In 2010, Nestlé Purina PetCare was one of
seven organizations that earned the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Named after a US Department of Commerce secretary who served
under President Ronald Reagan, the award is given annually to organizations
that prove they meet stringent criteria for excellence and continuous improvement
in seven areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement,
analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus, process management and
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of
the Commerce Department, administers the Baldrige program and issues the annual
awards to organizations in categories that include manufacturing, service,
small business, healthcare, education and nonprofit.
Applying for the award is by itself quite a rigorous
process, starting with a 50-page application. The judges—called examiners, all
of whom are volunteers—undergo hours of training. The judging process even
includes an on-site visit (for each applicant that makes it that far) so the
examiners can verify the organization “walks the talk” of its application.
The entire point of the program—and some organizations use
it without even submitting an award application—is to continuously improve and
deliver better results to the organization's stakeholders: owners, investors,
customers, employees and relevant communities. Many states have similar award
programs that often feed into the national program.
Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. won the award in the manufacturing category. The Baldrige examiners
specifically cited the company for its revenue and market share financial
results, brand awareness, strategic planning process, employee programs and
community service. Highlights include:
In an early February 2011 interview with Petfood Industry, Terry Block, president
of Nestlé Purina PetCare North America, talked about the company’s Baldrige application
Petfood Industry (PI): What prompted Nestlé Purina PetCare to pursue applying for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award? Can
you please explain the reasons and briefly describe your company’s journey
toward earning the award?
Terry Block (TB): Actually,
we didn’t set out to earn the award. We applied for the Malcolm Baldrige Award
because I was made aware that, for a reasonable fee, and if you were willing to
really do the work to fill out the form, which is rather intense, you
would be able to get great feedback on your business practices. Once you
document your business practices and results, you're able to receive objective and professional feedback from the Baldrige
examiners through your application. We felt such feedback would enable us to benchmark ourselves
against other high-performing companies. And it’s
that feedback about how we would improve our business practices that most interested us.
PI: So this was the
first time you’d ever applied?
TB: Yes. It’s the
first time we applied, and again, we did it because we were interested in
learning how we could improve our business practices. The examiners are a very professional
group who provide a detailed assessment of your submission for further action.
PI: Yes, I have a
fair amount of familiarity with the Baldrige process from a previous job, so I
know it’s quite a rigorous process, and many companies use it just as a part of
their continuous improvement efforts and don’t even come close to receiving an
award. The fact that you earned the award the first time you applied is quite an
TB: Right.We set out because we wanted the
continuous improvement effort. And obviously, it moved beyond that. We had the
site visit from about eight to 10 examiners here for a complete week of
one-on-one interviews. They visited our plants as part of a final process. Then
we got a call the week of Thanksgiving that we were one of the recipients, which is quite rewarding to all of our associates.
PI: What did you
learn in particular? Were there any surprises in what you learned?
TB: Well, I would
say we were really more interested in the journey over the last 15 to 17 years
of working on our business practices, trying to benchmark ourselves against
what we perceived as other high-performing companies and just striving to get
better. And what I realized through it is that it really is a journey, as
opposed to one big effort to receive a Baldrige. I think it’s probably best to build a continuous improvement mindset into the DNA of the company, as opposed to having a bunch of experts
on Baldrige correcting what you need to do to earn an award. And we believe it's this mindset that's going to allow
us to always compete in an effective manner and outperform.
PI: Can you give any
specific examples in how that’s shown in the results for your company?
TB: We’re very
pleased with the results we’ve had over the past decade, and our market share
has been improving. We improved every one of our segments for the past several years.
PI: It sounds like
you’ve been on this journey for a long time, so most of the feedback probably
is just helping you improve even more, but I was just wondering if there was
something that leaped out at you that you hadn’t considered before, any
TB: No! The
surprise is that we received the award. Certainly we were very pleased, but I
would say there were no real surprises. Given we’d been on this journey for 17 years, we thought we had designed very good
practices and capabilities across the board and certainly across the
measurements that Baldrige measures. We benchmarked these against other companies that may have received the Baldrige Award as we worked to build a continuous improvement mindset into the fabric of the company.
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