Quality's survey reveals the top companies that improve processes, empower workers and satisfy customers.

General Electric, General Motors, Ford, Delphi and Honeywell. These five companies, as well as the 95 others on Quality magazine's Top 100 Quality Plant list are impressive companies that lead their respective industries. They strive to balance quality issues with customer demands for today's and tomorrow's business environments.

The companies are different of course, but in many ways, they are similar. They all have made substantial investments in quality technology and people. They reach out to their customers, suppliers and employees to improve their product and their processes.

These are some of the leaders in producing quality products around the world. The 100 companies invested in quality personnel and the accompanying tools they need to produce a quality product, on time and at cost.

The drive for personal continuous improvement is reflected in Quality magazine's State of the Profession Survey, in which more than three-quarters of those surveyed took training during the preceding 12 months. These quality professionals most often underwent Six Sigma, ISO 9000: 2000 and management training. Continual training is another common denominator of many of these companies. Firms such as GE and Delphi require continual training.

Many of these companies have integrated Six Sigma in their corporate culture, and Six Sigma has, as its mission, the goal of identifying and resolving problems. Other companies in the Top 100 Quality Plants list have embraced ISO standards or lean manufacturing practices.

All these quality and productivity standards, and initiatives, call for continual improvement, as well as continual communication. The top 5 companies on the list employ teams made up of diverse personnel discussing problems and developing innovative solutions.

1. General Electric

(Fairfield, CT)

General Electric (GE) says that its commitment to quality is based on the ideas of globalization and instant access to information, and products and services that continue to change the way its customers conduct business. Their quality mission statement reads, in part, "Today's competitive environment leaves no room for error. We must meet our customers' needs and relentlessly look for new ways to exceed their expectations."

Developing a Six Sigma culture is how GE says it plans to meet its customers' needs. GE began focusing on quality in 1988 with a program called Work-Out that helped open its corporate culture to ideas from any quarter. Work-Out was used to identify and eliminate unneeded processes and tasks by development teams from multiple departments to find a solution to a problem. Work-Out, they say, created an environment that eventually led to Six Sigma. Now, Six Sigma is embedding quality thinking into every level of operation around the globe.

At GE, there are three key elements to their quality initiatives: customer, process and employee. Everything the company does in its quest for world-class quality focuses on these three essential elements.

Customers are the center of the GE universe and they define quality by their expectations of performance, reliability and other factors. To attain the level of quality that their customers require, GE conducts what it calls "Outside-In Thinking."

This concept calls on GE to look at its business from its customers' perspective. "By understanding the transaction lifecycle from the customer's needs and processes, we can discover what they are seeing and feeling. With this knowledge, we can identify areas where we can add significant value or improvement from their perspective," GE's quality statement reads.

The employee is key to the quality approach and at GE, quality is the responsibility of every employee. With that in mind, all GE employees are trained in the strategy, statistical tools and techniques of Six Sigma Quality. Training courses are offered at various levels including: basic Six Sigma awareness; basic tool introduction to equip employees to participate on Six Sigma teams; Master Black Belt, Black Belt and Green Belt Training; and Design for Six Sigma training.

2. General Motors


Quality improvement has been a recurring theme for General Motors, the world's largest vehicle manufacturer-it even went so far as to launch a Road to Redemption ad campaign to convince consumers that it was serious about improving quality.

The company hired quality experts and adopted the mantra: Don't accept, build or ship defects. Find it, fix it, protect the customer. The company has created a quality gate system that is meant to catch problems before a vehicle moves onto the next stage of development. In addition, they appointed a quality team of workers with the power to stop a substandard design.

And, GM has succeeded in boosting auto quality relative to other competitors, and was the only U.S. automaker to perform above the industry average in a J.D. Power & Associates survey in 2003 and 2004. In June, J.D. Power released its vehicle dependability study, which measures quality after three years of ownership, that found that GM had 262 problems per 100 vehicles. GM ranks fourth behind Toyota, American Honda and Porsche Cars North America.

In April, GM ranked fifth in a J.D. Power initial quality study, which measures customer satisfaction after 90 days of ownership. The study found the company had 120 problems per 100 vehicles, which is slightly above the industry average of 119. This, too, placed GM as the highest rated U.S. auto manufacturer.

The work toward improving quality came at about the same time as an aggressive new product launch. In 2002, GM launched 21 vehicles at 18 plants, accounting for 44% of its production volume. In 2003, GM launched 16 vehicles at 13 plants, accounting for approximately 40% of production volume. In conjunction with these launches, the company has upgraded five of its plants at a cost of about $2.8 billion.

While quality has improved, the company has been rocked by recalls in 2004. In February, the company announced three recalls totalling some 2.5 million vehicles. In March, the company recalled 3.66 million pickups because of a faulty tailgate cable and in August, the company announced a recall of some 250,000 Saturn SUVs.

Kevin Williams, who was named vice president of North American quality at GM in April 2003, said in a media briefing in May, that the company is not where it wants to be quality wise, but "the data are starting to show that we've improved quality drastically."

