A key to telecom continuous quality improvement

BY SANDFORD LIEBESMAN

The Quality Excellence for Suppliers of Telecommunications (QuEST) Forum developed TL 9000 with the goal of improving the quality of telecom products and services. The membership-service providers and suppliers-developed handbooks covering requirements (TL 9000 Quality System Requirements, Book 1, Release 2.5) and metrics (TL 9000 Quality System Metrics, Book 2, Release 2.5). For information about these handbooks, visit the QuEST Forum Website, www.questforum.org, and click "Basic index."

The unique difference of TL 9000 from the current ISO 9001 practice is the use of metrics, which are measurements used to determine the quality level of products and services. It is expected that extending ISO 9000 in this direction will result in an industry drive to improve overall quality.

The supplier gathers the data on a monthly basis and sends three month's worth to the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) for inclusion in an industry database.

A double-blind system has been set up to ensure data security. UTD will publish the mean, standard deviation and "best in industry" for each product category that has at least five inputs. The data will be published at www.questforum.org. Eleven metrics in four categories have been approved:

  • Hardware return rates.
  • Software-corrective patch quality; feature patch quality; software update quality; release application aborts.
  • Service quality.
  • Common to hardware, software, and services: number of problem reports; problem-report fix response time; overdue fix responsiveness; system outage measurement; on-time delivery.

Service providers have an important role with respect to certain metrics; they must provide data necessary to calculate them. If the data is not forthcoming, the supplier cannot calculate these metrics and is excused from providing the data. Metrics and other measurements play a key role in continuous improvement of products and services. Also, the supplier must collect and analyze customer satisfaction, field performance, and service performance data.

The following are the product and service categories defined for the metrics implementation: switching; signaling; transmission; operations and maintenance; common systems; customer premises; services; and supply chain.

Sandford Liebesman is ISO manager for quality and customer satisfaction at Lucent Technologies (Murray Hill, NJ). He is author of Using ISO 9000 to Improve Business Processes and co-author of the forthcoming Quality Press book TL 9000: A Guide to Measuring Excellence in Telecommunications. He can be reached at tel: (908) 582-4466; fax: (908) 582-1091; e-mail: liebesman@lucent.com.

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