Branch-Smith Printing -- Branching Out
The award has been called the business world's most prestigious honor, named after the former Secretary of Commerce. It was established in 1987 in response to competitive threats by perceived higher levels of quality in the Japanese automotive industry, to recognize American companies that achieved the highest standards in quality.
The award is presented annually (although not necessarily in every category) to companies with exemplary achievements in seven areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management and results.
All applicants for the Baldrige Award undergo a rigorous examination process that involves a minimum of 300 hours of review by an independent board of examiners, primarily from the private sector. Final-stage applicants receive about 1,000 hours of review and are visited by teams of examiners to clarify questions and to verify information. Each applicant receives a report citing strengths and opportunities for improvement.
In his congratulatory letter to Branch-Smith, President Bush wrote, "The Baldrige Award honors American businesses and organizations that have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to quality and performance improvement. In earning this prestigious award, this year's recipients reflect the values that Malcolm Baldrige embodied during his service to our nation as the Secretary of Commerce and throughout his life: integrity, excellence, principled leadership, sound judgment and responsibility."
The company plans to take as many staff members to the award ceremony in Washington, DC, as possible—without dropping production and quality back at the plant. "All of the employees are excited about the award," Branch reports.
Since Branch feels open communication between management and the workers is important, he says the company strives to keep all employees up-to-date with everything the printer does. "We want it so the employees drive the management, not the other way around," he explains.
The Baldrige Award also recognizes Branch-Smith's management excellence in working with both its customers and its staff. The company achieves its quality standards through a systematic complaint process, routine customer satisfaction surveys, regular meetings with key clients, as well as a customer plan and an online "Goldmine" database that identifies and maps the needs of specific customers.