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Jerry Wilson


Understanding TL 9000

Mitigating risk and managing the supply chain are paramount

Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 16:03

There are many reasons why organizations decide to register or certify themselves to the various standards and specifications in industry; all are important, but not all are vital. Standards registration in support of sales, marketing, and PR efforts certainly helps companies grow, for example. However, enterprisewide coordination, performance excellence, and overall efficiency are the real reasons why standards are the beating heart of most successful organizations.

Industry-neutral standards can provide an excellent working framework for operations such as quality improvement (ISO 9001) or environmental management (ISO 14001). Industry-specific standards, on the other hand, drill deeply into the processes of discrete sectors.

One such standard is TL 9000, which follows the general format of ISO 9001, with additional information specific to the information and communications technology industry. In particular, TL 9000 helps original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) manage the complex supply chains involved in producing telecommunications equipment. TL 9000 was developed by QuEST Forum, a collaboration of telecommunication service providers and suppliers.

One of the value-added activities that TL 9000 brings to the industry is a constant need to review and improve quality management system requirements. TL 9000 is the only standard with required measurements to help organizations and suppliers understand how they are performing in the industry relative to their competitors.

In addition, TL 9000 requirements go through updating and improvement on a regular basis. This allows the standard to keep up with the latest trends in the industry and provides needed process improvement. High-tech industries such as telecommunications must adapt quickly to customer requirements and consumer desires, and the standard can’t effectively help registrants innovate and improve if it doesn’t take these ongoing changes in the landscape into account.

Because TL 9000 aligns to ISO 9001, the former standard will certainly be undergoing a significant review as the 2015 version of ISO 9001 continues to make its way through its various rounds of drafts and review. A key element of ISO 9001:2015 that will certainly find its way into TL 9000 deals with risk and the supply chain. As mentioned, supply chains in an industry such as telecommunications are extensive and complex, which can lead to a proliferation of risk. Ultimately, OEMs are responsible for every single component that finds its way into a product. This can be a daunting prospect, and an enterprisewide, process-based approach to understanding these risks allows companies in this space to continue to bring products to market successfully. As the standard continues to evolve in lockstep with the new version of ISO 9001, TL 9000 will enable this level of understanding and insight for registered organizations.

I have presented a webinar on this topic titled “TL 9000: Broadening the Focus on Product and Risk,” which is now available on-demand. Whether you are new to telecommunications, or a longtime veteran of the industry like me, you’ll find value in this explanation of the new requirement and measurement standard’s approach to product and risk. During my years of auditing organizations against TL 9000, I have periodically seen misapplications and misunderstandings of the standard, which suboptimizes and devalues the standard for the user. TL 9000 is a great tool to help those in the industry track and improve quality, but only if it’s used correctly. This webinar should be used in conjunction with formal training to the TL 9000 requirements and measurements.

I hope you enjoy and get great use out of the webinar. Please email me directly with any questions you may have on this topic.


About The Author

Jerry Wilson’s picture

Jerry Wilson

Jerry Wilson is the technical program manager and lead auditor for TL 9000 for TÜV SÜD America. Wilson has more than 35 years of design and quality management experience in the consumer electronics, computers, and telecommunications industries. He is an ASQ-certified manager of quality/organizational excellence and a certified quality auditor. His webinar presentation, “TL 9000: Broadening the Focus on Product and Risk” is available on demand now.