Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Title: TQM at the Kennedy Space Center

Background Information

As America's spaceport, the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is a high tech organization of 18,000 employees comprised of civil service, contractors, engineers, scientists, and support personnel. The primary mission of KSC is launching space shuttles and other vehicles with payloads into Earth's orbit and beyond, and providing ground support for their subsequent recovery and reuse.

Implementation of TQM has been under way for several years as local management initiatives and NASA initiatives have been tied to productivity and quality improvement. The first Strategic Plan was developed in the Fall of 1987. The first step was to place emphasis on the total process of preparing and launching space vehicles and payloads, instead of just relying on quality inspection at the end of the process. In late 1990, the pace of improvement efforts accelerated significantly. TQM became a key element in accomplishing the mission.

Today the broader goal is to improve the process and not just fix problems. KSC elected to use Continuous Improvement (CI) synonymously with TQM. Efforts have been focused on monitoring and improving the safety and reliability of operations while reducing cost and processing time for the Space Shuttle and Payloads. Shuttle processing labor hours per mission were reduced from 1.2 million to approximately 600,000 over a three year period, a reduction of over 40 percent, and a cost avoidance of approximately $150 million. Over the past two years, other improvements have dramatically improved processing flow time and overall safety performance has been excellent. Efforts directed towards customer satisfaction has resulted in a 77 percent improvement between 1991 and present.

KSC's decision to commit to TQM/CI began when top management recognized a need to significantly improve the way business was done. Costs had to be reduced while maintaining the high level of quality, recognizing that safety was still the number one priority.