|Issue:||Latin America II 1996|
|Topic:||Success through total quality management|
|Organisation:||Corporate Communications of Alcatel Mexico|
As a major player in the Mexican telecommunications field Alcatel Telecom has had to face major challenges over the past forty years, and the run up to the 21st century is no exception. In this article Rodrigo Calderon, Director of Corporate Communications of Alcatel Mexico explains the company’s philosophy for business which has helped it to success in good times and bad.
When Mexico joined GATT it dismantled a complex system of import duties, permits and other non-tariff barriers. The flood of low cost imports from the Far East in the telephone handset market caused one manufacturer to close down and threatened to do the same to the Alcatel Telecom factory in Toluca. The privatization of Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex) introduced new dimensions to doing business as the new administration required increased service and cost efficiency from its suppliers, thus encouraging bids from companies which until then had had little participation in the Mexican market. The North American Free Trade Agreement which came into force in 1993, paved the way for the opening up of competition in long distance services by the end of 1996. Alcatel Telecom is also now faced with a radical change in the commercial environment at a time when telecommunications are transforming the way people perceive the world, do business and relate to each other. At the same time technological innovation, deregulation and privatization are changing the ground rules for both the company and its customers. As new operators come into the market they will find Alcatel Telecom to be a supplier who combines state of the art technology with a deep seated understanding of the Mexican commercial environment. All the core businesses of the Alcatel-Alsthom Group have been active in Mexico for many years and as well as telecommunications, the group is active in rail transport including the Mexico City metro, trolleybus, locomotives and rolling stock, in addition to electricity generation. This wealth of experience makes Alcatel Telecom an ideal project manager or systems integrator. In an environment in which the network of personal and company relationships can be as important to success as technological superiority, understanding the political, economic and cultural situation represents an important competitive advantage. Alcatel Telecom knows that in order to take advantage of the opportunities arising-from these changes it must be totally focused on adding value to its customers’ business and be able to respond to the needs of an increasingly competitive market. The experience with the Toluca manufacturing facilities provides grounds for optimism. When faced with low cost competition from the Far East, Alcatel went through a major reengineering and cost-cutting exercise which resulted in such a complete turn-around that the plant has not only increased market share in the domestic market but is now a major exporter. A manufacturing joint venture for Caller 10 systems has also been launched. The company’s leadership in broad band technology means it is well positioned to provide the support platform for the new value-added services operators will be introducing into the Mexican market and where a large part of the competition will take place. Alcatel Telecom’s experience allows it to be a genuine turn-key project leader, from designing the network through engineering, installation, maintenance and systems control as well as training, software development and financing. As well as familiarity with the terrain where lines cross mountains, deserts and tropical zones, the company has ample experience in handling the often complex negotiations on rights of way and other legal issues. The new Center of Operations on the outskirts of Mexico City, represents an investment of 100 million dollars in quality control, software development and training facilities as well as concentrating all corporate activities in one location. The company has been an ISO 9001 certified supplier since 1991 and has made Total Quality Management the key to its business strategy. The Training and Development Center is equipped with unique state of the art simulators for software development and testing, as well as providing realistic training for both Alcatel and customer personnel in operation, maintenance and installation. Largely due to dress rehearsal training, switchover to digital technology is done on a flash cut basis where entire regions change to the new technology with zero user complaints, due to the minimal disconnection time involved. The Training and Development Center satisfies the requirements of customers in Public Switching Systems, Business Systems, Transmission Systems and Corporate Training. All training is geared to achieve customer satisfaction and operational effectiveness. In 1995, 375,000 participant hours of training were given in the centre to some 1,500 students. Since 1994, Total Quality courses have represented a greater share of total hours than technical training, reflecting the company’s commitment to ongoing improvement. Conclusion The company’s customer-focused outlook has meant that it has been considered a key strategic partner by Telmex for many years, both as a state-owned monopoly and since privatization. As new carriers come into the Mexican market, Alcatel Telecom feels well positioned to offer them the same total quality support it has been offering its Mexican customers since 1957.