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Program recognizes quality corporations — and one city

This list of Mississippi Quality Awards program winners reads like a who’s who of stellar Mississippi corporations — Northrop Grumman of Pascagoula, Georgia-Pacific in Gloster, Berkline Mississippi in Baldwyn and Mississippi Blood Services in Jackson.

So civic leaders were pleasantly surprised to learn that the City of Meridian was a 2001 Quality Interest Award winner shortly after it was enrolled in the state’s prestigious awards program.

Based on the stringent Malcolm Baldrige criteria, Quality Interest Awards, the basic level in the Mississippi Quality Awards program, are presented to organizations that show a serious interest in adopting and applying quality principles within their organizations and are promoting quality awareness and understanding through the highest levels of management.

“Our little city is becoming a progressive city, and we wanted to try to change the leadership pyramid triangle and have the top of the pyramid working for the base,” said Ken Storms, chief administrative officer for the City of Meridian.

“Ed Owen, a local business leader, told us about the program because it was based on the Baldrige criteria,” he said. “We wondered if public sector organizations might benefit, and we learned that Mobile (Ala.) was participating, so we passed out the workbooks to department heads and asked them to take a look. They wanted to make the commitment of time and effort and Mayor (John Robert) Smith made the decision to get involved.”

The Mississippi Quality Awards program was established by the Workforce Education Act of 1994 as part of its mission to help the state create

“High Powered Companies with a World-Class Workforce.” The four levels of recognition include Quality Interest, Quality Commitment, The Excellence Award and The Governor’s Award.

The Governor’s Award, the highest of the program’s four levels, recognizes organizations that are outstanding examples of quality management in Mississippi, deploying “world class” processes that serve as role models for others. In 2001, no Governor’s Award winners were selected.

Former Governor’s Award winners include North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo, Hol-Mac Corp. in Bay Springs, St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital in Jackson, Double G Coatings Co., L.P., in Jackson and Baxter Healthcare Corp. in Cleveland.

“We got involved the first year of the program, in 1995, and noticed results by 1997,” said Karen Countiss, performance improvement coordinator for St. Dominic, a 1999 Governor’s Award winner. “It’s a continuing process that we use as a foundation for all of our improvement efforts. It has been invaluable to us in aligning our improvement efforts to the mission of the hospital. Participation in the program has been the most solid and holistic and systematic approach that has ever been available to us. It looks at everything from patient satisfaction to finances to support services and it encompasses all of what we do.”

Operated by the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, the program is solely based on the Malcolm Baldrige criteria. Malcolm Baldrige, a proponent of quality management as a key to this country’s prosperity and long-term strength, was Secretary of Commerce from 1981 until his death in a rodeo accident in July 1987. In recognition of his contributions, Congress named the prestigious award, given annually by the President of the U.S., in his honor.

Some of the federal program’s highlights include:

• A hypothetical stock index that consists of publicly traded U.S. companies that have received the Baldrige Award, has outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 for seven consecutive years. This year, the “Baldrige Index” outperformed the S&P 500 by 4.4 to 1;

• State and local quality programs, most modeled after the Baldrige program, have grown from less than a dozen in 1991 to 55 programs in 43 states;

• Most of the world’s 60 quality programs are patterned after the Baldrige program; and

• Since 1988, nearly 800 applications have been submitted for the Baldrige Award from a wide variety of organizations.

“The Baldridge program is a national winner take all, but what’s different about the state program is that awards are given on different levels,” said Duane Hamill, director of the Mississippi Quality Awards program. “We don’t try to overwhelm organizations with all the criteria at once, which includes leadership, strategic planning, customer market focus, information analysis, process management and results. We let them ‘drill down’ into the criteria as they reach higher levels.”

Piper Impact in New Albany, a manufacturer of near net-shaped metal impact extrusions for the automotive, ordnance and commercial sectors, is the sole 2001 Excellence Award recipient, an honor that acknowledges organizations for demonstrating significant achievement in building effective, systematic processes and results-oriented measure systems.

Since it was established in 1958, Piper Impact has become a market leader in the impact extrusion field and has continually upgraded with advanced technological processes based on best practices in quality, speed, flexibility and value to facilitate quick response as customer demands shift. Its two manufacturing plants in New Albany employ nearly 800 people. The Barkley Drive facility, built in 1997, produces steel components. The original facility, located on Highway 15, produces aluminum, steel and copper components.

“Organizations that receive recognition at this level are truly excellent organizations,” said Hamill. “They have the systems in place that ensure continuous improvement in all areas and are well on the way to achieving the superior results associated with the Governor’s Award.”

Buck Thomas, risk manager for the City of Meridian and coordinator of the Quality Awards Program, said the process “is not going to be done overnight and shouldn’t be.”

“This is a long term commitment,” he said. “The process itself would preclude a rush job.”

Storms said with the council’s approval, city leaders would like to hire a consultant to “get us on our feet.”

“We know it will be a three-to-five year process to improve the efficiency of our services to our constituents,” he said. “We look at the reward as being what comes out of the process. It doesn’t matter if we get an award,” said Storm. “If we are able to increase the efficiency of the product we serve — protection and service for the citizens of Meridian — then taxes are saved, efficiencies are earned and services are increased. That’s the payback we’re looking for.”

Quality Commitment Award winners for 2001 include DuPont DeLisle Plant in Pass Christian, Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis, The Baddour Center in Senatobia, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg District, in Vicksburg.

Other Quality Interest Award winners for 2001 include Antonelli College in Jackson, Owen Construction Co. in Meridian, RPM Pizza, Inc. in Gulfport, and Trillium Madison in Madison.

The Governor’s Business and Education Achievement Awards program, a separate program established by Governor Ronnie Musgrove last year, provides special recognition for organizations that have demonstrated the most significant improvements.

“This past fall, the governor wanted to create an opportunity to provide recognition to more organizations in Mississippi, particularly small business and education,” said Hamill. “We decided to focus on organizations that have made recent breakthrough improvements in key areas. In designing the awards program, we used parts of the Baldrige criteria but decided
to focus ma
inly on the organization’s profile and specific financial and marketplace results in business and on student learning results in education.”

Applications are being accepted for four categories – Governor’s Business Achievement Award for Large Business and Small

About Lynne W. Jeter

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