The TL-9000 Standard 


The TL-9000 is a quality management system standard (QMS) defined specifically by and for the telecommunications industry.  It standardizes the quality system requirements for the design, development, delivery, installation, and maintenance of telecommunication products and services.  It also defines the performance metrics required to measure the progress and results of its implementation.


The TL-9000, which was based on the ISO-9000 Standard, was conceptualized in 1996 at the Quality Excellence for Suppliers of Telecommunications (QuEST) Leadership Forum, was drafted starting in 1998, and  was introduced to the industry in 1999.  The goal of this entire initiative was to create a consistent set of quality system requirements that would apply to more than 10,000 telecommunications suppliers worldwide.


The inaugural QuEST Forum meeting in January, 1998 saw the formation of member groups tasked with the definition of the TL9000 overview, as well as the industry's requirements for hardware, software, services, hardware measurements, software measurements, and service measurements.   Monthly handbook development meetings followed this inaugural forum until the completion of committee draft of the TL-9000 was announced at a press conference held at SuperCOMM '98 in June, 1998.


The result was TL-9000 Book One, which standardizes the telecommunications industry's quality system requirements.  Its structure uses a 5-tier model as follows:

1) tier 1 contains the international requirements of the ISO 9001;

2) tier 2 contains the quality system requirements of the telecommunications industry that are common to all its sectors, i.e., hardware, software and services;

3) tier 3 contains quality system requirements that are specific to each of the industry's individual sectors, i.e., hardware, software and services;

4) tier 4 contains the telecommunications industry's supplier performance metrics or measurements that are common to all its sectors, i.e., hardware, software and services; and

5) tier 5 contains the telecommunications industry's supplier performance metrics or measurements that are specific to each of the industry's individual sectors, i.e., hardware, software and services.


A second handbook that deals with metrics to quantify the benefits realized from TL-9000 implementation was later created by the industry.  Aside from measuring the performance of the quality system, this second handbook also assesses the progress of quality maturation of the company, identifies areas for quality process improvement, and provides comparative benchmarking capabilities for the industry. Thus, the QuEST Forum was able to produce two handbooks: 1. TL 9000 Quality System Requirements; and 2)  TL 9000 Quality System Measurements.


The main driving force behind the effort to come up with a quality standard for telecommunications companies is the high cost being incurred by the industry as a result of quality issues.  This is why the TL-9000 standard incorporates a performance measuring system that quantifies the effects of its implementation - to allow the various telecommunications companies to document their savings and share their experiences with others in quantified terms.


TL-9000 implementation has resulted in the following benefits for the telecommunications industry: 1) continuous improvement of service to subscribers; 2) enhanced customer/supplier relationships; 3) standardized quality system requirements; 4) worldwide uniform performance and cost-based measurements; 5) efficient management of external audits and site visits; 6) overall cost reduction and increased competitiveness; 7) enhanced competitive position for conforming suppliers; 8) enhanced management and improvement of subcontractor performance; and  9) creation of a platform for improvement initiatives.


A telecommunications supplier can easily implement the TL-9000 by following these basic steps:  1) purchase a copy of the standard to allow the organization's thorough familiarization with it; 2) review the standard and its supporting literature and software; 3) form a team that's supported and mandated by senior management to spearhead the TL-9000 implementation process; 4) provide TL-9000 training to managers and team members who are key people for the company's TL-9000 certification;  5) select a TL-9000 registrar (that meets the Quest Forum's third party registrar requirements) for the company's certification; 6) create a Quality Manual, if there's none yet; 7) develop support documentation for the Quality Manual; 8) implement the Quality Management System based on the Quality Manual and its support documents; 9) undergo pre-assessment (optional) of the process for its fine-tuning prior to the actual certification; 10) undergo actual certification to the TL-9000, which includes a review of the company's documentation, a physical audit of the site, interviews with employees, and record checks; and 11) undergo continual assessment against the TL-9000.


The big players in the telecommunications industry have spoken - they want their quality standards to be followed by all entities wishing to do business with them.  Given the financial strength and influence of these colossal companies, corporate strategists worldwide are left with no choice but to get TL-9000-certified if they want a piece of the action in the said industry.


See Also:  The ISO-9000:2000 The ISO-13485The AS-9100 Quality Systems Document Control




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