Even in a normal year, achieving high levels of quality is no small feat; it's a daily challenge that requires buy-in from everyone. This year, as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on supply chains, worker safety and consumer demand, maintaining high levels of quality became a nearly superhuman feat.
Hats off to this year's Quality Leadership 2021 participants, who have done great and important work. Read on for insight into how our top five companies have maintained dedication, persistence, and continuous improvement in the face of unforeseen struggles.
For context, the Quality Leadership 2021 is a ranking based on a survey conducted by BNP Media. In an effort to showcase quality leadership, this annual survey for Quality considers factors such as: continuous improvement and internal quality programs; contribution of quality to profitability and shareholder value; average number of hours that employees receive quality training; scrap and rework as a percentage of sales; warranty costs as a percentage of sales; and registration to various standards such as ISO 9001.
Thank you to all those who participated! If you’d like to be recognized in 2022, please keep an eye out for the survey this fall.
1. Kelco Industries, Fremont, IN
Kelco earns this year’s top honor for its commitment to strict quality standards and continuous improvement. The company regularly performs internal audits and Kaizen events, and ensures a safe working environment through regularly scheduled safety audits.
The industrial equipment component manufacturer produces solenoids, control grips, switches, relays, coils, injected- and insert-molded products, PTFE and lathe cut rubber, bellows, expansion joints, and flexible connectors, and is dedicated to continuously improving its processes.
“We never rest on our laurels but always strive to find new and better ways to deliver what our customers need,” the company says. To achieve this, the company emphasizes the importance of Lean manufacturing, reducing waste while using innovative tools and techniques to maximize productivity.
Kelco Industries, which maintains the strictest control systems to ensure its products comply with international and U.S. regulations, prides itself on maintaining strict quality standards. The company’s Six Sigma Initiatives continuously improve its current processes and products and help it make new and better versions.
“These new products move through our comprehensive Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) to ensure they uphold our reputation of engineering excellence and manufacturing quality,” Kelco says.
2. 3D Engineering Solutions
3D Engineering Solutions has been in business for 16 years and serves more than 3,000 customers throughout the globe in aerospace, defense, medical and industrial fields. The company provides 24/7 support, a feat that’s only possible due to the company’s dedication to quality.
3D Engineering Solutions received top honors in this year’s Leadership 2021 ranking. Rob Glassburn, VP of Operations, explains how the company maintains its consistently high quality.
In fact, that commitment has earned 3D Solutions this year’s No.2 spot. Each year, 3D Solutions earns an ISO-17025 accreditation and invests in its people, ensuring its engineers are up to speed on every touch-less data collection process in its lab.
“With the emergence of higher reliability and traceability requirements, an ISO/IEC 17025 certified, third-party inspection service is essential in assuring and documenting gauge certification to today’s industry standards,” the company says.
This accreditation enables the company to perform fully dimensioned gage inspections at its customers’ sites, and to create certifiable reports that boost documentation and audit capabilities.
The company also annually tests them on GD&T, 3D CAD, Siemens NX, SolidWorks and Creo PTC.
That level of training has paid off. Even with supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19, “Our engineers supported all of our customers’ essential projects without missing a deadline,” says J.R. Hassett, vice president of sales and marketing.
3. Electromed Inc., New Prague, MN
Quality Engineer Chuck Britz traces Electromed’s quality leadership back to its core values: A passion for serving patients. Electromed develops, manufactures, and markets airway clearance devices that help people breathe better.
“As you talk to employees throughout the organization you will hear a recurring theme: It feels good knowing what you do makes a difference in a person’s life,” says Britz.
That employee engagement drives continuous improvement, which is why Electromed has become a regular on this list.
“It’s the company’s responsibility to provide the quality system, tools, and processes to meet regulatory and quality requirements,” Britz says. “It’s the employees that are key to success and delivering on quality.”
Electromed delivered even with enormous disruption from COVID-19, working overtime to keep staff safe. Some employees worked from home while plant operators worked at strategic distances from one another and used sanitizers and masks. The company also cross-trained staff on key quality roles to ensure coverage in the event of an exposure or quarantine period. It reached out to its suppliers to mitigate any supply chain concerns and jumped through hoops to ensure its products made it to patients.
“I’m happy to say we have avoided any major disruptions to our operations and believe we are well-prepared to continue to meet the needs of patients going forward,” Britz says.
4. Tecnova Electronics, Waukegan, IL
Tecnova is no stranger to the Quality 100 list, having popped up as a finalist for years. The electronic contract manufacturer is dedicated to instilling quality principles in its personnel at all levels.
President Terence Coleman Jr. says the recognition is “a direct reflection of the work we do every day,” and that its team is “always striving to achieve quality throughout its processes by requesting feedback and monitoring for updates to processes.”
Since its inception in 1987, Tecnova has specialized in the manufacturing of complex printed circuit boards and electro-mechanical assemblies, all produced in the United States.
“This year’s challenges made it difficult to keep quality at the forefront for many,” says Quality Manager Scott Martin, but Tecnova delivered quality products by upholding a safe in-person work environment and encouraging remote work when possible.
“Another major challenge for Tecnova in 2020 was the disruption of the supply chain to ensure demands by customers were still met,” says Martin. He credits the company’s supply chain leadership for its work in monitoring and feedback.
“The Quality Leadership award is an acknowledgement of our work to address the unique challenges presented by COVID-19 and our constant focus on quality,” Coleman says. “I attribute our success to the collaboration and commitment from our team members and the flexibility of our customers in overcoming the challenges this past year.”
5. Wescon Controls, Wichita, KS
Although Wescon Controls, a supplier of mission critical controls and non-automotive controls, has been challenged to respond to the adversity thrust at them by COVID-19 —such as unbalanced and erratic workload — it still leads by example, says Robert E Graham III, director of quality.
How so? The Wescon Controls Quality Assurance function is divided into several workstations situated within manufacturing work cells, each equipped with the specific inspection equipment necessary to validate the products produced. Cable control extensions are gaged at 100 percent, and all vehicle brake cables are 100 percent proof loaded.
Wescon Controls uses statistical process control (SPC) charts to ensure consistent control extensions through the production run. Its incoming Inspection department not only validates purchased components, but also provides support to its screw-machine and punch-and-shear departments.
Gage calibration is provided by an independent, A2LA -accredited laboratory that calibrates the company’s gages (the majority are calibrated on-site). Any required testing which exceeds Wescon’s capabilities is performed by a local independent test laboratory, which is Nadcap and ISO/IEC 17025 certified.
Like many others, Wescon has also struggled to attract and retain enough skilled talent, but still manages to adhere to its ISO 9001-2015 certification. Its commitment to quality has made it a familiar name on our annual list.
The company has been ISO 9001 certified since 2003 and when required, Wescon Controls can provide production part approval processes in compliance with current Automotive Industry Action Group requirements and provide inspection reports meeting the Aerospace First Article Inspection requirements in accordance with AS9102. What’s more, the company offers quality management training to employees across its Wichita and Juarez facilities, ensuring they’re well-versed in SPC, blueprint reading, gage handling and measurement techniques.