques Workshops held since October 1981 where revenue has been earned by selling seats and courses to ET Suppliers. QA 4 Conferences with Regional staff involved in Installation Activities have also been held for a number of years. The QAl Workshops have been very well received by the vast majority, of those who have attended them in spite of the hard and lengthy work required of them and it is true to say that many of the tutors also improved their understanding of the two ES specs involved, (i.e. 5750 and 5781). There is possibly even scope for this to be extended to the TOIT training.

3.4.1.5 External Activities

These can be broadly summarized into two areas, i.e. within the UK and overseas.

(A)Within the U.K.
Traditionally the DESS have always employed QAD on an agency basis for the QA of Hearing Aids and associated equipment. From time to time, Overseas Governments have asked us to carry out agency work, e.g. Malta, Eire etc.
In this area can now be considered BT sponsored work, e.g. component assessment with, for example, SES as the customer.

(B)Overseas — Projects like the work for the Libyan Government in both Italy and Libya are now undertaken for the Overseas Liaison and Consultancy Division of BT. Other work undertaken has been to supply an Inspection Manager to STC in Australia for a period of approximately 7 months, work on QA of manufacture of hardware and software for the Bahamas Telephone Company in Canada (an SP controlled smallish “turnkey” system) as well as work overseas for submarine cable systems. One such lead resulted in a BS 5750 exercise on the Peruvian P0 (maybe there’s scope for one on BT QAD).

Like other firms supplying estimates and costings for jobs many quotations are made which do not bear fruit. Thus, although only relatively few projects are currently in operation, many contacts are being made any of which may result in future work.

4. Future Policies and Activities

4.1 Increasing role of assessments.

The adoption of the Business Statement including the statement that quality should stand alongside price, etc. which has been proposed in a Business Paper to the BT Board might result in a commitment to purchase only from suppliers who have successfully passed an objective assessment. It is likely that in most cases this will be by a BT team but in some areas it is very likely that some recognition will be given to the results of assessments by third parties, e.g. MOD etc. It is likely that this will be restricted to areas where BT are not the main, purchaser and may be confined initially to equipment where BT have less knowledge of the technology than the third party concerned. This is really an extension of BT policy on BS 9000 for components which incidentally includes PCB’s.

Recent events have proved that other Nationalized Industries are commencing to harmonize their requirements to the National Standard BS 5750. A recent MOD Newsletter has shown that the MOD are to carry out an investigation into the implications of adopting BS 5750 instead of the 05 — 20 series specifications. Approximately one year ago they indicated that they would accept third party assessments for their sub contractors against BS 5750 rather than their own specifications. Certainly Contractors are quoting other bodies, e.g. British Rail using BS 5750 as a base standard during assessments.

4.2 Consultancy work

It is possible that this will increase but it is realized that if we are to undertake to sell expertise to others then this expertise must be real. With our current organization which is basically for our own convenience, e.g. geographical dispersion, it is becoming evident that our basic expertise has been based on that required for control of our own activities.

In many cases, we are expected to have an outline knowledge of many products and technologies without necessarily knowing a great deal about any one product range. This is exacerbated by the rotation of staff which although decreasing over recent years still takes place, although this is probably worse in the South than in other parts of the UK.

4.3 Reorganization of QAD.

Resulting from the above it has been realized that we really need to look at what our customers want from QAD not what we think we need to control QAD.

It is increasingly obvious that we must satisfy our customers if we are to continue in existence as a Division and this has been brought home to us by the Budgetary Control exercise in use over the last 8 months plus. The creation of Profit and Cost Centres of BTE, BTI, ISD etc., have placed on us the responsibility for convincing those using our service that we are worth employing. Consequently, we must firstly find out what service our customers want and then satisfy that demand. There are several main requirements and customers, e.g. BTE, MSD, and BTI as well as Central Services.

4.3.1 BTE Requirements

BTE embraces a number of autonomous units — Merlin, Consumer Products (CP), Spectrum and Information Services (IS). The following comments apply equally to the units named above with the exception of IS.

To date, BTE have not regarded QAD as having a role to play in the design process but it is possible that with the advent of “Merlin” which tends to take a “product, cradle to grave” approach, that QAD could persuade BTE to include us in this approach. However, we will have to push our point of view which will require us to have a more detailed knowledge of the particular product. BTE are also involved in a different marketing philosophy at the moment. Basically, they are concerned with filling market gaps before any opposition and are currently exploiting the monopoly on the first instrument as well as customer inertia to fill identified gaps in our market mix. Neither of these will last forever. To fill these gaps calls for a very fast response from the Contractor between the order and delivery. Those who have been involved with BTE have no doubt come up against the rush to meet project launch deadlines without appropriate QA conditions and/or fully documented or even completed development of the product. It is no good us refusing to release products because of minor quality problems (or even major in some cases, e.g. Sceptre 100 for CP) because this will result in QA being ignored. (In BTE’s eyes QA = inspection = delays). Over a period we can, with determination, include ourselves in the QA of Design activity, negotiating the QA conditions placed on—the Contract as well as overseeing the manufacturing QA. for the product. It is necessary also for QAD to be involved in the analysis of field returns to determine whether the test strategy employed in the factory is satisfactory.

