DOD-Army Success Story


Agency: Department of Defense--Army

Title: Total Army Quality

Background Information

The United States Army Tank-Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) is the Nation's laboratory for advanced military automotive technology. TARDEC's mission is to conduct research, development and engineering to achieve global technological superiority in military ground vehicles and to stimulate the transition to a growing, integrated national industrial capability which provides the most advanced, affordable military systems and the most competitive commercial products. Located at the Detroit Arsenal, near the hub of the world's automotive industry, TARDEC employees 1,246 men and women. TARDEC's associates design and develop vehicles for all U.S. armed forces, many federal agencies and more than 60 foreign countries. The Center provides its Army and Marine Corps customers world-wide engineering support for a fielded fleet of more than 1,000,000 military vehicles.

TARDEC develops and designs tanks, other armored vehicles, and specialized trucks and trailers. The Center is continuously involved in the production of advanced technology demonstration and manages programs which are valued at more than $4,000,000,000. By partnering with its customers, industry, and the academic community, TARDEC provides innovative solutions t o the many challenges in automotive technology.


At the end of World War II, TARDEC was recognized as the world's foremost military automotive development center. Its scientists and engineers enable United States ground forces to and their allies to dominate every battlefield upon which they fought. However, by the mid-1980s, the organization was struggling with an aging infrastructure, outdated management practices, and a labyrinthine defense acquisition system. There was no clear vision for the future.

The TARDEC quality journey began in October 1989 with the commitment, personal involvement and leadership of its new management team which was led by Dr. Ken Oscar. This team was determined to reestablish TARDEC as the world's finest automotive technology research center. In March 1988, Total Quality Management had been officially designated by the Secretary of Defense as a major strategy for meeting the President's productivity goals. The Army leadership has endorsed TQM. The Army Materiel Command (AMC) under the leadership of General Louis C. Wagner, Jr. and his successor, General William G.T. Tuttle, Jr., had embraced the new philosophy and undertaken the transformation to a customer driven culture. October 1989 was also the beginning of a period of sweeping global change. In a matter of weeks, the Berlin Wall came down. "Perestroika" and "Glasnost" became part of our vocabulary along with terms line "paradigm shift," "vision," "employee involvement," "statistical process control," "empowerment," and "total quality management." Against this backdrop of innovative ideas, downsizing and uncertain budgets, TARDEC's new leaders set about the task of reinventing the Army's ground vehicle laboratory.


In order to achieve their vision to be the recognized world leader in ground vehicle technology, the leadership team put people first. The initial objectives were to improve associate quality of life, provide world class research, development and engineering facilities, and establish long term professional development programs for every career field and grade. The leaders realized that actions speak louder than words. Central air conditioning was installed in the main building even though rules and regulations said the arsenal was too far north and the number of cooling days too few. (Lack of air conditioning was the number one complaint of TARDEC associates. The temperature in some parts of the main building complex had routinely reached more than 95F in the summer.) Substantial renovation of TARDEC's thirteen buildings has been accomplished. More than $35 million have been allocated to the total effort. TARDEC has pioneered a first-of-its-kind professional development program with the establishment of TARDEC University. TARDEC University is not a de facto university. It is a "virtual" university. It does not grant degrees nor have a faculty, but by offering structured, progressive training and education courses through accredited third party providers, it embodies the essence and has the effect of a true university. Additionally, TARDEC University coordinates all quality management training and provides career counseling for all the Center's associates.


Having established their credibility with TARDEC's associates, the top team focused on TARDEC's customers. TARDEC invests $3 million annually to inform its customers about the Center's products and services and to determine their expectations and requirements. Today, TARDEC has more than 200 engineers, military officers, and other technicians at nine customer sites in the United States and throughout the world. A marketing office has been established to coordinate the process of collecting and communicating external customer requirements, expectations and feedback to the Center's scientists and design engineers. One example of how TARDEC associates focus on customer needs is the Fielded Vehicle Performance Data System (FVPDS). A team of TARDEC associates developed t his sophisticated database which accesses twenty different vehicle logistics and performance tracking systems and enables TARDEC engineers to anticipate customer needs and provide quick response to customer requirements.

Having established a customer orientation throughout the Center, TARDEC's leaders were in a position to develop a meaningful, action oriented strategic plan for the center. The top managers embarked upon a strategic planning process which included benchmarking visits to Milliken & Company, Texas Instruments, Motorola, Ford, Xerox, General Motors, Chrysler, NASA, Arnold Engineering Center, and General Dynamics. Through this planning process TARDEC's leaders and associates validated the Center's mission, produced the TARDEC vision and developed the quality policy, guiding principles and a corporate business plan which are developed throughout the Center to each associate and supported by operating plans in each of the Center's business units.


TARDEC Accomplishments Include:

TARDEC furnishes its customers "world class" virtual prototyping (a development process which uses advanced computer simulation and modeling to enable early evaluation of a new product without actually building a physical prototype), supercomputing, battlefield simulation, and other advanced engineering design services to meet the military automotive technology demands and affordability challenges of the 21st Century. Additionally, TARDEC's dedicated associates are helping to leverage the government's substantial research and development investment by transferring military technology across the U.S. industrial base. TARDEC's National Automotive Center (NAC), a joint venture with the American automotive industry, is leading the way in transferring critical technologies to the private sector in order to enhance industrial performance and strengthen U.S. competitiveness.

Main NPR Category: Customer Service, Employee Empowerment

Related NPR Categories: Cutting Back to Basics, Cutting Red Tape

Contact Person: Sandy K. Pollum

Contact Phone: (810) 574-5063

Contact Address:

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