American Made Means Quality

- Joe Pentlicki

The words “American made” became synonymous with quality and innovation during World War II. During that time, those working in U.S. factories needed to ensure that the items produced consistently met the needs of service members — customers of the manufacturing and production process. More than 70 years later, the definition still means the same thing; it’s just been expanded.

Customer needs stretch beyond that of just a physical product. It also includes the information and services provided. By definition, “American quality” means that the product produced, services provided and information transferred meets the needs of customers from a physical, informational and timeliness perspective.

At Oliver, customers are our No. 1 focus. We actively engage customers in understanding their issues and challenges, and then we activate teams in providing innovative solutions. In fact, one of my favorite innovations is Lean Manufacturing, which was developed by Toyota as the Toyota Production System. But what many don’t know is that its principles are based on some of Henry Ford’s principles. These included the concept of pulling material rather than pushing it through production. Additionally, a focus on customers is foundational in a Lean culture.

We embrace and encourage the discussion of problems, whether they are problems faced by our customers or internally. This provides the forum for open discussion and collective efforts to continually focus on improvement. It’s our belief that every employee has a voice and the ability to stop production if there is a quality issue.

If you’ve read or seen “Lord of the Rings,” you’ll recall when Gandalf was on the bridge facing the Balrog, and he slammed his staff down and yelled “You shall not pass.” Our entire Oliver team is empowered and supported when a quality issue arises to say “You shall not pass.” When that occurs, we have a team of representatives that include production employees, shop leadership, engineering, service and senior leadership to assess, support, correct and prevent reoccurrence. Collectively, the team assesses the issue, drives to the root cause and implements engineering, training or process changes based on their findings.

We have a responsibility to our customers, our employees and our community to provide quality solutions that help us maintain our competitive advantage and market relevance. We are relentless in our goal to improve quality, and quality is not defined by us, but rather our customers.