Public Papers

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards


May I, too, salute the Deputy Secretary, Mr. Murrin -- and of course, the Secretaries from the other Cabinet Departments that are here. I'm delighted to see all of you. I want to single out our Science Advisor that was to be here, Allan Bromley -- I'm not sure he is -- but in any event, very much interested in this whole field of competitiveness. Dick Truly of NASA -- a keen stake in seeing the quality of all performed. I want to salute the Cadillac general manager, John Grettenberger; John Akers, who is the president and CEO of IBM, chairman of the board; the president and chairman of the board of Federal Express, who's with us, Fred Smith -- we'll be seeing these all in a bit; and John Wallace, from Houston, who is the CEO of the Wallace Company.

And then I also want to salute the Members of Congress who are good enough to be with us today, members of the Baldrige family. How I love Mac Baldrige. Welcome home! And congratulations especially to these winners. And I'm proud to see some who were honored last year.

I want to single out Bob Mosbacher here, who is doing a splendid job as our Secretary of Commerce -- a quality job, I might say. Quality is it. Quality for our administration. And we're here today to present these four awards, as I say, named for another man of quality, and that again is former Secretary Mac Baldrige. What a great guy.

He was -- you know, some forget this, but Mac, prior to becoming Secretary of Commerce, was a true leader in business. And when it came business, he really did understand that quality cannot be assured with some slogan or an ad campaign. And he knew that it begins with winning and keeping business. And it begins with understanding that only customers can define quality. And in short, it begins and ends with the unsentimental judgment of the marketplace.

Once quality separated winning firms from sluggish ones. That time has long since passed. And with the fierce competition of the international market, quality means survival, and nothing less.

The renewed commitment by America to quality can be seen in the explosion of applications to receive the Baldrige Award. In just a few years, the National Quality Award has literally become the standard of business excellence. And the renewed spirit of excellence in business, of making quality an integral part of America's corporate strategy, has truly, I believe, made us more competitive in the international arena. Exports have already increased nearly 8 percent from year-ago levels, and the figure keep on rising.

To compete and win in the international arena, United States companies are simply going to have to offer product and services that are world-class. And that's the purpose behind this award. And it's a national purpose.

So, we're here today not only to honor these four deserving firms but to promote an awareness of quality in American business and to share successful management strategies -- strategies that can, indeed, sharpen America's lead in the world marketplace. Each of these companies offers unique lessons. But these four companies also found success in a few basic principles. They learned that quality control cannot be imposed from top to bottom. They understand that quality management must cut through organization charts, across departments and offices. A quality culture does not depend on titles and job descriptions. And finally, these winning companies also realize that they are only as strong as the intelligence, judgment, and character of their employees.

This year, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is going to all three award categories: manufacturing, small business and, for the first time, service. The winners with us today were selected from a population of American organizations that requested more than 180,000 application guidelines this year. And what I said of last year's honorees applies today: Most companies catch hell from the competition. But these companies are in the lead because no competitor gave them a tougher time than they gave themselves.

Three of our winners are household names. Let me start with IBM at Rochester, a company that proves that quality coupled with employee training and education is simply good business. In fact, IBM Rochester spends five times -- five times -- the national average on education and training -- and just one reason why IBM Rochester is globally competitive.

And the next recipient is another household name, the first automotive company to earn this award: Cadillac. And when many companies speak of quality changes, they speak of improvement in management. This company speaks of a ``culture change,'' a clear recognition that Cadillac knows that quality begins with the morale and idea of its people. Cadillac executives, plant managers, or union representatives -- all have worked together to help win this award. Quality councils are at work at each of the company's seven major facilities, supported by hundreds of company teams. And Cadillac shows that labor-management cooperations indeed yields quality results.

The next recipient is Federal Express, the first large service company to earn this award. This is a critical recognition because so much of our work force and our national wealth comes from the service sector. And Federal Express is simply nothing less than a model for all other service corporations. From ground zero in 1973, Federal Express has shot up to one of the world's largest transportation companies, with more than 90,000 employees making 1.5 million shipments a day. As with IBM Rochester and Cadillac, the secret of success for Federal Express is its training and reliance on its employees. With a no-layoff philosophy and extensive training, Federal Express attracts top-notch, motivated people. In fact, during the last 5 years, nearly 100 percent of Federal Express employees surveyed responded that they were proud to be a part of their company. And that's why Federal Express delivers. And all American workers should feel they are as much a part of their companies.

And that brings me then to the Wallace Company of Houston, Texas, the first small service business to be recognized. This family-owned firm extends its family approach to all of Wallace's 280 skilled and well-trained employees, people who think of themselves as ``associates.''

The Wallace Company prove that quality is not just for the Fortune 500. This small distributor of industrial goods not only survived the recent rough economic times in Houston, it proved that even in tough times you can still commit to long-term improvements in quality.

In business, success is its own reward. But the men and women of these four firms have given all Americans a standard of excellence -- a standard to emulate, a standard to surpass. And they have proven that quality management is not just a strategy. It must be a new style of working, even a new style of thinking. A dedication to quality and excellence is more than good business. It's a way of life, giving something back to society, offering your best to others.

And so, for all of that, you have my admiration -- my heartiest congratulations to every single American worker that you represent. And may I say to all of you, thank you and Merry Christmas. And I'm very proud to be here to participate in this ceremony. Thank you all.

Note: The President spoke at 11:23 a.m. in the Grand Hall at the Department of Commerce. In his remarks, he referred to Deputy Secretary of Commerce Thomas J. Murrin and Richard H. Truly, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.