As I’m writing this, it’s a cold and sleety Friday in New York. Luckily, I’ll be heading to California for a trade show on Monday (Los Angeles forecast: 60 degrees and sunny), and though business travel doesn’t usually lend itself to exploring the outdoors, it is still nice to escape from winter weather. 
While weather might not be a good reason to visit Minneapolis in January, I recently went to Minnesota to visit Top Tool Co., our 2013 Quality Plant of the Year. And though this award was not created to allow editors the chance to witness various weather patterns, working on this project has been fun. So far, our Plant of the Year award has led me to Minnesota, Oklahoma, Michigan and Florida. 
The fun starts when I get to call someone with good news. When I spoke with Joe Lendway, quality assurance manager at Top Tool, he was surprised and excited by the news. As a quality manager—even one at a successful company—all too often phone calls can contain bad news. How often do you call a company to tell the staff you are thrilled with them? Probably short of someone landing my plane safely—and miraculously—in the Hudson, I would never contact the airline to compliment the pilot. I just assume everything on the plane will work smoothly, even though during one of my last flights, the pilot announced he was just going to turn off a malfunctioning system, “just like when you press Control-Alt-Delete on your computer.” Considering a laptop is not meant to fly, that was not the most reassuring moment.
My point is that Joe and the rest of the Top Tool staff deserve some praise. Though you may not have heard of them, it doesn’t mean you haven’t used their products. In fact, with so much of their work in the medical field, some of their products could save your life. Perhaps this is why, as with so many companies I’ve met for this award—Ford, Lockheed Martin, MBX Systems, Pelco Products—the employees show an intense interest in workplace improvements. And while this interest could have just been because the employees were in the presence of an editor with a notebook, I doubt that was the case. Rather, the workers genuinely want to improve. 
As the plant manager at a winning Ford site once told me, they know that if they don’t strive to get better, their competition will. None of these companies have stopped trying to get better. And especially with such important products—consider the quality in a pacemaker—it’s good to see this kind of dedication. 
Kudos to Top Tool. And for the rest of you quality managers out there, don’t worry, you can always apply next year. Not to sway the entries, but I’ve never been to New Mexico, Louisiana or Maine, and I would like a reason to return to Alaska and Hawaii. Just saying.