March is always one of my favorite issues because we announce theQualityPlant of the Year. This annual award recognizes a plant that has applied world-class quality technology, equipment, services and techniques that result in reduced scrap, rework, warranty or manufacturing costs, improved productivity or cycle time, increased capacity or improved adherence to quality standards.

You probably already noticed from the cover that this year’s winner is Daimler Truck North America’s Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant, which builds five different Freightliner models.

After a few weather- and security-related delays, I finally made my way to Cleveland, NC, to visit the plant. I was greeted by Plant Manager Mike McCurry and Quality Manager Chris Harris, along with the rest of the management team.

When it comes to the plant of the year, the one thing that resonates with me year after year is how engaged all of the employees are. This year’s winner is no exception.

From the beginning, it was clear that this is a team that is extremely proud of the work that it does. The management team was quick to acknowledge that each of its members, from the production workers to the United Auto Workers (UAW) representative, as well as the management team, has an integral role in making the plant the best that it can be and in winning the Quality Plant of the Year award.

Everyone at the plant recognizes that they’re all in it together. When you’re delivering 60 trucks every day-potentially 60 different trucks-you have to be in it together to keep quality levels high.

When customers visit the plant, the production workers aren’t afraid to ask, “How can we do it better?” Because of this enthusiasm, McCurry has said that the line employees can sell a truck just as easily as the sales team can.

It doesn’t stop there. Last year the nearly 1,000 production employees submitted a staggering 12,000 ideas for improvement. Of those, approximately 85% were put into practice, most by the way of self-implementation.

Like many companies, the plant was hit with layoffs due to the economy. Still, through the United Way, the employees made record donations this past holiday season. They realized that they were helping their own to have a better holiday. The employees echo the sentiment that Freightliner is the largest family business that’s not really a family business.

Isn’t that the type of atmosphere you want to foster? An atmosphere where the enthusiasm is infectious and where the entire team asks, “How can I do it better?” An atmosphere where employees treat a company as their own family business? How are you empowering your employees? Share your thoughts with me at[email protected] , or with other members of the Quality community at theQuality Magazine LinkedIn Group page , theQuality Facebook page and onTwitter .