Baldrige National Quality Award 1993 Recipient
Based in Hamburg, N.J., Ames Rubber Corporation's primary products
are rubber rollers used to feed paper, transfer toner, and fuse toner
to paper in office machines such as copiers, printers, and typewriters.
The company is the largest manufacturer in the world of rollers for mid-
to large-sized copiers. The company also produces highly specialized parts
to protect the transaxle of front-wheel-drive vehicles. Founded in 1949,
Ames Rubber employs 445 "Teammates" at four New Jersey sites,
with annual sales of $45 million to $50 million.
chart at Ames Rubber is the tip-off to this company's view of how
to do business: "external customers" are on top, then
the firm's unit and other managers, and then President Joel Marvil.
In fact, the company's entire business strategy is designed to ensure
that the customer drives Ames Rubber's operations and goals. All
of the company's products are made to order to customer design and
specification. Its warranties are among the best in the industry
and include a refund of the customer's portion of development costs
for prototype parts if specifications are not achieved.
Its principal customers
are U.S. and international office equipment manufacturers, with automotive
transaxle manufacturers a much smaller but important part of the customer
In the early 1980s, senior management realized that the international
marketplace was changing dramatically. Even though the firm had reached
benchmark status in the copier market and had achieved significant niche
penetration of the European copier and U.S. automotive markets, its customers
were demanding products that met more exacting quality requirements at
lower prices. Offshore competition was emerging, and it became evident
that business as usual would not suffice. A new culture was needed.
Ames Rubber upgraded
equipment and utilized innovative designs and more efficient manufacturing
techniques. It agreed upon goals with a workforce that was more actively
involved through training and a "teamwork" philosophy. The company
then began searching for an even better way to survive while striving
for growth and prosperity. It was expending considerable effort to meet
the quality, cost, and delivery requirements of customers. But Ames Rubber
knew that its approach was fragmented and that it lacked a coherent strategy,
disciplined methods, adequate systems, a full understanding of customer
requirements, and a uniform approach to problem-solving and long-term
quality improvement. And managers saw clearly that they needed to unleash
the full potential of their Teammates.
Through Total Quality
Joel Marvil knew that Xerox, its prime customer, had instituted a cultural
change process called "Leadership Through Quality," and Ames
Rubber decided to undertake a similar effort. Xerox trained the executive
committee, and the "Excellence Through Total Quality" new work
process was announced in 1987.
The process is designed
to involve all Teammates in achieving a common goal - the full satisfaction
of internal and external customer needs through total quality in every
endeavor. A steering team comprised of the executive committee was formed
to develop a strategy to achieve the goal of becoming the "World-Class
Supplier" of elastomeric products.
By the time a company-wide
orientation and training effort was completed in 1988, more than 17,000
training hours had been provided to ensure that the firm's goals and total
quality approach were understood and that Teammates were equipped for
The steering committee
developed a guiding strategy document that has two key components: a nine-step
Quality Improvement Process (QIP) that is a disciplined and systematic
approach to identifying and satisfying customer requirements, and a six-step
Problem-Solving Process (PSP).
A new system of monthly
strategy reviews was established. Involving the executive committee and
division general managers, these reviews cover both the short- and long-term
progress of the company. The company's quality strategy was made a regular
item on the agenda.
Groups were started in all work units, and they became a primary communications
and training vehicle. The groups meet at least once a month, and everyone
at Ames Rubber is a member. The Involvement Groups are a main conduit
for improvement ideas from the floor. Every teammate receives 24 hours
of basic training in quality principles, techniques, and tools, and
each is able to contribute to quality and performance improvement
by using the nine-step QIP or six-step PSP. Each new Teammate is assigned
a coach to ensure that he or she is familiar with their job and total
Systems were established
to track rejects and cost of quality. Reject tracking immediately led
to "Pareto Thinking" and helped to isolate parts that were causing
the firm's greatest problems. Yield Improvement Teams were launched to
examine rejects by cause and to eliminate them.
The company also reduced
its supplier base by selecting companies that share the firm's quality
values and are responsive to its "continuous improvement" goals.
Down from 42 suppliers in 1989, Ames Rubber now relies on 19 suppliers
whose quality performance is about 99 percent. Ames Rubber enjoys close
communications with its customers and suppliers through a system called
"CS/CI," for Continuous Supplier/Customer Involvement.
Results: The Payoff
Ames Rubber has undergone its own culture change, and its managers have
the data to show that change pays. The percentage of defective parts reaching
customers is among the lowest in the industry. For Ames' largest customer,
Xerox, the defect rate has been reduced since 1989 from over 30,000 parts
per million to just 11. Ames now is the "benchmark" producer
of fuser rollers for the very highest speed copiers. Delivery performance
for its top customers is well above the industry average, improving dramatically
since 1989. Productivity, measured by sales per Teammate, increased by
48 percent from 1989 to 1992. Teammate involvement in suggesting improvements
is yielding some hefty returns: over the past five years, Teammate ideas
have saved the company and its customers more than $3 million and will
average more than $2,700 per Teammate in 1993. For Ames Rubber, total
quality is not only good, it is profitable. On approximately level sales,
every financial and operational metric has shown dramatic improvement,
with 1992 being the best financial year the company has ever experienced.
the Bottom Line
No manufacturing enterprise can avoid having to deal with environmental
safety and health issues: they are part of doing business. Over the past
few years, Ames Rubber's environmental efforts have evolved from pollution
control to pollution prevention~a policy supported by top management and
mandated by corporate policy. The company has made substantial progress
in reducing or eliminating toxic ingredients, improving the efficiency
of production processes to reduce waste, increasing waste recycling, and
managing all materials more soundly. Its approach to environmental management
is now part and parcel of Ames Rubber's quality management process.
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Last updated: 11/29/2011