Under the Microscope

Healthcare organizations continue to dominate Baldrige applications

Baldrige applications submitted to organizers were again dominated by healthcare institutions, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones using the criteria to improve their operations, the program’s director contended. 

For the second year in a row, the vast majority of applications came in the healthcare category, while just a handful of manufacturers and service providers submitted applications to be considered for a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, considered the highest recognition for innovation and performance excellence in the United States.

Of the 70 applications submitted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology this year, 42 are from healthcare organizations. Nine applicants are education organizations, eight are nonprofits, two are manufacturers, four are service companies and five are small businesses.

Of last year’s 85 applications, 43 were healthcare organizations, five were service providers, three were manufacturers, 11 were from the education sector, 16 were nonprofits and seven were small businesses.

"It is troubling that we are not identifying as many role models from these sectors as in the past," said Harry Hertz, the director of the Baldrige National Quality Program.

"But it is worth remembering that the Baldrige program is more than just the Baldrige award. While the award and the recipients are our most visible centerpieces, our ultimate goal is for organizations to apply the criteria to the maximum extent according to their needs," he said.

There’s been a surge of healthcare organizations applying for the Baldrige award since 2005, and state and local quality award programs are also seeing similar growing interest from the healthcare sector, Hertz said.

"We are told that many service providers and manufacturers still use the Baldrige criteria internally and that others see quality as an embedded function, more functional than strategic," Hertz said. "Those companies who continue to use the criteria see (the criteria) as vital strategic ways that guide operations and long-term strategy setting."

The upswing in interest from healthcare organizations should continue for "at least the next few years," he added.

"We believe (the upswing) signals that the healthcare industry is seeing the challenges it faces and is willing to engage in the hard work necessary to address them in a positive way," Hertz said.

"The majority of our healthcare applicants describe starting their Baldrige journey several years prior to submitting an application to the Baldrige program, so the impact of the framework appears to be continuing to grow. Networks are developing for healthcare organizations to communicate their experiences and perceptions," Hertz said.

Of course, a high number of applicants from one category does not necessarily translate into a high number of award recipients from the same category.

Of the 85 applications last year, there were three Baldrige award recipients: one manufacturer, one hospital and one school. In 2007, from 84 applications, two healthcare organizations, two nonprofit organizations and one small business received Baldrige awards.

The Baldrige award review process continues through the end of the year with application reviews and site visits to the organizations that applied. Usually, organizers announce award recipients in December. Visit www.baldrige.nist.gov for more information about the award.

—Mark Edmund, associate editor


Big Three’s Initial Quality Up in 2009

Initial quality of new vehicles sold by the Big Three has improved by an average of 10% compared to last year, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates study.

The industry average for initial quality this year for domestic brands manufactured by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors is 108 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100). That’s down from 118 PP100 in 2008. Initial quality has improved to an average of 112 PP100 this year, down from 124 PP100 in 2008.

Lexus leads the overall nameplate rankings, averaging 84 PP100, followed by Porsche, Cadillac, Hyundai and Honda in the top five.

"Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, the Detroit automakers are keeping their focus on designing and building high-quality vehicles, which is a precondition for long-term success," said David Sargent of J.D. Power and Associates.

The J.D. Power and Associates initial quality study is considered an industry benchmark for new vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership and has become a predictor of long-term durability. For more details on the scores, visit www.jdpower.com/corporate/news/releases/pressrelease.aspx?ID=2009108.


Wisconsin Ranked First in Healthcare Quality

The state of Wisconsin ranked No. 1 in healthcare quality last year, according to a recent report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The agency scored each state based on 250 quality measures drawn from more than 30 sources. Minnesota and Massachusetts were ranked second and third, respectively, in this year’s survey, and New Hampshire and Michigan rounded out the top five.

The lowest performing states were Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Arkansas and New Mexico.

Wisconsin was also ranked No. 1 in 2006, but dropped to second behind Minnesota in 2007.

A complete report on the findings and detailed information on each state’s scores can be found at http://statesnapshots.ahrq.gov.


The majority of hospitals fail to meet patient safety standards that were recommended in a landmark report by the Institute of Medicine 10 years ago. The Leapfrog Group, a healthcare advocacy organization, said most hospitals surveyed don’t meet medication error prevention standards or mortality standards, and many have failed to implement other efficiency standards known to improve quality and save lives. For more details on the survey, visit www.leapfroggroup.org.

The American National Standards institute, coordinator of the U.S. standards and conformity assessment system, began accepting applications last month for certification bodies seeking accreditation under the new Toy Industry Association Toy Safety Certification Program. The program was created to improve toy safety, help restore stakeholder confidence in toy products and comply with new federal requirements that toys be tested by a qualified lab and certified for meeting rigorous national safety standards and regulations. For more information about the program, visit www.toycertification.org.

The American Standards Institute (ANSI) Certificate Accreditation Program (ANSI-CAP) has selected ASTM E2659-09, Standard Practice for Certificate Programs, as the standard against which certificate programs will be evaluated for potential accreditation. The ANSI program seeks to accredit organizations that issue education and training certificates to U.S. workers. ANSI is also asking those organizations that issue education and training certificates to U.S. workers to apply for the institute’s pilot ANSI-CAP. Call 202-331-3621 for more information about the pilot program.

Engineering jobs are the toughest to fill in the United States, according to a recent report from Manpower, an employment services agency. More than 2,000 U.S. employers were surveyed to find out which positions are the most difficult to fill. Following on the list are nurses, skilled trades, teachers, sales representatives, technicians, drivers, IT staff, laborers, machinists and machine operators. To view the 2009 Talent Shortage Results Report, visit www.manpower.com/research/research.cfm.