3. Honeywell

(Morristown, NJ)

Six Sigma is the core element of Honeywell's strategy to increase productivity and "delight" customers. "Six Sigma enables the company to capture growth and productivity opportunities more rapidly and efficiently by reducing defects and waste in all of its business processes," their quality statement reads. "The company has worked to extend Six Sigma beyond its traditional factory-floor applications to administrative and other backroom operations, to help ensure greater efficiency and customer value."

The company's "Six Sigma Plus" initiative is meant to take current business processes to the next level. "Being good isn't good enough," according to the company's Web site. "Business success is a moving target and we must get better and better each year at providing products and services. We must constantly re-evaluate and improve our processes so that we can anticipate the constantly evolving needs of our customers."

Six Sigma Plus is Honeywell's overall strategy to provide maximum value to its customers by accelerating improvements in all of its processes, products and services. The program provides a model, process and tool set to bring about strategies and improvements to increase value to its customers.

These initiatives are evident in the quality system certificates the company has achieved. Its facility in Seelze, Germany, has achieved ISO 9001: 2000/ISO 14001. Facilities in the United States and Asia have achieved ISO 9001: 1994/QS-9000: 1998. Most recently, 16 facilities earned the ISO 9001: 2000 certification.

Honeywell has an ongoing employee learning program. Every employee is required to have at least 40 hours of learning each year. The company has established learning centers where employees attend classes, and it has developed a comprehensive learning curriculum offering employees a wide range of class offerings designed to support their professional development.

4. Delphi Corp.

(Troy, MI)

Delphi's global lean manufacturing strategy, which it calls the Delphi Manufacturing System (DMS), has contributed to improved quality and more efficient operations, according to the company's 2003 corporate fact book. "Through the application of DMS," the company reports, "we're seeing improvements in productivity, first-time quality rates, on-time delivery, reduced product cycle times, and focused inventory management while removing waste from our value chain."

Delphi is now intent on applying lean principles beyond the manufacturing floor and drives all facets of its organization including manufacturing, engineering, purchasing and support functions to work to eliminate waste. Robert Morgan has been named the executive-in-charge of lean business processes, effective July 1. He will work with Delphi's senior leadership to map Delphi's business processes, identify and eliminate waste in these processes, find common methods and synergies across functions, and apply lean principles to streamline Delphi's business processes. Morgan will accelerate Delphi's lean efforts across the entire enterprise, a logical progression from deployment of lean principles in Delphi's manufacturing and supply base.

J.T. Battenberg III, chairman, CEO and president, says that lean has helped the company reduce its parts per million defect rate, as measured by its customers, by 85% since 1998.

Since 1998, Delphi has received 298 quality and excellence awards, including 235 awards from its customers. One reason for its success is a cross-system approach to quality through the formation of a Customer Satisfaction Task Team. The team is led by a Delphi general manager and the director of Delphi manufacturing. Quality directors from each of Delphi's seven divisions are members of the task team that leads cross-divisional quality activities.

The company points to a number of quality-related factors, including:

• Institutionalize the quality system through planning, control, improvement, sharing of lessons learned and variation reduction.

• Implement ISO 9000/QS-9000 standards company-wide.

• Assure discipline and rigor for the product development process with an emphasis on prevention.

• Implement Best Practices, develop common initiatives and drive for continuous improvement.

• Improve supplier quality through executive involvement and the Advanced Product Quality Planning process.

• Drive statistical engineering tools for problem solving.

• Eliminate quality "spills" through stringent process control, product robustness, operator involvement and prevention of mislabels.

5. Ford Motor Co.

(Dearborn, MI)

For Ford Motor Co., 2004 is the Year of the Car as the company plans to introduce six new nameplates for the 2005 model year, including the revamped Ford Mustang and the hybrid-electric SUV, the Ford Escape Hybrid.

But, the past two years may be called the Year of Improvements. Since 1982, Ford has experienced an 18% reduction in recall volumes and warranty spending, and quality has improved by more than 16%. The much maligned and recall-plagued Ford Focus went two years without a recall and in 2004, reached the top of Consumer Reports best auto lists.

In addition, the company opened its new Chicago Assembly plant built on a flexible manufacturing concept and retrofitted other plants into lean and flexible manufacturing centers based around common vehicle architectures.

According to the company's annual report, consumer-driven Six Sigma has had a dramatic impact on operations. Since its inception, more than 9,500 projects have been completed which saved the company $1.7 billion worldwide, including $731 million in 2003. In addition, the company attributes about half of its current model quality improvement to consumer-driven Six Sigma projects.

The company also relies on a Team Value Management process that brings together cross-functional teams to improve value and quality. The teams were implemented in North America and across all business units during 2003.

The turnaround coincides with the naming of James Padilla to head the North American auto operations two years ago. After suffering a number of recalls, including more than a dozen recalls after the Focus was launched in 2000, Padilla deputized hundreds of employees as quality stewards and engineers who were ordered to focus on quality during the design phase, according to a May 10 story in BusinessWeek.

