In The Trenches
within budget. Your reputation will
become that of someone who gets the
Testing is a major part of quality. It
is also an important consideration in
design. A good design includes hardware and software self-test routines.
An extra connector that brings out
useful test points is a good idea.
Software routines that were originally
used for debugging the design can be
reused to provide access to the
programming. This can make troubleshooting much, much easier. Test
and calibration notes placed on the
PCB silkscreen are also very useful.
It used to be that numerous
adjustments were needed for any piece
of hardware. Each adjustment required
measurements and time. Each adjustment could be mal-adjusted and was
susceptible to tweaking by the user.
Nowadays, this may no longer be
necessary. Embedded microprocessors
(µPs) are common and many include
analog-to-digital converters (A/D). So,
instead of calibrating out production
variations, the µP can compensate for
If you aren’t doing this already,
you should. It makes no sense to
waste the capabilities of the µP and
increase the production time for calibration and testing. Remember: A day
or so spent during the design cycle
can save a tremendous amount of
production testing time. A 5 minute
savings for 10,000 units is 833 hours of
production labor — and that doesn’t
include the savings from decreased
troubleshooting, if needed.
ISO 9000 (and its variations —
9001, etc.) has been around for about
10 years. It is an international standard for quality management. Note
that it is NOT a standard for quality
control. The basic premise of ISO
9000 is “if a quality assurance process
is correctly established, then good
quality should follow.” This is a commonly accepted idea. The US military
has been using something similar for
a long time. For the most part, this
approach works (based on information from Quality Manager’s
Complete Guide to ISO 9000 by
Clements, 1993, Prentice Hall).
ISO 9000 can have many
benefits for a company. This is
NUTS & VOLTS
especially true for firms that deal with
the European Community. ISO 9000
provides a means of conferring
credibility by indicating that the
company meets an objective
standard of quality management.
An interesting point is that ISO
9000 certification is performed by a
third party, which is certified by a
national body of accreditation. This is
not the typical method. For example, if
you need MIL-SPEC certification, you
get it from the Department of
Defense. Federal Communication
Commission (FCC) compliance
comes directly from the FCC.
With ISO 9000, you hire a “
registrar” to assess your quality procedures.
(The cost starts at about $10,000.00
and can go significantly higher.)
However, the registrar does not require
a specific set of tests or procedures.
Rather, he or she will examine your
documented tests and procedures to
determine whether they are adequate,
providing more flexibility.
We also see that ISO 9000 is a
top-down approach. As noted above,
it is a management system. This
means that management must be
involved. In particular, a quality
management department (different
from quality control) will have to be
developed. Being a management
department, upper management
would also be involved. This is good,
though. As we saw before, quality
requires teamwork. The whole
company should be involved in
making quality products.
This tells us a number of things. If
you already have a good system in
place, reasonable management that
encourages quality, and effective teamwork and communication between
departments, then implementing ISO
9000 should be fairly straightforward.
Obviously, if you don’t, then ISO 9000
— or any quality standard — will be
difficult to accomplish.
Circle #142 on the Reader Service Card.
ISO 9000 has 20 “elements.”
Each element requires a detailed