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    A. O. Smith Water Products earns Frost & Sullivan quality award

    Ashland City, TN (Friday, 08 August 2003)

    Citing its comprehensive approach to product quality and extensive customer support capabilities, Frost & Sullivan has presented its 2003 Product Quality Leadership Award to A. O. Smith Water Products Company.

    Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting firm, presents its Product Quality Leadership awards to leading companies that demonstrate excellence and innovation in the global market.

    A. O. Smith Water Products Company, a leading manufacturer of residential and commercial water heating equipment, has demonstrated "its commitment to engineering and high product quality," according to Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Jerry Davis. "A. O. Smith also keeps plumbers, contractors, and specifying engineering as well as its own technicians at the cutting edge of product knowledge."

    "On behalf of our employees, all of us at A. O. Smith are pleased to receive this prestigious honor," Ron Massa, president of A. O. Smith Water Products Company, said. "We constantly strive to deliver value to all of our water heater customers, and to have Frost & Sullivan endorse our efforts is gratifying to each of us."

    A comprehensive quality system, including uniform policies and procedures throughout its global operations, is instrumental to the company's ability to consistently deliver quality products to its residential and commercial customers, Larry Mudd, A. O. Smith Water Products Company vice president of operations, observed.

    "Quality to A. O. Smith means in-process monitoring, employee training and certification, supplier certification, and a commitment to continuous improvement," Mudd pointed out. "As evidence of our ongoing attention to quality, nine of the company's plants are now certified to the new ISO-9001-2000 global quality standard."

    The company uses in-process testing in each of its global facilities to monitor the integrity of water heater tanks, critical components, such as glass coatings, and finished water heaters.

    "Tanks are 100 percent leak tested, and we perform random hydrostatic tests to ensure weld seam integrity," Mudd noted. "All welders are thoroughly trained and certified. Many of our commercial water heaters and boilers are ASME certified, meaning they are independently inspected by third party auditors, and all welds are performed by ASME-certified welders."

    “In the final assembly area, each finished product receives a set of functional checks, and large sample lots of finished products are brought off-line to quality labs or special test areas to undergo thorough performance testing and cosmetic inspection,” Mudd noted.

    To assure defect-free quality of purchased components, the company has implemented a supplier certification program complete with regular audits and a rating system. "This program has been extremely effective, reducing the amount of incoming inspection we need to perform," Mudd noted. "In most cases, incoming materials go from dock to stock."

    Another important element of the company's quality philosophy is its Continuous Improvement process. The initiative, launched at Water Products Company in 1998, is designed to achieve customer satisfaction through an emphasis on employee teamwork and problem solving, according to Mudd.

    "Continuous Improvement is a disciplined approach to identifying problems, arriving at the root cause of the problem, and implementing solutions," Mudd noted. "Our employees have developed a number of creative solutions to challenging production issues through this process."

    Water Products also utilizes a unique "CI Blitz" process, where groups of employees focus on a specific shop-floor problem or concern. This concentrated approach--usually lasting one week or less--is designed to come up with a set of solutions targeted at the specific issue.

    To further enhance communications and solve problems, the company has created work groups for all of its production employees worldwide. The work groups, led by a department supervisor, meet daily to review issues associated with productivity, quality, and workplace safety. Work group members are encouraged to bring issues or concerns to the daily meetings, the groups either solve the problems on the spot or ask for support from other parts of the operation.

    A. O. Smith Water Products Company's customer care organization, headquartered in a state-of-the-art Customer Care Center in Ashland City, handles nearly 700,000 customer calls and 30,000 emails every year and supports all of the company's water heater brands. The company's customer care specialists field a wide range of customer inquiries, from the location of the nearest distributor to installation questions, problem resolution, and product specification.

    "Our customer care specialists receive extensive technical training focused on products, service, and applications," according to Michael Parker, vice president-marketing for A. O. Smith Water Products Company. "We support them with the latest technology, including sophisticated integrated information and call distribution systems, automated technical data base systems, and web-enabled technologies."

    In addition, the Customer Care Center houses a multi-media training center used to provide classes on sizing, installation, field application, and troubleshooting to plumbers, contractors, specifying engineers, and other customers who are involved in product specification and installation.

    "Water heaters are becoming more sophisticated every year, particularly commercial products and residential units used in high-efficiency homes," Parker observed. "We are recognized as the leaders in the industry, providing up-to-date technical knowledge to our customers." The company also offers field training to customers at their locations.

    A. O. Smith Water Products Company is a leading manufacturer of residential and commercial water heating equipment as well as high-efficiency copper tube boilers, pump tanks, and hot water storage tanks. The company employs more than 8,000 people at plants in the United States, Mexico, Canada, the Netherlands, and China, and distributes products to more than 60 countries worldwide.

    A. O. Smith Water Products earns Frost & Sullivan quality award (PDF)

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