Twenty-six U.S. companies, including nine large manufacturers, seven service companies and 10 small businesses, have submitted applications for the 1997 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's premier award for business excellence and quality achievement.
Managed by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology in cooperation with the private sector, the Baldrige Award has received 648 applications since the first competition was held in 1988. Twenty-eight companies—14 large manufacturers, six service companies and eight small businesses—in a wide variety of industries have won the award.
Many companies believe that applying for the award is beneficial, whether they win or not. "The Baldrige application process itself is an investment in future success that every American company should be making," says Bruce Woolpert, president and chief executive officer, Granite Rock Company, a 1992 small business winner.
During the upcoming months, each of the 26 Baldrige Award applications will receive a minimum of 300 hours of review by at least 10 members of the award's board of 328 business and quality experts selected for their depth and breadth of knowledge. Companies passing initial screening will be visited by a team of examiners in September to verify information provided in the application and to clarify issues and questions raised during the review of the applications. Every applicant receives an extensive feedback report highlighting strengths and areas to improve. Winners of the 1997 award will be announced in the fall.
The Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987 not only to recognize individual U.S. companies for their quality achievements but also to promote quality awareness and to provide information on successful quality strategies. Over time, the award's criteria have evolved to represent a general performance and business excellence model. More than a million copies have been distributed since 1988.
Studies by NIST, universities, business organizations and the U.S. General Accounting Office have found that the benefits for companies using performance excellence models, such as the Baldrige Award criteria, include increased productivity, improved profitability and competitiveness, and satisfied employees and customers.
"The Baldrige Award is good for American business," says David Lowe, chief executive officer of ADAC Laboratories, a 1996 winner. "The award is invaluable because it comprehensively lays out a set of ideas that most companies agree they should strive for, but most, in fact, do not. Those companies that adhere to the criteria ... have a sustainable competitive advantage over those that do not," says Lowe.
While the awards are the centerpiece of the Baldrige program, the overall goal is much broader, according to Harry Hertz, director of the National Quality Program. "With state and local organizations we are building a quality network to encourage all U.S. companies to improve their overall performance and capabilities," he says.
In 1991, fewer than 10 state and local quality awards existed. Now, more than 40 awards are in place in 38 states. In 1996, these award programs received 804 applications; 230 more than the 574 submitted in 1995. Also, within the past several years, more than 25 international quality awards have been established, including the new Japan Quality Award. Most are modeled after the Baldrige Award.
A non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards. NIST was selected by Congress to design and manage the award program because of its role in helping U.S. companies compete, its world-renowned expertise in measurement, and its reputation as an impartial third party. This August marks the 10th anniversary of the legislation establishing the Baldrige Award.