Congress established the award program in 1987 to recognize U.S.companies for their achievements in quality and business performance and to raise awareness about the importance of quality and performance excellence as a competitive edge. The award is not given for specific products or services. Two awards may be given annually in each of three categories: manufacturing, service, and small business.
While the Baldrige Award and the Baldrige winners are the very visible centerpiece of the U.S. quality movement, a broader national quality program has evolved around the award and its criteria. A report, Building on Baldrige: American Quality for the 21st Century, by the private Council on Competitiveness, said, "More than any other program, the Baldrige Quality Award is responsible for making quality a national priority and disseminating best practices across the United States." The U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) manages the award in close cooperation with the private sector.
Why the award was established
In the early and mid-1980s, many industry and government leaders saw that a renewed emphasis on quality was no longer an option for American companies but a necessity for doing business in an ever-expanding, and more demanding, competitive world market. But many American businesses either did not believe quality mattered for them or did not know where to begin. The Baldrige Award was envisioned as a standard of excellence that would help U.S. companies achieve world-class quality.