Weber is the Baldrige Award of the Dairy Industry

December 28, 2014 by ahmed

Originally posted on Blogrige by Mary Eastman

After reading a press release announcing the latest Weber Award winners, and noting that the Weber is modeled after the Baldrige Award, I reached out to Peter Horvath (president and CEO) and Chuck Yarris (director of quality and food safety) of Quality Chekd to find out more.

What is the Weber Award?

It is named after Irving B. Weber, a founding member of the Quality Chekd Board of Directors, who had the vision of producing the best dairy products in the country.
The award originated in the late ‘80s and was originally a marketing opportunity for securing the trademark. But it has since become an all-encompassing award, based not just on the level of product compliance (through third-party testing) but also including leadership, customer, and employee components.

A difference from the Baldrige Award that Horvath sees is that Weber applicants themselves are very similar, without a lot of variables in organizational products and services. However, the Baldrige Criteria has provided an example in not solely using product quality as the basis for the award.

According to Horvath, no other award besides the Weber Award is recognized in the dairy industry; even companies outside of the dairy industry know of it. It has “become a quality driver within organizations,” he says, because it does translate into how well they are run. In dairy plants, “Think Weber” signs can be seen on the walls. Being modeled on the Baldrige Award helps Quality Chekd introduce the Weber Award, Horvath says: “Because you are such a high-profile award, we tell them it is like the Baldrige Award, and they understand.”

What are the steps of the Weber Award process?

To qualify for the Weber Award, a plant has to be in the top monthly ranking for product testing; take third-party audits/certification, and add those results; add employee safety results data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); and then take the top three applicants, and administer a leadership survey.

Next, Yarris and Horvath spend a day with top managers of award applicants to have them explain what the senior leaders are doing in terms of their organization’s mission, vision, and values and how they communicate those to employees. They are also asked to explain

  • what their strategic planning is and how they know it is effective;
  • quality improvements they are undertaking;
  • employee orientation/absenteeism;
  • communication to the night shift, the reward process, seniority, special recognition, and succession planning
  • the safety program
  • benchmarks being used

After the leadership interviews, Horvath and Yarris go to employees and find out if they are “walking it”; they sit down and talk with a certain percentage of employees and ask questions such as, How do you get engaged in your work? What are your company’s mission, vision, and values? The employee interview has approximately 30 questions across a broad range of topics.

Next, a customer satisfaction survey is administered through a third party for consumers who have purchased the applicant company’s products. Such consumers are surveyed on the following:

  1. overall impression of the company
  2. impression of the personnel
  3. overall impression of product/service

If selected, Weber Award recipients receive a trophy and a highly prized grandfather’s clock (often placed in a prominent location). Winning companies often give employees a memento and a day off or equivalent benefit.

Similar to Baldrige, another of the Quality Chekd membership advantages (besides the Weber Award) is ongoing training offered through regional workshops and some onsite training for specific companies based on their need.

Chuck Yarris (director of quality and safety) says a challenge for his organization is keeping interest in the Weber Award high. For example, he asks, even though these companies are doing a great job, what other criteria can raise the bar even higher? He wants Quality Chekd members to be the best (well above competitors), to be profitable, and to have a positive impact on the industry.

Looking Toward the Future

According to Horvath, the dairy industry is under severe pressure because the market has seen a 2–4 % decline in consumption, and input costs are high. In the squeeze, another challenge is how to avoid taking shortcuts—and not just in terms of disregarding quality. Horvath hopes to expand the Weber Award beyond the Quality Chekd community because other industry awards are just not as rigorously defined and are based more on public relations efforts.

So what is the best thing about working in the dairy industry, and Quality Chekd / the Weber Award in particular? While you might guess ice cream tastings, Yarris has unique expertise in tasting buttermilk, so he always gets to try it in a production plant. In particular, he enjoys the variety of getting into the plants to do some analysis, troubleshooting, training, and meeting the night shift crew, he says.

For Horvath, the best part of his 14 years with Quality Chekd is that he works with wonderful people, he says.

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