PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Having already won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center here is preparing for another quality award competition, the Shingo Prize.

The Shingo Prize was established in 1988 and is recognized worldwide as the "Nobel Prize" of operational excellence using a variety of quality control and assessment principles. The Shingo Prize is named in honor of the late Shigeo Shingo, often described as an engineering genius who helped create and write about many aspects of the renowned Toyota production system.

"We are not competing for this award just for the sake of competing," said Gerardo Melendez, the director of the research and engineering center, known as ARDEC. "We are doing this to make improvements to our organization and to make our Soldiers safer."

ARDEC develops 90 percent of the Army's armaments and ammunition, including warheads, explosive, nanotechnology, firearms and advanced weaponry.

In 2007, ARDEC became the only Department of Defense organization to receive the Baldrige National Quality Award. ARDEC is not eligible for another run at the Baldrige Award until 2013.

Examiners for the Shingo Prize will visit Picatinny Arsenal during the week of Oct. 17 to interview employees and gather information for the prize competition.

"Examiners will look at our delivery and productivity, innovation and technology, and our approach to environmental health and safety," said Brad Sampson, a quality engineering analyst at ARDEC.

Before the visit, an internal team will assess ARDEC's progress in using quality tools and systems and principles to consistently deliver high quality value to its customers and the troops who serve in the United States military.

The Shingo Prize is designed to educate, assess and recognize world-class organizations for creating a culture of continuous improvement through employee empowerment and effective leadership.

The philosophy of the Shingo Prize is that a culture of continuous improvement is achieved by focusing on principles of operational excellence, aligning management systems and implementing improvement techniques throughout an entire organization.

Under the direction of Melendez and the ARDEC senior leadership team, the strategic management office formed a Shingo Steering Group consisting of key ARDEC managers and employees from Picatinny Arsenal, Rock Island, Ill., and Benet Laboratories in upstate New York to prepare for this site visit.

In an event heavy with baseball metaphors, ARDEC recently held a kick-off to underscore its determination to "swing for the fences" in pursuit of the Shingo Prize.