AT&T unit wins top business prize (Deming Award)
(Dallas Morning News 10/19/1994)
For about an hour Tuesday morning, a plant in Mesquite led a
Torrential rain abated long enough for almost 2,000 employees
of AT&T Power Systems to crowd onto a loading area and watch
the boss dance with the president of the union.
Every work station inside the massive plant was empty. Every
phone went unanswered as employees celebrated their plant's
becoming the first U.S. manufacturer ever to win Japan's
prestigious Deming Prize for quality.
"We made history today--all of us," said Andrew Guarriello,
chief operating officer of AT&T Power Systems, addressing the
sea of workers clad in blue company T-shirts. "look around
and congratulate your team members. Savor the moment, because
Thirty miles to the west, another company had cause for
jubilation. GTE Directories in Irving, a maker of telephone
directories, was among three recipients of the 1994 Malcolm
Baldrige National Quality Award, created in 1987 to honor
U.S. companies. A total of 71 companies applied for the
Baldrige this years.
AT&T Power Systems was recognized for production changes that
have improved product dependability and increased employee
productivity and involvement.
The Deming Prize, named for quality pioneer W. Edwards Deming,
is awarded by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers
in Tokyo and is considered the international Nobel of quality
Mr. Deming, who died last year, once worked for an AT&T unit
that made telephone transmitters.
Past Deming recipients include the powerhouses of Japanese
manufacturing--names such NEC, Nissan, Matsushita and Toyota.
Only Florida Power & Light Co., which won in 1989, has been
honored for U.S. operations. Texas Instruments Inc. earned
the honor in 1985 for its subsidiary in Hiji, Japan.
Because of the 12-hour time difference with Tokyo, Mr. Guarriello
received a pre-dawn phone call Tuesday to confirm that the
Mesquite operation had succeeded in what no other U.S. manu-
facturer has been able to pull off in the award's 33-year
He kept his secret until 7:30 a.m., when team leaders were
called to the company cafeteria and given the news. The
outdoor celebration came two hours later, when the storms
Winning the Deming caps a four-year highly regimented process
by the Mesquite plant, which makes 3,000 devices that convert
electrical current into useable energy for electronic equipment.
Its largest product, reserve-energy storage units for telephone
systems, would fill a two-bedroom apartment.
"It means my people have gotten the recognition they deserve,"
Mr. Guarriello said.
Behind his desk are photographs of four Deming judges who
administered the scientists' final quality exam to AT&T Power
in August--a not-so-subtle reminder for the 57 year-old
executive to keep focused and to "sharpen my impatience."
The award also signifies a major comeback for a manufacturing
facility that only five years ago was unprofitable and in disarray.
Employees feared that they'd be the next victims of America's
inability to compete.
"I'm tickled to death," said Mike Johnson, 39, a manufacturing
manager who remembers the late '80s when plant jobs--including
his--were in jeopardy. The Mesquite operation decided to take
on the rigorous Deming process in 1990.
"In the beginning, I don't think the people saw how the quality
effort would create job security," Mr. Johnson said. "They do
In the past four years, the plant's layout and flow of products
have been completely redesigned; self-directed teams have been
put into place; and morale has been buoyed.
Workers feel more confident because the company has six times as
many customers as in 1990 and has streamlined production to give
customers their product sooner.
Mr. Johnson, who supervises 71 workers, said the biggest change
has been in the way the company encourages ideas from employees
on the line. AT&T Power has received about 7,000 employee sug-
gestions this year, compared with 50 in 1990.
"Managers were more or less giving direction. We weren't tasking
for solutions," Mr. Johnson said. "People now believe they have
the right to offer solutions to management...I'll take any gripe
if you'll give me a solution---even if it's about me.
Chuck Strawn, who has been on a company line for 24 years, has
lived though rough times and layoffs, including a six-month period
when he was out of work. At first he thought the quality program
was "just another management dog-and-pony show." Now he's a
convert: "It works."
Mr. Strawn and his colleagues clearly enjoyed the festivities,
which featured a declaration by Mesquite Mayor Cathye Ray that
Tuesday was AT&T Power Systems Day in the city---probably the
least she could do for Mesquite's largest employer, with 2,400
workers on two shifts.
They hooted, clapped and waved American flags at every appropriate
moment---when two 60-foot self-congratulatory signs were unfolded
from the roof and when the Poteet High School Band began to play.
Confident yet uncertain, Mr. Guarriello had decided last week to
have an outdoor party no matter what the verdict. He got cooperation
from the contest judges and from above.
On this day, however, it would take more than weather to dampen the
"We won this together," one employee said cheerily as she studied
the returning dark clouds. "We can afford to get wet together."
AT&T/Deming watch given to plant employees.