Baldrige National Quality Award 1991 Recipient
But Marlow chose not to sit tight. Instead, it initiated a structured, yet evolving system of continuous improvement through Total Quality Management, setting ever higher performance standards and challenging itself to exceed ever more demanding customer requirements. The company has worked to strengthen all areas of its business, and again to set new targets for improvement and innovation.
1987, employee productivity has increased at an average annual rate of
10 percent, the time between new product design and manufactured product
has been trimmed, and the cost of scrap, rework, and other non-conformance
errors has been cut nearly in half. For customers, these and other gains
have translated into products that exceed performance specifications by
wider margins, on-time deliveries, extended warranties, and prices that
have remained stable or
Commercial customers include makers of laser diodes, such as those used in fiber-optic communication systems, as well as medical instrumentation manufacturers. Marlow products also are used in heat-seeking missiles, inertial navigation systems, satellites, and other defense and space-related technologies.
Marlow describes its Total Quality Management System as a "top-to-bottom" approach to continuous improvement. The emphasis on quality begins with CEO and President Raymond Marlow. As chairman of the TQM Council, which crafts the company's 5-year strategic business plan and oversees efforts to accomplish short- and long-term goals, he has daily responsibility for quality-related matters. A senior-executive team headed by the chief operating officer attends to day-to-day management. Marlow's leadership has provided an environment that encourages all employees to participate and to be involved in the continuous improvement process.
Employee involvement is fostered through a flat organizational structure and a variety of participatory mechanisms. Marlow includes worker representatives in weekly TQM Council sessions. Monthly companywide meetings are held to review company performance, recognize employees for quality contributions, review quality values, and make widespread acknowledgement of teams. In 1990, 88 percent of all personnel -- as compared with 44 percent in 1988 -- participated on "action teams," which focus on attaining corporate and departmental goals, or on "employee effectiveness teams," which concentrate on preventing potential problems in specific work areas. Each team has a senior-executive mentor, and all teams regularly make formal presentations before the TQM Council.
workers -- from CEO to hourly employee -- have taken Marlow's voluntary
"quality pledge," committing them to the same performance standard:
"Do it right today, better tomorrow." Training programs, averaging
32 hours a year per employee, impart the skills needed to achieve the
standard. All workers, even temporary employees, receive
information system consisting of 500 data categories describes all essential
elements of company performance -- from customer satisfaction to manufacturing
process control to supplier quality -- and helps Marlow Industries set
tangible goals and track its progress. Much of the data can be accessed
through any of the 80 personal computers connected through a local area
network. Systematic data cross-checking fosters reliability and consistency,
Marlow uses a well-integrated, systematic approach for assuring the quality of its products and services. Extensive use of Design of Experiments Techniques has resulted in improved quality and stabilization of its major processes. In the last 3 years its yields have improved significantly while manufacturing costs have been reduced and cycle times improved. These improvements were accompanied by major reductions in waste stream environmental disposal.
partners figure prominently in Marlow's TQM system. The company continues
to consolidate its list of suppliers, retaining only those key suppliers
that score at the top of the Marlow Supplier Quality Index. By the end
of 1991, it anticipates that 15 of its top 20 key suppliers will be certified
to "ship to stock" without inspection. Marlow cultivates long-term
partnerships and includes the technological expertise of valued suppliers
at the start of its
90 percent of the products produced by Marlow are custom designed to meet
its customers' requirements. Because customer satisfaction is the overriding
aim of its continuous improvement efforts, Marlow has developed an exhaustive
system of feedback mechanisms -- from several types of surveys to quarterly
meetings with major clients. This information helps ensure that Marlow
focuses on the principal needs of customers. When combined with the
Since 1988, Marlow has won six major quality awards from customers, and it passed on first inspection all 30 audits of its quality assurance system performed by defense industry customers. Over the last 10 years, Marlow has not lost a single major customer, and, in 1990, its top 10 customers rated the quality of Marlow TE coolers at 100 percent.