The Winter Olympics are center stage as of this writing, and award season is in full swing-the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys to name a few. Why do we park ourselves in front of the television set, spending time on the pomp and circumstance of such events, rooting for celebrities and athletes most of us will likely never meet and who have no real effect on our everyday lives? For some, it may be in response to the thought that, “If only my parents had steered me in the right direction at a young age, it could be me on stage giving the acceptance speech or wearing an Olympic medal.” More than likely though, most of us watch the Olympics, sports or award shows for a sense of escape. We get a few hours away from the realities of everyday life.

TheQualityPlant of the Year Award is different in that it recognizes a company for the work that it does day in and day out-plants that have applied world-class quality technology, equipment, services and techniques that result in reducing scrap, rework, warranty or manufacturing costs; improve productivity or cycle time; increase capacity or improve adherence to quality standards.

This year’s winner, Pelco Products Inc. (Edmond, OK), began producing traffic signal hardware in January 1985. Essentially, Pelco manufactures everything you see at an intersection except for the traffic light itself and the controller in the cabinet. Their product line has since broadened to include utility items, ornamental lighting, benches and trash receptacles.

While Pelco may be taking home top honors, it really is the employees that are the stars of the hour. In its focus on quality, employees are essential in improving the company. Operators are crucial to the plant’s success: “It is all about the operators here at Pelco,” says Operations Manager Mark Nash, and management tells employees it is okay to say what they think. As a result, team leaders, and even operators, will offer improvements as well as ask what the company’s goals are for growth.

The one constant sinceQuality began awarding theQuality Plant of the Year in 2005 is how the winners focus on employees, and their willingness to be empowered and take ownership, as the reason for their excellence in quality. No matter the product manufactured or the size of the company, it is the people that make the difference, our winners have told us. 

Pelco founder Phil Parduhn says his father often told him, “Business goes where it’s invited and stays where it’s appreciated.” The same can be said for empowered employees.

Check out the entire article by Special Projects Editor Michelle Bangert; visit for an exclusive slide show; and for an exclusive interview with the 2010Quality Plant of the Year winner, visit to listen to the Q-Cast Podcast.