Case Study: Sustaining Excellence for the Long Term

Let’s say you’ve reached the “holy grail” of quality and excellence. You make a great product. Your service is top-notch. You innovate. You’ve developed a culture of quality where employees and leaders are empowered. Now, how do you sustain all this…for years, decades, centuries? Everyone can name once-excellent companies that had trouble sustaining the very things that took them to the top.

I think there is something to learn in a recent case study about Corning, a manufacturer of industrial glass and ceramics products. Founded in 1851, Corning was known for excellence and innovation for decades, and is going strong to this day and beyond. In 1995, Corning received the Baldrige award.

Of course, Corning’s journey wasn’t without challenges.  In the 2000s Corning faced a saturated market as a mature but not necessarily innovative company.

Here are a few of the things that Corning did to turn things around:

  • Concentrated on cost advantage.
  • Preserved and enhanced culture of innovation.
  • Enhanced its already excellent continuous improvement system.
  • Focused on quality renewal.
  • Implemented performance excellence.
  • Looked for opportunities beyond manufacturing.

According to the case study, “In the past five years, Corning has generated more profit than it did in the preceding 155 years combined…Corning’s renewed commitment to quality and the addition of rigor to its hallmark innovation process allows the company to better manage the life cycles of its inventions and improve profitability and sustainability. The performance excellence program provides a competitive advantage so that Corning is a low-cost producer across its product lines on a global basis. Over an eight-year period, performance excellence saved Corning U.S. $1.5 billion.”

Pretty successful, I’d say!

Now, we often say that quality and excellence are a journey, not a destination. How do you stay on the right path amid changing times and leaders?

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3 Responses to Case Study: Sustaining Excellence for the Long Term

  1. Steve Kurzer says:

    Why hasn’t performance excellence been reflected in its Stock Price which has not increased in several years.

  2. Great example of how a company needs to respond to innovation, quality and safety.
    No matter how long ago your foundation was created you must be flexible and open to changes in the market place. From new technology to new proponents of marketing.
    Being creative such as Corning is a true key to long lasting success.

  3. Be sure to document what you did and are doing to maintain the forward push that has gotten you to the heights you now enjoy. Study them carefully. Be sure that change is not sought for the sake of change itself, but use the underlying principles and emphasis that has proved successful. Certaintly, R&D should be strongly supported and always aimed at emerging markets. It is very important to constantly monitor technological advances in a wide range of disciplines from sources outside your company. You never know when some obscure development would be key to the development of your own projects.