Focus on the Baldrige Board of Overseers: Bennie Fowler

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Like other federal programs, the Baldrige Program is overseen by an advisory committee whose members are appointed by a cabinet member of the Presidential administration; in our case, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. By charter, the Baldrige Board of Overseers is tasked with reviewing the work of the program and recommending improvements.

In an ongoing blog series, we are interviewing members of the Board of Overseers on their experiences, on the Baldrige Program and its products and services, and on the Baldrige approach to organizational improvement.

Bennie W. Fowler

Following is an interview of Baldrige Overseer Bennie W. Fowler, who is Group Vice President at the Ford Motor Company for Global Quality and New Model Launch.

What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?

Over the past 40 years, I have held positions that have encompassed international expansion, new product launches, turnaround, and restructuring. As Group Vice President of Global Quality and New Model Launch at Ford, a $165 billion company, I have successfully launched over 900 vehicle and powertrain programs while improving product quality around the world in 103 plants as far reaching as China, India, and Russia.

How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in manufacturing?

Every manufacturing organization must have a compelling vision, comprehensive strategy, plan for what they want to become in the future, and relentless execution to the plan.   When you look at the Baldrige Excellence Framework, it focuses on the holistic nature of any organization that wants to deliver high-quality products and be productive at the same time. Sometimes people think that you have to do one or the other, but I know that you can do both. The framework allows organizations to learn how to improve by providing a set of professionals [Baldrige examiners] who can help you. They can come to your facility to assess how you are performing with the framework and work with you to improve your business results.

How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience/employer?

When I think about Ford’s quality over the last 10 years, we’ve gone from last place in the industry to the number-one full-line manufacturer. Our philosophy has been about understanding what the customers want, reviewing our requirements and engineering standards, and working on improving every day.

When you think of Baldrige principles and concepts, this is the ideology that’s being taught. Know the direction you want to head; what you’re trying to accomplish; have a plan, execute, and follow up. And that’s basically the methodology that we have been using at Ford to really transform our business. We have over 100 manufacturing locations on six continents around the world managing 5,000 suppliers in 60 countries. In almost every region, we’ve made over a 50% improvement in our quality metrics supported by the Ford Quality Operating System.  The Baldrige Framework includes similar operating principles as the Ford Quality Operation System.

The charter of the Board of Overseers says the overseers shall make suggestions for the improvement of Baldrige and act as an advisory committee for the program. As an overseer, what would you like the community/stakeholders to know about the Baldrige Program and its award and other products?

The Board of Overseers’ mission from the Secretary of Commerce is to help U.S. industries to achieve high quality and high productivity. What I would like organizations to know is whether you are facing challenges in your organization or if you just want to get better, the Baldrige Framework can help. We have a variety of products and services that you can take advantage of to make your business better.

What encouragement/advice would you give U.S. organizations thinking about applying for the Baldrige Award or using another one of the Baldrige Program’s products or services?

For any product/service that we provide, the philosophy is that leadership teams train themselves in the use of the Baldrige Framework and then apply their business. The Baldrige Framework is great, very sound, and is built on continuous improvement principles. If you learn, teach, and apply the framework, then the result will be great success.

For interviews of other Baldrige Program Overseers, see the following: Dr. Reatha Clark King, Rulon Stacey.

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2 Responses to Focus on the Baldrige Board of Overseers: Bennie Fowler

  1. Abdi Abdullahi says:

    Thanks for help me !!

  2. Nkululeko Mabhena says:

    Bennie Fowler has an inspiring profile. He is Leading an organization (Ford Motor Company) which is large, complex and with multiple business units in various locations having a Strategic drive that is seen as being one in the sights of its internal and external stakeholders. It is clear that the Baldrige Framework makes sense as a strategic tool.

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