Baldrige National Quality Award 1992 Recipient
At least once a year, many of TSBU's major customers issue detailed, individualized "report cards," grading the equipment supplier on the product and service characteristics they deem most important. Guided by analyses of 11 types of customer-related information -- from report cards to various measures of the quality and responsiveness of customer-support services -- TSBU's integrated strategic planning process ensures that accomplishing performance-improvement goals contributes directly to increases in customer satisfaction and gains in the market.
in a $15-billion international market, the company develops, manufactures,
markets, and services systems for transporting data, voice, and images
over public and private telecommunications networks. Digital loop carrier
systems, digital access and cross-connect systems, and network multiplex
equipment generate half of total sales. Lightwave systems and an array
of other systems and equipment account for the remainder.
To tighten linkages within TSBU and speed decision making, the company's Quality Council, chaired by President Greg Hughes, is approaching the goal of trimming two management layers. Concurrently, TSBU reduced the number of classifications for hourly workers to 80, down from 1,300. An additional measure to help tighten the focus on quality improvement was to train union leaders in the policy deployment process.
The eight executives on the Quality Council initiate planning and serve as members on any one of four steering committees, which also include high-level managers of TSBU's major units. Supported by business management teams, the cross-organizational steering committees translate the TSBU goals into specific quality projects required to accomplish the company's annual and 5-year goals. The draft strategic plan is communicated to employees at all levels and to key suppliers. Units develop their own plans, detailing the steps and resources required to reach their specific goals. They also can suggest changes in the TSBU strategic plan. Once the plan is approved, progress is reviewed at the Quality Council's biweekly meetings.
Teams, training, and increased authority for workers are key elements of quality-improvement efforts. Seventy-nine percent of the workforce participated on teams in 1991. To help accomplish their objectives, teams are aided by company-trained employees, who provide skills training and serve as resources throughout all phases of the teams' work. New employees participate in a 2-day customer-focused Quality Orientation Program; each employee is expected to receive a minimum of 40 hours of training and education a year.
TSBU's information systems help executives, managers, and workers track key processes in all phases and at all levels of the business. Performance indicators are selected carefully and reviewed regularly to ensure that the information supports decision making as well as management and improvement of processes determined to impact customer satisfaction. High-level, aggregated analyses of TSBU data show direct correlation between quality improvement and measures of customer satisfaction and financial performance.
At the manufacturing level, TSBU emphasizes automated data collection. Bar codes and electronic links between machines enable real-time updates on process performance and ensure the accuracy of the manufacturing data. This and other information guide company efforts to reduce production time and speed development of new products.
Design for manufacturability is an essential element of these efforts. For example, data on the reliability of components guide decisions on suppliers. During the extensive review and certification process, manufacturing representatives on the product development team can refuse designs that will not match or exceed yields of existing products.
TSBU uses a variety of methods to build and maintain customer relationships and to gather feedback on the quality of its products and services. In addition to the report cards customers use to evaluate TSBU against the performance characteristics they define as most important, TSBU uses summaries of contacts, customer focus groups, complaints, requests for technical assistance, evaluations of competitors, and surveys to assess its performance from the customer's perspective.
TSBU also has programs to ascertain customers' long-term needs and to predict what new technology will be needed to meet those needs. For example, in 1991 it conducted 23 forums during which TSBU shared (under non-disclosure agreements) its future technical directions and customers explained their long-term plans and expectations. The information helps TSBU strengthen its customer relationships and sharpen its focus on the steps it must take to accomplish its 1997 goal of being the world's largest supplier of transmission equipment.