A Small High Tech Company Makes A Huge Leap In Quality

For quality-minded manufacturers, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award isn't the only game in town. There's also the Shingo Prize. Named for Shigeo Shingo, the deceased productivity guru who sparked Toyota Motor Corp.'s just-in-time (JIT) and "mistake-proof" manufacturing systems, it has rapidly gained prestige since it was set up in 1988.

Administered by Utah State University, the 1991 Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence goes to four companies: Dana's Minneapolis Gresen plant, which makes hydraulic valves, Exxon Chemical's Butyl Polymers group, a supplier of rubberlike polymers, engine bearings maker Glacier Vandervell, and Lifeline Systems, which builds communications gear for its emergency-response service business.

Lifeline Systems Inc., with 1990 revenues of $32 million, is the sole small-company winner. By stressing quality and JIT, the Watertown (Mass.) company has slashed product-development time by 80% since 1988 and cut work-in-progress inventories by 60%. Productivity shot up so much--255%--that Lifeline has repatriated all its offshore manufacturing.

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