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Dawn Bailey

Quality Insider

For Manufacturers, Baldrige Could Be ‘Cure’ for an Uncertain Future, Part 2

Criteria yield competitive advantages

Published: Monday, July 13, 2015 - 08:11

In the first part of this series, we looked at how two manufacturers used the Baldrige Criteria to survive the Great Recession and transform their companies. Here we learn more about how the Baldrige can help organizations achieve competitive advantage.

Baldrige Award recipient Lockheed Martin Missions and Fire Controls (MFC), a $7 billion dollar business, manufactures high-precision systems that protect the security of the United States and those men and women who serve in the country’s armed forces. These systems “have to work the first time, every time, because lives depend on it,” says Steven Sessions, then director of supplier quality, speaking at the 26th Annual Baldrige Quest for Excellence Conference.

He talked about how MFC used the Baldrige model to help improve and manage its supply chain, an effort that began when a senior MFC staff member became a Baldrige Executive Fellow and benchmarked against other Baldrige Award recipients as to how they handled supply chain management.

“The global recession and budget pressures have probably never been more intense than they are right now,” says Sessions. “That, along with increased regulations, have really been a big hit to our businesses, and we’re trying to figure out how to account for that. But as much as it affects us, it affects our suppliers—and some of them are very small—in a very big way. Because of that, the defense supply chain is a real focus area.”

From the Baldrige learning, MFC created a supply chain engagement model that maps to the Baldrige model. It’s a process MFC calls Senior Leadership Engagement and Characteristics of Supplier Excellence.

“The Malcolm Baldrige Award that we got really helped open up... doors,” Sessions adds. “I’m not so sure that we would have had the gains that we’ve made over the last year had we not won the award, because that brings with it interest from other companies that want to know how you’re doing business. When you talk about the bottom line... for us it doesn’t get much better than this: We outperform the market. We outperform others in our industry. When you get your supply chain working, it helps your costs to come down. Baldrige was a big part of making that happen.”

Professional development and bringing the learning home

The 2015 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners includes several experts from manufacturing who attend the training to hone their skills for their own manufacturing organization and for personal professional development.

Baldrige examiner Eric Smith, a process control engineer for Caterpillar, said he uses the Baldrige framework for continuing education. In a supplier development and quality role, Smith says that Baldrige training provides additional skills for auditors and highlights practices suppliers should follow to enable them to improve their organizations. “I use Criteria practices to offer advice on improvements that can be made to management processes, which in turn should result in improved products delivered to my organization,” he says. “The Criteria are aimed at senior leadership practices. This is the area that other standards and methodologies (such as ISO 9001) do not cover. Learning these practices provides me deeper insight to company operations when I perform audits on my suppliers. When I discover opportunities for improvement in an organization, I have been able to suggest changes in leadership practices that would be beneficial.”

Larry Kimbrough, supplier quality engineer for International Truck and Engine, says that Baldrige training has taught him how to look at a process subjectively as it relates to meeting the Criteria. “My organization does not hesitate to ask my advice when it comes to processes and quality issues,” says Kimbrough. “By use of the [Criteria] categories (voice of the customer, leadership, results, etc.) and evaluation, I am able to better assist my company when they come to me with process or quality issues.”

Robert Tabler, director of operational excellence of global equipment at Sandvik Mining, just completed his first year of training as a Baldrige examiner. He expects that training in the Criteria and his work as a Baldrige examiner “will be used to improve customer focus within my area of responsibility. I hope successes can then be expanded into other areas through sharing and communication.”

What’s the competitive advantage for manufacturers?

“Baldrige does separate you from your competition in the eyes of the customer,” says Robert Du Fresne of Du Fresne Manufacturing, citing client assessments that rated the company ahead of the competition in seven of eight metrics, and 40 percent of the market share with customers with whom it does business.

Asked his opinion of why more manufacturers aren’t using the Baldrige Criteria to support their operations, Michael Garvey of M-7 Technologies says, “A typical manufacturer always gives the excuses that ‘I don’t have time for this. I’ve got too many pressing issues. I have customers calling me all the time. I have employees calling in sick. I have equipment that may or may not be running properly. I’ve got creditors that I’ve got to take care of....’ My response is you don’t have time not to do this. You have to make time to do this. Because once you take the time to investigate and implement these Criteria, then the rest of your day becomes much freer. Once you invest the time, then the return is in orders of magnitude.”

First published June 18, 2015, on the Blogrige.


About The Author

Dawn Bailey’s picture

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience (18 years at the Baldrige Program) working on publications and education teams. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.