There is no one right way to achieve high quality. In fact, there could be 100 different ways to achieve it. To that end, our Quality Leadership 100 survey recognizes dozens of top-performing plants for their dedication to quality.

When I talked to the top five companies, it was clear that certifications and standards were important to them. In fact, several of them were preparing for audits scheduled for later in the week. This year’s top company was TRW Automotive, followed by Gooch and Housego Ohio, Cartel Industries, LDB Plastics, and Tecnova Electronics.

Four of the top five were in the Midwest—in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio—and another in California. But no matter the location, the companies’ products traveled the world, and so did their staff. One TRW executive had visited more than 100 of the company’s plants worldwide.

Our analysis varies slightly from year to year, and this year companies were evaluated on criteria such as continuous improvement and internal quality programs; contribution of quality to profitability and shareholder value; average number of hours of quality training; scrap and rework as a percentage of sales; warranty costs; and registration to standards such as ISO 9001.

The BNP Media Market Research Department conducted this year’s Quality Leadership 100 Study from September 11 to October 9, 2013. All domestic, qualified Qualitysubscribers were invited to complete a digital version of the survey. In addition, up to three employees at companies listed in the 2012 Quality Leadership 100 with a valid address were sent paper versions of the survey. At the close of the study, a total of 373 responses were received and analyzed. Here’s a look at this year’s top companies.

TRW Automotive
Livonia, MI

If you’ve driven safely on a snowy road lately, you might have TRW to thank. TRW supplies automotive safety systems for braking; steering and suspension; and occupant safety, including airbags, seat belts and steering wheels. And as you might expect from a safety-based company, TRW focuses on quality. And they do so in a very visual way. I had chance to tour their Fowlerville, MI, facility several times over the past few years to see the plant in action. Since my last visit a few years ago, they had made some changes in terms of quality, such as adopting an 11-color system on the shop floor. (Yellow stands for mistake-proofing, for example.) This allows TRW staff to walk a shop floor in Michigan or Malaysia and understand the process.

Continuous improvement is also visible in the production control room, which features boards tracking safety, quality and order status for many different projects. It showed both red and green signs for projects that needed work and those that were on track. This Christmas-looking display showed that the company was always tracking ways to improve.

“The whole system depends on people bringing up problems,” says Bryce Currie, global vice president of quality, business excellence and program management. If a board was all green, it might raise some questions, he said. The plants also share information and if one plant does something worth adopting, the other plants consider implementing these changes as well. And there are plenty of places to learn: TRW has more than 65,000 employees in more than 185 locations worldwide.

Gooch and Housego Ohio
Highland Heights, OH

Gooch & Housego manufactures precision photonic components and sub-systems. Formed from leading established companies in these complementary technologies, Gooch & Housego supplies critical components to optical and laser system manufacturers. The company works with companies in the aerospace and defense industries, life sciences and biomedical, as well as industrial research. The company was founded in 1948 by Archie Gooch and Leslie Housego. Today there are eight manufacturing sites, two in the United Kingdom and six in the United States.

It seems that this growth can be partly attributed to the attention to quality. CEO Gareth Jones explains the policy in the quality manual, explaining that it should be the top priority. “The high standing of Gooch & Housego amongst customers and competitors is largely derived from the quality of our products,” Jones states. “We become complacent about quality at our peril.

“I expect everyone to contribute to maintaining and improving quality—our success depends on it.”

Cartel Industries LLC 
Irvine, CA

Cartel Industries has been manufacturing precision sheet metal products since 1971. When I spoke with Kirby D. Unfried, quality manager/planner at Cartel Industries LLC, at the end of last year, he said that things have been going well for the company. “We’ve had a really good year this year,” Unfried says. “Sales have been up 50%.”

In addition to this jump in sales, this past year was notable in terms of new technology. The company upgraded to new equipment, and implemented new business process software. Cartel Industries offers precision sheet metal fabrication, laser cutting, and robotic welding, and works with industries from aerospace and automotive to medical and military. But no matter what the industry, the staff focuses on sending out quality work.

“We do quality work for a decent price,” says Unfried. “We pride ourselves on our quality, and the product that the customer is going to get. We make sure that we do good work, make sure quality is designed and built in—not inspected in.”

LDB Plastics Inc.
Shelby Twp, MI

When I spoke with LDB Plastics, they were in the process of becoming certified to TS16949. The company manufactures plastic injection molded products for both automotive and non-automotive customers.

Being small hasn’t stopped them from competing in a global economy. Though the company has less than a dozen employees, LDB Plastics has an international reach. Lately they have been shipping more to Mexico, but they also ship to Brazil, Thailand, Germany and the United States.

Quality Manager Cliff Adkins says attention to quality has helped them compete. “From the ownership all the way down to the operators on the floor, quality is number one, and following the procedures is number two. If you see that the process is flawed then it is affecting the quality.”

By creating such quality products from the start, the company has done well with its customers; they couldn’t recall a customer concern in the past seven years.

The company also has several new programs under development, and has been working on prototyping for the Volt and the Jeep Cherokee. But they also have other plans for the future.

“This year, we’re number four,” said Bill Duncan, vice president and COO, “but next year we want to be number one.”

