NPL’s Total Quality Movement

NPL has always been focused on Quality, but it was during the early 1980s in particular when the company committed to it in an unprecedented way. At the time, NPL was struggling through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Times were difficult, but the struggle created an environment for self-examination as a company. Having lost its three biggest contracts, NPL was surviving on bid work. It was imperative that the company make itself more attractive to customers.

In the words of founder Noel Coon, “It was lean times, but we were hungry. I got more serious about the company and ready to put my learning into action.” In 1976, Coon had been selected to join the Young President’s Organization (YPO), a global community of company presidents dedicated to becoming better leaders. As part of that organization, Coon participated in an exchange of ideas between leaders across a variety of industries and examined the practices of successful businesses in U.S. and beyond. As part of that experience, he traveled to Japan to visit a business school founded on W. Edwards Deming’s Total Quality Movement. Later in 1983 when NPL emerged from bankruptcy, much of what Coon learned from Demings influenced his vision for the company moving forward. “We redefined everything we did to focus on continuous improvement,” Coon said. That “redefining” included everything from how NPL perceived its customers to the color of NPL’s trucks. It was also during this time period that the Northern Pipeline name was abbreviated to NPL and a new logo was adopted.




A few years later in 1990, NPL established a long-range planning team to strategically chart the company’s course moving into the future. With further growth into new markets on the horizon, it was imperative that a commitment to quality continue to be NPL’s distinguishing trait. NPL fine-tuned its definition of quality. With the shared tenant that “it’s our customer who defines quality, not us,” our definition was simple: conformance to customers’ requirements with zero defects, the first time, every time. A Quality Education Team was formed and trained to lead the company through the Total Quality Process, which was developed by renowned quality and management guru Phil Crosby. NPL drafted a Continuous Improvement Policy to send the clear message that “NPL will be known by the quality of our work.” Area-level Quality Improvement Teams were then established to add layers of accountability. Company-wide, a new tagline was adopted to capture the spirit of this movement: “NPL and Quality – The Pipeline to Success.”

Today, NPL’s historical commitment to Quality has clearly influenced Centuri’s vision and mission. In fact, Quality is a pillar of Centuri’s Sustainability Framework. And like NPL, Centuri has also adopted August as Quality Month.

Think Ahead