4.3.2 MSD Requirements

The traditional concept of QC has over the last few years widened to include total QA, i.e. QA of Design for both Hardware and Software, QA of Manufacture (including the planning, training involvement, component procurement and testing for both conformance and reliability, production, functional testing and packaging phases, plus the total requirements of calibration including assessment of measurement inaccuracies) and QA of Installation . Although there is still work to do in this area, mainly in the design phase where some resistance is still encountered, it is true to say that industry has become educated in the desirability of total QA and for costing reasons usually go most of the way towards implementing it.

So mainly then, any customer requirements of QAD are basically the same with the exception that it has been realized that it will be beneficial to organize ourselves on such a basis that we will present a view within a Company (of a particular technology) taking the product from the Design stage, through Manufacturing to Installation.

This will mean a change in reporting and co-ordinating links but substantially the message will be the same. The change of co-ordination link should, however, improve the flow of information between the relative stages.

4.3.3. BTI Requirements

Requirements are generally similar to MSD but related to satellite and submarine cable systems and to “gateway” switching centres, i.e. centres linking UK with overseas. With BTI, however, there is often an overseas PTT authority or organization involved and this influences the funding of projects and hence contractual requirements particularly in the QA field. Whenever possible QAD recommends the professional approach to QA and QC but flexibility is the byword. BTI now embraces Teleconsult (ex OLCD) hence a considerable proportion of the Division’s overseas consultancy and repayment work is invested in BTI.

4.3.4 Central Services

This area is largely the servicing of the Ratebook and although the objective of increasing penetration of DR remains the same this will now be by splitting the country into geographical areas overseen on a New Sector basis. Therefore, new reporting links will be required.

Increasingly, this functional area will be affected by agreements between~m4~-u-<.? QAD and the Purchasing Groups and one way this may be done is by any change in the QA conditions placed on a Contractor. This, plus the effect of the SQP, could result in a decrease of effort required in this role.

4.3.5 The role of the AQAR

Although not tied up with any reorganization, the AQAR role should be mentioned. QAD Instruction C 124 lays down a set of rules for the job. However, it is recognized that it is primarily an information gathering role but additionally, it should be realized that there is a lot of possibility for good Public Relations work in Telephone Areas which are one of our major ultimate customers.

Telephone Areas are now deemed Profit Centres. They are free to purchase independently from any Central Purchasing Unit if they wish to, e.g. they may be able to obtain better delivery schedules at a price trade off which they may judge to be worth doing. Possibly the role of the AQAR, when recognized in the Area, and if tackled in a positive way, may result in the Area seeking our involvement as an Agent in any of these purchases. Certainly this has happened in QA 1 .3.5 “sector” where Midland Region purchased a Small Business System worth £j-M and QAD were able to sell to the Region its services as QA authority. This involvement by QAD in Area/Regional purchases has to be developed and encouraged and more information on this subject will be available soon.

5. Conclusion

I have attempted in a reasonably short time to skim over the evolution of QA within BT and its effect on itself and BT’s suppliers from the days of 100% inspection to AR on a product basis and then from that to the evolution of an approach based on a Suppliers Organization capable of controlling the quality of any product (of a type) by looking at all phases, i.e. conditions imposed by the Contract, Control of the design, procurement, manufacture and installation of a product as well as a new approach to the gathering of feedback information, e.g. AQAR’s, QA 7’s analysis of failed components.

Additionally, this has led to a reappraisal of QAD’s organization to attempt to present a suitable interface to our Customers both direct and indirect which hopefully will convince them of our ability in particular spheres as well as convincing them of our worth.

It is worth, therefore, stressing once again at the beginning of this workshop that QAD no longer has a right to exist. Like every other organization its existence depends on satisfying its customers needs. To do this, it must identify those needs and once this is done, satisfy them in the most cost effective way possible.

This is our job for the future and it is up to all of us not simply the ETG’s but all the management team. Once this is realized it is then up to us to spread the gospel to the ETG’s to demand a positive response from them.

Remember, it’s our jobs we are talking about.

M.G. Petrie
QA 1.5.4
January 1983

 

 

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