Quality Drives Trident's Success

By Laabs, Jennifer J. | Workforce, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Quality Drives Trident's Success


Laabs, Jennifer J., Workforce


The WORKFORCE

Magazine

Optimas Award

for FINANCIAL

Impact

recognizes HR's

responsibility to

the bottom line.

Winners have

designed a

program or

exacted a

change resulting

In financial

improvement

or Increased

revenue.

n 1987, Trident Precision Manufacturing Inc. in Webster, New York, was a good, profitable little operation that was humming along quite well at about $5 million in revenue a year. Trident had started as a three-person operation back in 1979, and by the late '80s, Trident had become a fast-growing, precision sheet-metal fabricator and electromechanical assembly business, with such big-name clients as Xerox, Kodak and IBM.

On the surface, Trident's customers were happy with its products, which ranged from simple brackets to machines that sort X-rays. Business was in the black.

But below the surface, problems were firing up. Turnover was clocked at a staggering 41 percent with many workers quitting within only a few months of starting their jobs. And because the firm had no particular quality process, products often got to the end of the assembly line with major defects and had to be completely redone. The company's informal motto was: "We make it nice because we make it twice."

Even so, products were getting made, customers were buying them and the company was profitable. But seeing operations from the inside, the company's owner, president and CEO, Nicholas "Nick" Juskiw, knew there must be a better way to do business. So he set out to find a solution and eventually headed his company down a path of total quality management (TQM). Trident senior managers decided to focus on workers, not products, yet the products improved. It turned out to be a visionary HR move and also a formula for financial success.

Ten years later, the company has more than quadrupled its annual revenue to more than $19 million, lowered its product defects from 3 percent in 1988 to virtually defect-free in 1997 (99.993 percent) and celebrates its revenue per employee at 73 percent. (The company didn't measure revenue per employee before 1988.) And two years ago, Trident won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This year, it wins a WORKFORCE Magazine Optimas Award in the Financial Impact category.

The key to Trident's success story is that the company didn't just embark on a run-of-themill TQM process. The privately held firm proactively focused on improving its human resources practices in a TQM environment that translated directly into customer satisfaction. The journey started with a clear vision.

Visioning quality. In 1988, Juskiw attended a presentation on quality management at Stamford, Connecticut-based Xerox Corp. called "Leadership Through Quality." Juskiw came back to Trident with a new management vision-TQM. He pulled his senior team aside for nearly three days to discuss whether managers thought it was a good direction for Trident. They did. But they realized a big part of their problem was that they needed to value workers. So, the senior management team of 10 people (now 17) spent 14 months developing an entirely new management strategy to revamp company operations, which included everything from overhauling their training initiatives to changing the company culture to be more people-oriented. They called the new plan Excellence in Motion, and the strategy has guided their actions ever since. The plan focuses on five key business drivers: supplier partnerships, operational performance, customer satisfaction, shareholder value and, last but not least, employee satisfaction.

Interestingly, April V. Lusk, the company's total quality administrator in the HR department, explains that at Trident, she's responsible for "Big Q"-the quality of the people and the environment. Lusk's associate, Joe Conchelos, vice president of quality administration, is responsible for "Little Q. …

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