Kullman and Wertheimer Win 2014 Deming Cup

From left to right: Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather; Awi Federgruen, Charles E. Exley Professor of Management, Columbia Business School; Yossi Beilin, Israeli Statesman and Scholar and President of Beilink; Stef Wertheimer, Founder and Honorary Chairman, ISCAR and H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.

On October 28, 2014, the Deming Cup for Operational Excellence was awarded to Ellen J. Kullman, chairman and CEO of DuPont, and Stefan Wertheimer, founder of ISCAR, at a gala reception in Low Rotunda.

Awarded annually since 2010, the Deming Cup honors business leaders for outstanding contributions in the area of operational excellence and for fostering a culture of continuous improvement in the organizations they lead. Previous winners include Samuel J. Palmisano, former chairman and CEO of IBM; Brent C. James, MD, chief quality officer at Intermountain Healthcare; Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Terry J. Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Macy’s; Ratan N. Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons; Paolo Rocca, chairman and CEO of Tenaris; and H. Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson.

Nelson Fraiman, director of the School’s W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness, congratulated the 2014 winners for “exemplifying the best in innovative leadership and operational excellence.” He was joined by Mary Boyce, dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, who recognized both Kullman and Wertheimer for fostering “innovation, creativity, and impact through practice.”

Since taking the helm as CEO of DuPont in 2009, Kullman tirelessly championed the power of DuPont science and global market knowledge to transform industries, decisively positioning the company for its next generation of growth. In addition, she spearheaded the company’s focus on growth in emerging international markets, led double-digit growth of its safety and protection business portfolio, and started up two successful high-growth businesses known today as DuPont Industrial Biosciences and DuPont Sustainable Solutions. “I have always felt my job was to raise the bar, and you aren’t going to raise the bar if you keep doing the same things,” says Kullman.

In her acceptance speech, Kullman saluted Deming’s principles as cornerstones in her leadership philosophy, especially in her belief that making transformation was “everybody’s job.” At Dupont, she said, every employee has a role to play. “We proposed a set of behaviors [to] bring to our every day tasks…This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Deming Principles: accountability, speed, transparency, collaboration, and agility.”

Integral to Wertheimer’s success was his early recognition of the importance of Israel — where he settled at age 10 upon fleeing Nazi Germany — to the survival of the Jewish people. Wertheimer subsequently spent his career fostering the economic independence of Israel and promoting peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. Export manufacturing and educational initiatives were his chosen vehicles to achieve these goals. ISCAR, the firm he founded in 1952, remains one of the world’s top two manufacturers of precision carbide cutting tools for the automotive, aerospace, and electronics industries. (It has been owned and operated by Berkshire Hathaway since 2013.)

In addition to ISCAR, Wertheimer created a jet blade manufacturing business in 1967 that brought strategic independence to the Israeli Air Force and led him into a partnership venture with Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce: Blades Technologies International and TechJet. Since 1982, Wertheimer has created seven industrial parks designed to promote export and ensure a better quality of life for the communities around them.

In his introduction to Wertheimer, Yossi Beilin, president of Beilink, highlighted “the many similarities between W. Edwards Deming and Stef … to learn the needs of the market and to adapt to them, so as to make sure that the range of error in your products is much lower than that of your competitors.” Wertheimer reaffirmed his belief in Deming’s employee-empowering philosophy by noting that the story of ISCAR “is the story of believing in and working with good people, and of sticking with the same people for a long time.” He talked about his company in terms of its place within its community, noting that an organization’s success is often deeply tied to its location, as well as its relevance to the enhancing the neighboring communities’ quality of life.

Established in 1989 during W. Edwards Deming’s tenure at Columbia Business School, the Deming Center sponsors applied research, disseminates best practices, supports focused education and professional development, and fosters partnerships with companies in the area of operational excellence. Through its programs and fellowships, the center trains the next generation of managers in operations management, conducts applied research to nurture academic inquiry in the field, and supports senior executives with customized offerings to help them promote excellence in operations in their businesses.

The Deming Center is currently reviewing nominations for the 2015 Deming Cup. Winners will be announced on August 1 and the award gala will be held on Tuesday, October 27, 2015, at Low Rotunda in Columbia University.

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