Part four of four
Baldrige Award Winner Profile
An interview with Jo Ann Brumit, KARLEE Co.
by Robert A. Green
On April 6, President Bush presented
the 2000 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to four companies during a ceremony held in Alexandria, Virginia. Among those winners was KARLEE, a Garland, Texas-based
contract manufacturing service provider that serves the telecommunications, semiconductor, medical and aerospace industries.
What follows is an interview with Jo Ann Brumit, KARLEE's CEO and chairwoman. What follows is the last of four interviews conducted with representatives from each
2000 Baldrige Award winner published in consecutive issues of Quality Digest.
QD: When did quality as a tangible goal first emerge for KARLEE?
It's been a fundamental from the beginning. My partner and I are both perfectionists. And as a perfectionist, you expect everybody and every process to
perform at a very high level. In terms of building a quality product, having a quality organization is just the foundation. Before the word "quality" meant what it does now,
it was just the way we did things.
QD: When was the first time you were introduced to the Baldrige criteria?
It was about 1989, and I had been doing a lot of reading on Philip Crosby, W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran. I was looking for a model to put in place
that would grow the business and encompass team building.
With a small company, everyone does a lot of different things and works long hours.
So if you are going to take quality to the next level, you need a good team; that's what we were searching for.
QD: When did you first apply for the Baldrige Award?
Last year. But the Texas Quality Award, whose process we went through for three years and which we won in 1999, is based on the Baldrige criteria. The first year
we just got a written feedback report, the second year a site visit, and the third year we were recipients. After that, we set our sights on the Baldrige Award.
Are there any other quality initiatives with which you've experimented?
Brumit: We got into statistical process control with the help of Boeing Co. But, being
a job shop, we don't have a primary product, so we've had to go through several generations of getting SPC in a way that would work for us. We are TL
9000-registered, and we've also just completed our transition to ISO 9001:2000.
QD: Have you been able to track the return on your Baldrige investment?
The only thing that we've tracked is the cost involved with the site visit and being a recipient. Prior to applying, we sent one of our people through a class for
additional knowledge, but that's just training. There's no doubt that this process has saved us money by making us a better company.
In dealing with a number of quality initiatives (ISO 9000, TL 9000 and the Baldrige criteria), how well do they all blend together?
For years we've used the Baldrige criteria as a business model. It lays down the foundation for the processes that you're going to put in, how you're going to run
your business and what's important in the company.
For us, next came ISO 9000, which took the variation out of our processes. With the
2000 revision, the standard now focuses a little more on improving and measuring customer satisfaction. Although the ISO standard might take variation out of
processes, it doesn't ensure that you have a good process.
QD: Having had tremendous experience with both, how would you rate the
effectiveness of the Baldrige criteria vs. that of ISO 9000?
Brumit: The Baldrige criteria really make you look at your market's expectations and
what your competitors are doing. Do you have the resources to do what you want to do for the next level? What is your strategy? Do you do strategic planning, and how do
you go about doing it? How do you link your company from top to bottom?
I don't think ISO 9000 takes it to that level, at least in most business areas. It expects
your processes to be in compliance through audits and so forth, but it doesn't really look to see if you are a profitable company.
Have you ever had any issues in terms of employee buy-in with these various programs?
Brumit: I think a successful company doesn't talk about initiatives as programs but as
parts of its culture because they make you better and allow you to satisfy the customer. This all benefits the team members, not only financially but also in the pride
of accomplishment. I don't think you have a problem with buy-in when you approach it like that.
Now that you're a few months past winning the award, how is KARLEE going to define "beyond Baldrige"?
When the Baldrige Award becomes a model for how you do business, you just keep doing the same things that you've always done. I think we are a good
example because we didn't apply until we felt like we had a process that was sophisticated enough and mature enough to earn a site visit; that was our goal. We
wanted the feedback and we knew that the best for KARLEE was to have someone come into our facility. That's why we didn't apply for the Texas Quality Award until
we thought that we were ready for a site visit.
QD: Do you see the company applying for the award again?
Definitely. We will go through it again because there's so much intensity and focus that happens while you're going through the process. You really take it to
another level. The challenge for us will be to continue to do the self-assessments.
Also, most of our customers have very strong quality arms within their companies, so
they normally have advanced quality initiatives going on. Those, too, drive us to another level because they're looking for continuous improvement.
About the author
Robert A. Green is Quality Digest's managing editor.
E-mail him at contact_us