Baldrige National Quality Award 1995 Recipient
Corning Telecommunications Products Division
In the rapidly growing, global market for optical fiber, the Telecommunications
Products Division of Corning Inc. aspires to be the best in the industry.
TPD already can lay claim to being the first, since Corning's innovations
largely led to the commercialization of optical fiber. Yet, TPD continues
to pioneer technology and processes that set it apart from its competitors.
Believing that customers are the ultimate judges of what is best, the
entire organization is focused on customer satisfaction.
Executive Leadership Team (ELT) has integrated the principles of
Total Quality into TPD's "Plan to Win" in a consolidating and highly
competitive industry. Continually refined and enhanced, the plan
embodies six fundamental components: strategic direction; customer
focus; formalized systems of process management; a culture of continuous
improvement; measurement of progress using the Baldrige criteria;
and foundation values of people, processes, and technology. Rather
than singling out quality as a distinct element of the plan, the
ELT has worked to make quality principles intrinsic to each component
and organic to the whole business.
TPD has comprehensively characterized and documented the more than
800 processes employed in all facets of its business. All are operated
under a formal system of process management and control. The ELT
has designated 50 as "core business processes" meriting special
emphasis in continuous improvement efforts. Each core process is
owned and managed by a key business leader.
and customer satisfaction are improving in step. In 1993, 86 percent of
TPD's direct customers gave it a quality rating of "very good" or "excellent,"
and four in five rated TPD as their best overall supplier. The division's
productivity has doubled over the last seven years, enabling it to be
the world's lowestcost producer of optical fiber. Defects have decreased
substantially-nearly tenfold since 1991-even as production volumes have
With technology developed and patented by its corporate parent,
Corning TPD was formed in 1983 to manufacture hairthin optical fibers
using pulses of light to carry large amounts of information over great
distances. The world's largest opticalfiber manufacturer, TPD serves
three distinct customer groups in more than 30 countries: cable manufacturers,
who incorporate optical fiber into finished products; end users, who employ
the cabled optical fiber to carry information; and jointventure fibermaking
companies in Europe and Asia, who TPD supplies with product and process
Nearly 1,200 of Corning TPD's 1,400 employees work in its sole manufacturing
facility in Wilmington, N.C. The remainder work in its Corning, N.Y.,
Strategy Driven, Customer Focused
From the division's
very beginning, top executives adopted Total Quality Management as TPD's
management process. They recognized that, to compete successfully against
large, vertically integrated manufacturers, a supplier with new, upset
technology would have to deliver superior products. Only through continuous
improvement in all facets of its business could the new division distinguish
its opticalfiber products on the basis of cost and quality.
Headed by the division's general manager, the ELT has developed a strategydriven,
customerfocused system that integrates quality into all parts of the
business. Carefully articulated and broadly communicated, the approach
directly links TPD's vision, mission, strategy, plans, goals, and individual
employee objectives. To drive and track continuous improvement efforts
from this integrated, businessperformance perspective, the division uses
the Baldrige Quality Award criteria to measure its progress.
to Win" describes its approach to conducting business. In carrying
out the plan, the division pursues a fourelement strategy: satisfying
customers, competing effectively in selected markets, building affordable
production capacity, and reducing manufacturing costs. To ensure
that TPD can ably execute these and other elements of the plan,
the ELT continually invests in the organization's three "values":
people, processes, and technology.
Customer satisfaction is foremost among TPD's key strategic initiatives.
Both motivated and guided by feedback received from Baldrige Quality
Award examiners in 1989, the company has developed an integrated
approach to interacting with existing and prospective customers.
TPD's Customer Response System provides the structure for gathering
customer inputs, establishing priorities, and initiating action
plans to increase levels of customer satisfaction. Input is collected
in a variety of ways-surveys, "report cards," competitive comparisons,
focus groups, and other means of assessing customer satisfaction
and perceptions of quality. This information is organized in a customer
database that is accessible to all employees. The system provides
the means to distill key customer requirements into continuous improvement
action plans with measurable critical success indicators.
the informationdriven, computerintegrated manufacturing system linking
the many exacting steps that ultimately yield TPD's highprecision products,
most formal processes employed by the division are designed to be closedloop
systems. The division's strategic planning process, for example, begins
with organizational initiatives and values, which are subsequently aligned
with short and longterm action plans, workgroup and unit goals, and
the individual performance objectives of all employees. Using surveys
and a variety of other feedback mechanisms, TPD measures how well salaried
and hourly employees understand the connection between their personal
work objectives and the division's key strategic initiatives. Through
GoalSharing bonuses, employee compensation is tied to continuous improvement,
as measured by TPD's five "key results indicators"-customer returns, delivery
performance, unit costs, sales, and division profits.
Individual employee contributions to
achieving business objectives are usually made in the context of teams.
Improvements are initiated, carried out, and evaluated by crossfunctional
teams that are composed of employees from all organizational levels. In
fact, teamwork and interunit cooperation have become standard ways of
doing business, resulting in improved information sharing, more rapid
decision making, and other operational benefits that foster continuous
improvement. At TPD's Wilmington manufacturing plant, for example, operations
teams are organized into "communities" of production, engineering, and
information services employees. Together, these selfcontained teams have
full decisionmaking authority over their process areas.
TPD also has integrated its suppliers into its continuous improvement
efforts. For example, all "Level 1" suppliers, who provide the division's
most essential inputs, participate in TPD's Supplier Total Value process
and serve on inputspecific teams that establish quality requirements
and monitor performance.
TPD's effectiveness in fully integrating Total Quality into its Plan to
Win is tested constantly. Yet over its 12year existence, TPD reports,
it has not lost a single customer. Satisfaction levels among end users-the
owners of the communications systems that depend most on the reliability
and performance of TPD's products-indicate that plan and its execution
are on the mark. In 1994, 98 percent rated the quality of TPD products
as "very good" or "excellent," and 99 percent of enduser customers viewed
TPD as the industry and technology leader.
Significantly above worldclass benchmarks, such ratings stem from many
improvements made on many levels. For example, the rate at which products
are returned as unsatisfactory has been reduced by a factor of 24 over
the last 10 years, while performance in meeting customer shipping requirements
has improved tenfold. In turn, the division has strengthened process capability
and performance. Last year, TPD reduced manufacturing cycle time by 20
percent, translating into lower costs and more responsive service for
customers. And, over the last seven years, TPD has achieved a sixfold
reduction in hazardous waste levels. Through these and a succession of
other improvements that are increasing organizational effectiveness and
performance, TPD has succeeded in increasing sales, market share, and
profitability, even though the price of optical fiber has dropped by nearly
50 percent since 1987.
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Last updated: 11/29/2011