ASQ News

TRAINING PROGRAM LAUNCHED ASQ has launched a new education and training program for quality professionals. The ASQ Learning Institute (www.asq.org/learninginstitute) features ASQ’s learning offerings and integrates training resources among ASQ headquarters, member communities, education professionals and members. There’s also a learning management system that lets users create a profile and learning plan and track their learning history.

IAQ AWARD Ira M. Millstein was awarded the Marcos E.J. Bertin Quality in Governance Medal by the International Academy for Quality (IAQ). Millstein was recognized for "raising our global sensitivity to the imperative of a strong quality focus in the governance of organizations," award organizers said. Bertin is a past-chairman and honorary member of IAQ and is considered the father of the Argentine quality movement. ASQ administers IAQ.

SR REPORT Three major corporations featured in a panel discussion on social responsibility (SR) at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement earlier this year have been profiled in the latest ASQ Quarterly Quality Report. The report details  SR approaches taken by Target, Ecolab Inc. and 3M. For more details, visit www.asq.org/quality-report/reports/200906.html.

ASQ IN MEXICO CITY ASQ has opened an office in Mexico City as part of its plan to expand quality’s reach around the globe. The new office employs two people. There are more than 600 ASQ members in Mexico. ASQ already operates offices in Beijing and New Delhi. An opening celebration will be held in the fall. Visit www.asq.org/global/countries/mexico.html for more details about ASQ activities in Mexico.

NEW TAG MEMBERS Two technical advisory groups (TAG) recently held elections, and new members were selected to hold TAG positions. Those elected to the social responsibility TAG were: Mary McKiel (chair and government expert), Linda Golodner (consumer expert), Heidi Hijikata (government observer), Rolf Schneider (industry expert), Bruce Tackett (industry observer), Jason Morrison (nongovernmental organizations expert), Rochelle Zaid (nongovernmental organizations observer), Dorothy Bowers (service, support, research and others expert) and Sonny Maher (service, support, research and others observer). The newly elected members of TAG 207, who start their duties in 2010, are: Susan Briggs (chair), Joe Cascio (vice chair) and Thea Dunmire (secretary).

Capitol Q

ASQ has submitted comments to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology about a proposal to establish a national network of regional health IT extension centers that would assist healthcare providers in their efforts to adopt new information technologies. In the letter, then-ASQ president Roberto Saco said ASQ believes quality principles can ensure the money is wisely spent and process improvement tools and quality methods can make implementation go smoother and quicker. For more details on the correspondence, visit www.asq.org/advocacy/issues-actions/20090626-electronic-health-records.html.

Capitol Q is a regular Keeping Current feature that highlights ASQ’s advocacy efforts with government leaders. More information can be found at ASQ’s Advocacy Room at www.asq.org/advocacy/index.html.


Quick Poll Results

Each month on QP’s website, visitors can take a short, informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from the most recent Quick Poll:

"What do you find most difficult to communicate to management?"

  • That quality must be an organization-wide effort.   39.6%
  • The value of quality—in monetary terms.  26.4%
  • The need for sustained resources dedicated to quality.  22.6%
  • That quality is proactive as well as reactive.  11.4% 

Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question posted:

"What has the biggest impact on customer satisfaction?"

  • Quality of the product or service.
  • Price of the product or service.
  • Current economic climate.
  • Competition’s offerings.

Who’s Who in Q

Name: S. Anil Kumar.

Residence: Ranipet, Tamil Nadu, India.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in engineering electronics and communication from the T.K.M. College of Engineering in Keraala. He has also obtained several quality-related certifications. 

Current Job: Head of business excellence and quality assurance at Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) in Ranipet, India. Kumar has worked at BHEL for 25 years, helping his company obtain ISO 9001 certification in 1993. He was one of the first in the public sector to achieve this recognition. Other professional achievements include coordinating more than 750 improvement projects during the last three years and developing internal quality management and Green Belt training programs.

Introduction to Quality: Kumar was introduced to quality management when he started his career at BHEL as an inspection engineer, obtaining extensive quality training throughout his tenure.

ASQ Activities: Among his many activities are: review board member of ASQ Quality Press since June 2003; paper reviewer for the World Conference on Quality and Improvement in 2008; proctor of ASQ certification exams in Chennai, India, since 2001; participant in e-section development; member of ASQ global transformation task force; and a contributor to the Quality First newsletter. Kumar also helped coordinate the first Quality-India Chennai meeting in 2006 and has been involved in many ASQ-Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry activities.

Other Activities/Achievements: Kumar has been a senior examiner for the IMC-Ramakrishna Bajaj National Quality Award and an examiner for the Confederation of Indian Export-Import Award. He is also a Six Sigma training assessor for the Quality Council of India’s National Registration Board for Personnel and Training.

Recent Honor: This year, Kumar became the first ASQ fellow from India. In 2005, he won the Qimpro Silver Standard Award.

Published: Kumar has created hundreds of crossword puzzles related to quality management and Six Sigma and has had them published in magazines including QP, Quality World and Informed Outlook. He also has had many papers published and presented at national and international conferences.

Quality Quote: Quality is the manifestation of process interactions. It seeks a fine balance between systems and passion. Quality without innovation is stale, and innovation without quality cannot be sustained for long. Profound learning accelerates sustainable improvements.

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