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Bush presents Medrad with nation's top award for business excellence

| Wednesday, March 10, 2004

INDIANA TOWNSHIP: President Bush lauded the achievements of Indianola-based Medrad Inc. on Tuesday at a ceremony where he awarded the medical imaging device manufacturer the nation's top honor for business excellence.

Medrad is the first Pittsburgh-based company since 1988 to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which is named for a Reagan-era Commerce Department secretary.

The award program was established by Congress in 1987 to recognize manufacturers, service providers, small businesses and education and health care organizations that make improving business practices a priority.

"This isn't one of those deals where everybody receives a blue ribbon," Bush told Medrad President and CEO John P. Friel and leaders of the six other organizations that received the Baldrige award at Tuesday's ceremony in an Arlington, Va. hotel.

"You have to work hard and be totally committed to excellence," Bush said.

The president's comments were broadcast live via satellite to hundreds of Medrad employees who gathered in the ballroom at the Syria Shriners Temple in Harmar to celebrate their collective achievements.

The crowd waved orange hand towels bearing the Medrad name and cheered loudly as they watched Friel accept the Baldrige award from the president.

"We are very proud to bring this award back to western Pennsylvania, a region that has all the resources -- and especially the people -- to build a world-class quality organization," Friel said.

In addition to praising the Baldrige recipients, Bush discussed what he said were signs of a rebounding economy and touted the American work force.

He also joked briefly about his own personal encounter with the diagnostic equipment produced by Medrad.

"I put my knee under one of [Friel's] imaging devices, and while I appreciated the device, you just haven't figured out the cure for old age," said Bush, who was once an avid runner now sidelined by knee injuries.

Medrad is the 24th manufacturing company to be recognized with the Baldrige award and the only recipient in the manufacturing category this year among 10 applicants.

All awardees must excel at performance criteria Baldrige uses to judge applicants such as leadership, strategic planning, process management and business results.

The fifth time was a charm for Medrad, which also applied for the award in 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2002.

During the rigorous screening process, eight judges spent thousands of hours interviewing more than 300 Medrad employees, reviewing 5,000 pages of company documents and conducting site visits.

Other Baldrige recipients this year included Boeing Aerospace, two hospital systems, an Illinois school district and Stoner, a small manufacturer near Philadelphia.

Medrad was founded in 1964 by Tarentum native Dr. M. Stephen Heilman shortly after he invented the company's first medical imaging device at his kitchen table.

Under Friel, the company has recorded average annual growth rates of 15 percent and last year recorded revenues of $294 million.

Medrad is now an affiliate of Schering AG in Germany, and it employs 1,265 people worldwide, including 930 in the Pittsburgh area.

Through a pre-taped video message, Friel encouraged his employees on Tuesday not to rest on their laurels.

"We can't stop now," said Friel, who was named as CEO of the year by Pittsburgh Technology Council last October.

"Everything that got us here, we have to keep doing and then some," he said.

Medrad employees watching the award ceremony broadcast in Harmar said they felt pride in their work and the success of their company.

"This means we're the best of the best," said 44-year-old Tim Orr of Brackenridge, who has worked in the Receiving Department at Medrad for 16 years and hopes to retire from there.

"They treat their employees like people," Orr said. "Although I wish all of us could've gone to D.C. I wanted to party with George." Additional Information:

Recent winners

Medrad Inc., of Indianola, Indiana Township, is the first Pittsburgh-area company to win the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award since 1988.

Here is a list of recent winners in the manufacturing sector:

  • 2002: Motorola Inc. unit that makes communications products for public safety applications.

  • 2001: Clarke American Checks Inc., manufacturer of preprinted personal and business checks.

  • 2000: Karlee Co. Inc., maker of welding products.

  • 1999: STMicroelectronics Inc., a semiconductor producer.

  • 1998: Solar Turbines Inc., maker of gas turbines used in power generation.

    Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce

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