Technology Review Board

Source: Teledyne Microwave Solutions
We received certification in May 1998 to MIL-PRF-38534 Class H and K, TRB Option and ISO 9001 from the Defense Supply Center Columbus (DSCC). We were the 7th company to receive TRB Option status and one of only four to Class K. There is strong evidence to suggest (primarily from our customer base) that our version of the TRB process has many advantages over the typical 'serial' or 'function-to-function' problem solving systems that are commonly found in our industry. The basis for our TRB process is the cross-functional problem solving meeting. In these weekly sessions, we review quality and technical problems, critical process control documentation and data, critical technical contracts, and above all we continuously improve our entire operation.

Our cross-functional TRB team consists of each discipline that materially affects the quality or reliability of our products or processes. We have select people in each of these roles and, since we are a small company of just over 120 people, they are all functional managers. Our defined TRB membership is as follows:

  • Quality Assurance, TRB Chairman
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Production (Test) Engineering
  • Process Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Program Management
  • Sr. Management Representative

In broad strokes, Cougar's TRB charter includes the management of our entire Quality Management Portfolio. Our portfolio consists of six volumes containing our baseline QA manual, process procedures, and inspection and screening criteria. Cougar's Document Control department controls the binders for content and revision updates and requires a signature by the appropriate department representative to release each binder. The six volumes are placed throughout the company. Additionally, our off-shore assembly supplier has a set of the appropriate volumes from which to train and control their processes. The off-shore documents are updated along with our own in-house documentation as required. We have these six volumes organized by function:

  • QA Manual and top level procedures
  • Quality Assurance procedures
  • MIC Assembly procedures
  • Mechanical Assembly procedures
  • Administrative procedures
  • Material verification and screening specifications

Our weekly TRB meeting involves handling the typical Change Control Board (CCB) functions as well as the familiar Material Review Board (MRB) activity. A Document Control representative joins the TRB for a period of time each week to coordinate the CCB activity for all change orders. The TRB reviews proposed changes to procedures, assembly, test and screening specifications as they relate to product design, in addition to inspection criteria. While in the MRB mode, we discuss all new and open defective material reports (DMR's) awaiting resolution. As a group we discuss strategies for failure analysis and corrective action to quickly solve problems. Our Program Manager plays a role in this effort to create a direct link to our customers.

In addition, our TRB reviews critical sales orders including all Class K orders where technical design or process challenges are likely to exist. TRB members shepherd these orders until all outstanding issues are resolved or understood and finally released to production.

Critical production process controls are also reviewed during the weekly TRB sessions. Process review includes residual gas analysis (RGA) data from both sealer types, leak test data from all hermetic packages, PIND test data, foreign material in histogram format, and a rolling open DMR Pareto chart. While we do have SPC set up on all wire bonding and particle count processes, those processes are reviewed and acted upon real-time by shop floor personnel. TRB is also involved with establishing and running designed experiments (DOE's) for process characterization and improvement.

Detailed minutes are kept from each meeting which are ultimately copied to DSCC as part of our TRB Option certification. We keep a running list of open action requests and manufacturing notices (temporary process or documentation patches) that are also addressed each week. And if there is any time left we cover miscellaneous or general business items. We retain all TRB records as part of our quality record retention program for customer or government review.

There is an important distinction between our version of the TRB and a management committee. The difference lies in how we make decisions and act on them. We quickly establish an owner for each problem we face and that individual must find a solution to the problem. He is free to use company resources available to him including the advice of other TRB members. His only restrictions are time and his ability to convince a majority of the TRB his solution is permanent. The advantage of seven capable professionals discussing problems and solutions simultaneously cannot be replicated easily without these real-time working TRB meetings.

Of the objectives we've tasked our TRB with, continuous quality improvement, or CQI as we call it, is among the most important. We view each problem we're presented, regardless of the origin, as an opportunity to improve our overall production system in some way. The late Dr. Deming once said management is responsible for 85 percent of all problems since management designed the process (system). Our TRB is by definition our technology management structure for Cougar and therefore responsible for 85 percent of the problems that appear. This realization is a key motivator for our TRB members to solve problems intelligently and permanently.

We do business directly with some of the biggest microwave systems builders (satellites, radar, electronic warfare, etc.) in the industry including Boeing, Raytheon, TRW, Lockheed Martin, Sanders, Northrop and Motorola. We are a significant supplier for the F-22 Raptor Fighter as an example. These companies are extremely sensitive to quality, performance and, of course, on-time delivery. They are not easily satisfied and tend to push the performance envelope. As a supplier, we owe it to our customers and ourselves to explore all creative means to support these companies to achieve their expectations and more. We feel the TRB methodology, especially as we've implemented it here at Cougar, is an effective and creative measure to help attract and keep these customers.

Danny Cheadle
Vice President Operations