Tecnova Electronics (formerly known as Logical Products Inc.)
Waukegan, IL

Tecnova Electronics is growing. The contract manufacturer specializes in PCB, electro-mechanical, mechanical, and control panel assemblies, and business is going well.

As Quality Manager Scott Martin points out, “Six years ago we were one third our size.” When he started, the company was only 35 people, while today they have about 100 and expect that this number could jump to 120 within the next few months.

In addition to bringing on new staff, the company has invested in a lot of new equipment in the past 18 months in order to provide staff with new technology.

The emphasis is all part of the company’s goal of high quality products. “It never just ships,” says Terence Coleman Jr., director of business development. “We’re not that company that pushes something out the door.”

 “You can’t inspect quality in,” Coleman says. “You can double-check it, but you have to build it right.”

 And the organization, with more than 20 engineers on staff, is able to promote quality by getting to the root cause of a problem, correcting it, and making sure it doesn’t come back.  

Company Location Website
TRW Automotive Livonia, MI
Gooch & Housego Highland Heights, OH
Cartel Industries LLC Irvine, CA
LDB Plastics Inc. Shelby Twp, MI
Tecnova Electronics Waukegan, IL
Chart Industries, Inc. Canton, GA
Siemens Energy Houston, TX
PTR Tool & Plastics, LLC Meadville, PA
Jankel Duncan, SC
Kato Cable LLC Mankato, MN
Leggett & Platt, Inc Carthage, MO
Lovejoy, Inc Downers Grove, IL
Bisco Industries
Modern Industries Erie, PA
KSM Electronics, Inc Warrenville, IL
Delta Airlines Atlanta, GA
Fitzpatrick Mfg. Co Sterling Heights, MI
PATS Aircraft, LLC Georgetown, DE
Piper Plastics, Inc Libertyville, IL
PVI Industries, LLC Fort Worth, TX
Harbor Steel & Supply Co. Muskegon, MI
APPH Wichita, Inc Wichita, KS
Greenfield Industries, Inc Seneca, SC
Precision Automation Co., Inc Cherry Hill, NJ
RGB Spectrum Alameda, CA
Specialty Manufacturing Murfreesboro, TN
Gardner Denver Nash, LLC Trumbull, CT
Lee's Grinding, Inc Strongsville, OH
Seepex, Inc Dayton, OH
IEC Electronics Corp Albuquerque, NM
TC Industries, Inc Crystal Lake, IL
Eaton Sumter, SC
HMAC USA, LLC Effingham, IL
Leigh Fibers, Inc Wellford, SC
Maury Microwave Ontario, CA
Superior Energy Services Houston, TX
Transcat Aurora, IL
Barnes Aerospace Windsor, CT
LORD Corp. Perkasie, PA
Biotix San Diego, CA
Metem Corporation Parsippany, NJ
Wetsco, Inc Tulsa, OK
ResMed San Diego, CA
Top Tool Company Blaine, MN
ABB, Inc New Berlin, WI
ITW Glenview, IL
DME Company, LLC Madison Heights, MI
Chemring Energetic Devices Downers Grove, IL
GSI Technologies, LLC Burr Ridge, IL
Sauer Danfoss Ames, IA
North American Stamping Group Pulaski, TN
McQuay International Minneapolis, MN
OHL, Inc Brentwood, TN
Plexus Corporation Neenah, WI
Kongsberg Automotive Grand River, OH
Waupaca Foundry Waupaca, WI
Dayton Progress Corp. Dayton, OH
Measurement Specialties Hampton, VA
Astronautics Corp. of America Milwaukee, WI
Morrison Products, Inc Cleveland, OH
Inteva Products Vandalia, OH
Cambro Mfg Company Industry, CA
Pentair Water Brookfield, WI
Deringer-Ney, Inc Marshall, NC
Tella Tool & Mfg Lombard, IL
Linamar Livonia, MI
Komar Screw Corp. Niles, IL
Western Condolidated Technologies Fremont, IN
Exelis, Inc Chesapeake, VA
PW Stoelting, LLC Kiel, WI www.stoeling
Thule Group Seymour, CT
JEM Technical Orono, MN
Northrop Grumman St. Augustine, FL
Honeywell International Minneapolis, MN
Baxter Healthcare Daytona Beach, FL
Mondi Jackson Jackson, MO
Westinghouse Pittsburgh, PA
Markel Corporation Plymouth Meeting, PA
Wireless Technology, Inc Ventura, CA
Universal Electronics, Inc Santa Ana, CA
L-3 Communications Security & Detection Systems Orlando, FL
Tecton Products, LLC Salem, VA
MTS Eden Prairie, MN
Gabriel Ride Control Chickasha, OK
Myers Spring Co., Inc Logansport, IN
AAM Detroit, MI
Energy Hardware Greer, SC
Standard Iron Alexandria, MN
Chrysler Auburn Hills, MI
Weasler Engineering, Inc West Bend, WI
Cannon Gasket, Inc Fontana, CA
Goex Corporation Janesville, WI
Parker Hannifin ECD Cleveland, OH
Brazonics BE Aerospace Hampton, NH
Salisbury by Honeywell North Charleston, SC
Kennametal Stellite, LP Goshen, IN
Bombardier Tucson, AZ
Cygnus, Inc Ponderay, ID
Filmtronics, Inc Butler, PA
Techmetals, Inc Dayton, OH