BUSINESS EXCELLENCE : Turning Metal to Gold – Achieving Business Excellence

Many companies trumpet business excellence as given or goal. But how do they really know what they’re measuring and why they are doing it? According to the New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation (NZBEF), measuring and celebrating business excellence has raft of benefits. Local and international research shows that, when implemented effectively, formal business excellence initiatives can guide an organisation to achieve greatly improved business performance.
NZBEF chief executive Mike Watson says benchmarking against the best in the world is an important step for New Zealand businesses. “In our view, not enough New Zealand organisations integrate business excellence as an integral part of their work programme. While the desire may be there, the demands of day-to-day business operations mean that the time to measure excellence is not always made available,” he says.
With this in mind, the Foundation has just announced the results of its 2007 Awards, which see New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) win prestigious gold award – becoming one of only three New Zealand companies recognised with the world-class standard since 1993.
The awards involve assessment of companies’ standards for organisational leadership, social responsibility, customer-focused results, employee learning and motivation, and financial results.
Paul Hemburrow, NZAS general manager operations, says winning Business Excellence gold award is the culmination of many years of quality work by the team at the company’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.
“One of the smelter’s goals is to be judged as world-class operation by all stakeholders. This has obvious synergies with NZBEF’s aim to stimulate and support business excellence in New Zealand,” he says.
Hemburrow says the competitiveness and future success of NZAS depends on its record as good neighbour and community partner as well as the economic benefit and quality of the products.
NZAS produces high purity aluminium and generates around $1 billion in export earnings per annum, provides 1000 jobs in Southland, and contributes more than $430 million to New Zealand each year in salaries and the purchase of goods and services.
“NZAS is playing an active role in meeting New Zealand’s Kyoto commitments and is strongly committed to finding ways to be part of the solution to New Zealand’s energy shortage,” Hemburrow says.
The company is joint venture owned by Rio Tinto Alcan (79.36 percent) and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical Co (20.64 percent).
NZBEF executive chairman Kevin Riley says the achievement demonstrates “level of performance that will justifiably achieve international recognition”.
“To aspire to being world class takes ongoing commitment, perseverance and focus. The journey requires an organisation at all levels to be fully engaged and aligned and to have clear focus on where it is going, how its progress is measured and to also have the ability to share in the successes and learn from the mistakes,” he says.
The NZBEF, which started life as the NZ Quality Foundation in 1992, runs the Business Excellence Awards annually. They are based on the best practice framework developed by US business academic Malcolm Baldrige. This framework is updated yearly by the US Department of Commerce.
NZBEF recognises the standards achieved by organisations by awarding in stepped categories from ‘progress’ for those who’ve made good start on the excellence journey through to bronze, silver and gold or world class.
This year, silver and bronze awards were also presented to New Zealand companies.
Vero Liability Insurance – which received silver award – was established in 2001 and is New Zealand’s only specialist liability insurance company. It is wholly owned subsidiary of Vero Insurance New Zealand, but operates as separately capitalised and rated insurer.
“Vero Liability’s focus on organisational improvement has become part of our culture and has enabled us to deliver excellent results, attract and retain top people and maintain significant competitive edge in market which presents continual challenge,” managing director Adrian Tulloch says. He is now looking forward to receiving the feedback report from the NZBEF evaluation and focusing on future improvements to support Vero’s plans for sustainable and competitive business.
Executive search and coaching company Kerridge & Partners was recognised with bronze award – first anywhere in the world for executive search and coaching in Baldrige criteria award.
“Measuring ourselves against the best in the world is the only way to test the business and see if we are realising our vision and achieving our goal of world class in New Zealand,” says director Peter Kerridge.
He is delighted with the results the business has achieved in its two and half year history, saying the key metrics – client and candidate satisfaction, team engagement, process innovation and improvement and financials – have all tracked impressively.
Non-executive director, Grant Ford, shares the delight in the award win, saying Kerridge & Partners demonstrates how quickly service business can grow through applying world-class business improvement technologies. For more information see

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