My experience with Product Reliability & Quality Ltd

Director and Consultant: 1991–2000

In 1991, I set up in business with an old colleague from my days at Ferranti. Our two-man consultancy practice, Product Reliability & Quality Ltd (PRQ), provided quality, engineering and technology transfer consultancy services to government and industrial clients of all sizes, but most particularly to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). During this time, we

  • undertook projects for the UK Ministry of Defence to develop process approval standards and schemes for both integrated circuit design facilities and printed circuit design facilities;
  • provided services to the Commission of the European Communities in Brussels to assess applications for an industrial grant scheme in the electronics sector;
  • supplied consultancy assistance to businesses on a range of technical and engineering issues, such as implementation of information technology systems;
  • helped many companies and organisations to develop and implement quality systems complying with ISO9000.

Our company played a key role in the UK government Department of Trade & Industry’s two technology transfer programmes directed at SMEs, Microelectronics in Business and its successor, Electronics Design. The key objective of these programmes was to encourage the application of microelectronics in their products by SMEs by supplying business advice and direct assistance in acquiring knowledge, procuring design services, and gaining access to design tools and best practice methods. My colleague was the lead Business Adviser for Scotland and North East England on both programmes, while I was a registered Industrial Business Adviser on the second.

In the field of quality management consultancy, while many projects were quite short, others led to long-term relationships with clients spanning several years. I undertook one particular project with the Scottish division of a large Japanese supplier in the semiconductor industry which was spread over two years. The first phase was to achieve ISO9000 certification for the company through a process of education and training of staff at all levels from top management down; hands-on consultancy and advice on how to address the requirements of the standard within the context of the company; overseeing the development and documentation of procedures; implementing an ongoing quality system audit programme; drafting the company Quality Manual; and finally assisting the company to select a suitable certification body and to submit their application. Once ISO9000 certification was achieved, the second phase of the project was to implement Statistical Process Control (SPC) throughout production. I developed a range of training materials and conducted training of staff at all levels in production and engineering in SPC and problem solving techniques, as well as providing practical advice on how to implement statistical methods on individual processes.

PRQ was closely involved with the semiconductor industry—especially with custom IC design houses—and we were founder members of the Semiconductor Businesses Association, a trade association representing SMEs in the semiconductor sector. I served for several years as the SBA’s Treasurer, and on behalf of the Association I led two DTI-assisted trade missions to Malaysia. I continued as Treasurer of the SBA until it merged in 2004 with Intellect, the largest UK trade association covering the electronics, information and communications technology industries.