ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - There's nothing like being the first in anything. The Green Bay Packers were the first to win the Super Bowl. Neil Armstrong was the first to walk on the moon. Now the U.S. Army Armament Research and Development Center can lay claim to being one of the first nonprofit organizations to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

ARDEC, a subordinate element of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. The 6,500-acre military installation located in the northwest corner of New Jersey, is the first Department of Defense organization to win the Baldrige Award, known globally for setting the standard in performance excellence. The award is managed by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology in collaboration with the private sector.

"Winning the award means a great deal," said Joseph Lannon, ARDEC director. "The Soldiers are the real winners of this award. Following the principles of the Baldrige, we are able to deliver equipment to the Warfighter faster and that is what motivates our workforce."

The Baldrige Award, presented by the President of the United States, recognizes small and large businesses, health care and educational organizations, and nonprofits who have achieved excellence in seven key areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; human resource focus; process management; and results.

The award and its recipients mark an effort of continuous improvement in quality management among U.S. organizations. In 2007, the Baldrige program added a new category for nonprofits to officially compete for the award, according to Michael Newman, NIST senior communications officer. As a result, government organizations were able to compete for the honor. Out of 13 nonprofit applicants, among them other government agencies, ARDEC was chosen as one of only two nonprofit recipients.

"We are thrilled that not only one, but two nonprofits won the award in the first year eligible," said Newman. "We encourage other nonprofits to apply."

ARDEC leadership is excited and confidant in their role in maintaining industry excellence. "ARDEC winning this award demonstrates that government organizations can be competitive with the best industry has to offer," said Lannon.

The application process included submitting a package summarizing the organization's achievements in seven focal areas, a site visit by a team of examiners comprised of independent private-sector experts in quality and business, and a final review of the organizations strengths and weaknesses as it relates to the seven areas.

ARDEC, an element of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, has an overall mission of improving already fielded items, developing new ones, maintaining a strong armament technology base in government, industry and academia and provide technical support to the Soldier in the field.

"ARDEC is internationally known for the advancement of armaments technology and engineering innovations. ARDEC provides 90 percent of the Army's suite of armaments," said Donelle Denery, chief, Strategic Management and Process Office.

ARDEC works on a variety of technologies and products supporting the current and future forces to include small, medium and large caliber weapons, guidance systems, explosives, ammunition and related support systems.

The ARDEC organizational culture is customer-focused, team-based and dedicated to the continuous improvement and innovation through streamlined work system processes and practices. Employees are focused on the needs of customers and rapidly developing the best products possible, said Denery.

Through in house business practices such as strategic workout sessions, Lean Six Sigma and 'Enterprise Excellence,' ARDEC demonstrates a long-standing commitment to performance excellence and improvement in business practices.

The quarterly strategic workout sessions use strategic management system maps, to focus on the actions required to meet the organizations objectives, improve performance and achieve the goals.

Enterprise Excellence is an initiative developed by the ARDEC Director and former Deputy Director. Enterprise Excellence integrates practices such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration, and the International Organization for Standardization 9001. Enterprise Excellence integrates the Quality Management System, 'Voice of our Customer' concept and Lean Six Sigma to accomplish the mission and strategic objectives.

Continuous improvement is on the minds of ARDEC's leaders and employees.
The ARDEC vision and strategies are posted throughout buildings on Picatinny Arsenal so that every employee can see them everyday as they work to support the Warfighter. With customer driven excellence embedded in the ARDEC culture, listening and communicating with the customer, the Soldier, is the forefront of ARDEC processes leading to continuous improvement for the current and future needs of the Warfighter.

"What I do everyday may have an impact on whether a Soldier lives or dies...that is my driving force to being efficient and producing quality products," said Leroy McGuire, ARDEC mechanical engineering technician.

ARDEC employees take pride in their part in winning the Baldrige. ARDEC has continually strived for working toward being the best in industry.

"We have set the standard for private industry through projects like Excalibur [a 155mm precision guided extended range artillery projectile]," said Matthew Condit, production manager, ARDEC Prototype Hardware Fabrication Branch. "They've [ARDEC leadership] always tried to bring a streamlined process to ARDEC," said Condit who has worked with ARDEC for 38 years. "ARDEC has really advanced through the years."

In the Prototype Hardware Fabrication Branch, employees work to provide a quality product delivered in a timely fashion. From concept to delivery, ARDEC provides the Warfighter with products such as Gunner Protection Kits through using in house engineers to write programming for prototype production.

"Someone could come in with something as simple as a sketch," said Condit. "We have in-house engineers that make detailed drawings so we produce the product from conception to completion, to delivery."

ARDEC's efficiency is just one of the many reasons it achieved such a great honor. Its innovative approach to business reflects in their product development by being on the cutting edge of the armament industry.

ARDEC will be presented the presidential award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., next year.