1 General Electric Co.

Fairfield, CT

2 General Motors Corp.


3 Honeywell Inc.

Morristown, NJ

4 Delphi Corp.

Troy, MI

5 Ford Motor Co.

Dearborn, MI

6 The Boeing Co.


7 Parker Hannifin Corp.


8 DaimlerChrysler Corp.

Auburn Hills, MI

9 Lockheed Martin Corp.

Bethesda, MD

10 Northrop Grumman Corp.

Los Angeles

11 Caterpillar Inc.

Peoria, IL

12 Eaton Corp.


13 Siemens Corp.

New York

14 Dana Corp.

Toledo, OH

15 American Honda

Motor Corp.

Torrance, CA

16 Raytheon Co.

Waltham, MA

17 Tyco Electronics Corp.

Harrisburg, PA

18 TRW Automotive

Livonia, MI

19 Federal-Mogul Corp.

Southfield, MI

20 Motorola Inc.

Schaumburg, IL

21 Alcoa Inc.

Pittsburgh, PA

22 John Deere & Co.

Moline, IL

23 The Timken Co.

Canton, OH

24 Allison - Cummins Corp.

Mt. Prospect, IL

25 Lear Corp.

Southfield, MI

26 Johnson Controls Inc.


27 Philips Electronics North American Corp.

New York

28 Whirlpool Corp.

Benton Harbor, MI

29 Pratt & Whitney

East Hartford, CT

30 BorgWarner Inc.


31 Hewlett-Packard Co.

Palo Alto, CA

32 Eastman Kodak Co.

Rochester, NY

33 ITT Industries Inc.

White Plains, NY

34 Rockwell Automation Inc.


35 Visteon Corp.

Dearborn, MI

36 Goodrich Corp.

Charlotte, NC

37 Medtronic Inc.


38 Robert Bosch Corp.

Broadview, IL

39 Copeland Corp.

Sidney, OH

40 General Dynamics Corp.

Falls Church, VA

41 Toyota Motor

Sales USA Inc.

Torrance, CA

42 IBM

Armonk, NY

43 Bosch Rexroth Corp.

Hoffman Estates, IL

44 Hamilton Sundstrand

and Corp.

Windsor Locks, CT

45 Ametek Inc.

Paoli, PA

46 Sanmina-SCI Corp.

San Jose, CA

47 Kohler Co.

Kohler, WI

48 Valeo Inc.

Auburn Hills, MI

49 Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd.

Woodcliff Lake, NJ

50 3M Co.

St. Paul, MN

51 Trane

Piscataway, NJ

52 ArvinMeritor

Troy, MI

53 GKN Automotive Inc.

Timberlake, NC

54 Maytag Corp.

Newton, IA

55 Emerson Electric Co.

St. Louis

56 Harley-Davidson


57 BAE Systems

Rockville, MD

58 Textron Inc.

Providence, RI

59 L-3 Communications Holdings Inc.

New York

60 Square D Co.

Palatine, IL

61 Boston Scientific Corp.

Natick, MA

62 Mack Trucks Inc.

Allentown, PA

63 Becton, Dickinson and Co.

Franklin Lakes, NJ

64 Rolls-Royce Corp.


65 International Truck & Engine Corp.

Warrenville, IL

66 Applied Materials Inc.

Santa Clara, CA

67 Tecumseh Products Co.

Tecumseh, MI

68 Nissan North

America Inc.

Gardena, CA

69 Kennametal Inc.

Latrobe, PA

70 Pall Corp.

East Hills, NY

71 ABB Inc.

Norwalk, CT

72 Continental Teves Inc.

Auburn Hills, MI

73 Rexnord Industries Inc.


74 Teledyne

Technologies Inc.

Los Angeles

75 Cessna Aircraft Co.

Wichita, KS

76 Sony Corp. of America

New York

77 Zimmer Holdings Inc.

Warsaw, IN

78 Hayes Lemmerz International Inc.

Northville, MI

79 Howmet Castings


80 Molex Inc.

Lisle, IL

81 Texas Instruments Inc.


82 Abbott Laboratories

Abbott Park, IL

83 Modine Manufacturing Co.

Racine, WI

84 Moog Inc.

East Aurora, IL

85 Xerox Corp.

Stamford, CT

86 AK Steel Holding Corp.

Middletown, OH

87 Mitsubishi International Corp.

New York

88 Tenneco Automotive Inc.

Lake Forest, IL

89 Electrolux Home Products-North America

Augusta, GA

90 Flowserve Corp.

Irving, TX

91 Hutchinson Technology Inc.

Hutchinson, MN

92 Seagate Technology

Scotts Valley, CA

93 Bombardier Inc.


94 CNH


95 Intel Corp.

Santa Clara, CA

96 St. Jude Medical Inc.

St. Paul, MN

97 Agilent Technologies Inc.

Palo Alto, CA

98 Beckman Coulter Inc.

Fullerton, CA

99 Haldex AB

Stockholm, Sweden

100 Osram Sylvania Inc.

Danvers, MA