Robert C. Pini, News Editor
Every fuel rod that leaves the Westinghouse Commercial Nuclear Fuel Div. must perform flawlessly. For an industry in which a microscopic defect can lead to a three-week shutdown that costs $1 million per day, "good enough" simply isn't enough.
Similarly, Corning Inc. would not be a major supplier of optical fiber if its products could not consistently and reliably carry the world's telephone calls, video signals and data. Federal Express would not be among the largest overnight delivery carriers if it could not track its deliveries to ensure that they would "absolutely, positively get there tomorrow." And Ritz-Carlton hotels would be significantly less "ritzy" if they did not pay attention to the details of maintenance and safety.
These four seemingly dissimilar companies have at least two things in common: They all have won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and all use photonics as part of their quality assurance programs.
Fewer than three dozen firms have received the Baldrige Award since the US Congress created the competition in 1987. Among these best-of-the-best companies, applications of photonics technologies are ubiquitous. At least two out of three winners use photonics as part of their quality assurance tool kit ? and some of the minority admit that they probably should.