The ESOC Quality Management System from a User Perspective
Mantineo, Alfio; Ferri, Paolo; Scaglioni, Stefano
After several decades of successful spacecraft operations for Europe, at the turn of the millennium the ESA Directorate for Operations and Infrastructure (D/OPS) decided to establish a Quality Management System (QMS), documented and certified through the ISO-9001 process. The work for preparing the QMS system and obtain the initial certification took about 2 years, involving several teams of experts in alll fields of the activities covered by the Directorate. The formal ISO-9001 certification was officially obtained in Nov 1999. The QMS system has been designed to formalize all processes that take place within the organization by assessing customers' needs, planning a process that will maintain quality and then implementing internal and customer feedback to continually improve our processes. The QMS addresses the design and development stages of a project by providing guidelines for the application of relevant standards (e.g. ECSS) and formalizing the entire process. Specifically it determins processes for establishing project requirements in the design and development input stage and in dividing the project into subsystem elements in the outputs stage. Quality is also closely monitored until the project is completed. On a regular basis, outputs are reviewed, verified and validated based on the project's stated requirements and established standards. Any internally reported discrepancies or customer changes are recorded and traced as the project progresses through the design and development stages. Care is also taken to record any problems or changes that may occur in the design and development stages to be used to improve planning on future projects. By infusing and analysing customer input, calibration reports and internal audit data, the processes can be continually tuned to provide better products and services to our customers. All of the gathered data are analysed, applying statistical methods and techniques to identify corrective and preventive actions applicable . to individual projects or generalized to improve the overall process. Although quality of the work has always been a high priority in the history of the Directorate and of the European Space Control Centre in particular, the establishment of a Quality Management System, with well defined guidelines and measurable parameters, naturally encountered in the D/OPS personnel a certain amount of scepticism on its usefulness and was sometimes seen as an unplanned and unnecessary additional workload. In the course of the years, though, through the tight cooperation between the Quality Office and the rest of D/OPS staff, scepticism and resistance have been drastically reduced: on one side the staff has realised the benefits produced by the introduction of the QMS into daily work; on the other hand more and more staff has taken part in the process of improvement of the QMS procedures, with the common target of minimising the unnecessary overheads and streamlining the processes for the common target of obtaining a better quality of the products at the same time minimising the impact on the already high workload of the staff. This paper describes the D/OPS Quality Management System and provides a brief history of its introduction and of the related difficulties and successes in the past years. The view of the D/OPS staff is also presented, with a critical analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of such system seen from their perspective. Areas of improvement and lessons learned are presented and discussed.