Today at Berkeley Lab

Lab’s Facilities Division Wins Awards for Process Excellence

By Jennifer Ridgeway

(l-r) Jennifer Ridgeway, Tammy Thompson, Cesar Sanchez, and Ken Fletcher

Application Process

Awards were opened to a range of industries from huge multinational corporations to small-to-midsize businesses, from a military barrack to a hospital, or from a small department to a vast business unit. Project, program or individual had to have a significant impact on their business. The awards were open to all countries. Once submitted both application
and presentation were submitted to PEX Network’s unique committee of industry expert judges. About 100 applications are submitted yearly in each of seven categories.

To ensure fairness in the judging processes, all judges were a neutral and hand-selected panel of industry only experts for Lean, Six Sigma & Business Process Management. All judges mark the applications based on a predefined set of judging criteria for each award category, ensuring that the judging approach was fully standardized and direct comparison between entries was possible.

From this, four to six finalists were selected for each category and these finalists were announced at the beginning of November. All selected finalists continue to the next round of face-to-face judging.

Face-to-Face Judging Round

The integration of the face-to-face judging round ensures that judges garner a full, in-depth understanding of the program or project, thus making it not just a competition of ‘the best presentation’ but the best program, people and results.

Face-to-face interviews were hosted on January 16 at the 13th Annual Process Excellence Week in Orlando FL. Interviews lasted 45
minutes in total and companies were allowed up to three team members to present. For the Deployment Leader category, only the individual applicant was interviewed. Following the interviews, the initial scoring against the judging criteria was re-assessed before the winners and honorary mentions are decided.


Tammy Thompson is the Facilities Operational Excellence Program Manager who was instrumental in preparing our applications and presentations for the first round review. Cesar Sanchez, Facilities Planning Strategic Planning Dept. Head, Ken Fletcher, Division Deputy and Jennifer Ridgeway, Division Director, were the people interviewed in the the Final Round. Every Facilities Division employee is responsible for the huge effort and transformational change that has taken place in the Division.


We had a three pronged approach to achieving and sustaining this, first using Business Process Management (Re-Engineering from silos to end to end processes), using LEAN/Six Sigma as a tool to eliminate waste from our processes and then the more important prong of changing the mindset from “We’ve done it this way for the past thirty years to empowering the work teams to develop and continue to improve upon their own processes through the Change Agent/High Performance Culture Change program.


The Facilities Division needed to clean up its act and learn that the scientist are our customers. We needed to better define our work, eliminate waste from our processes, and become more efficient. The first order of business was to analyze how we worked, which was in a very siloed way. Jennifer Ridgeway had a vision that Facilities would work similar to private industry with end to end business processes with process owners and self-directed work teams. We had an outside firm assess our starting point and then assess us after 18 months and the improvement was dramatic (documentation for proof is available). We developed metrics to measure our monthly progress and trained hundreds of employees, not only in Facilities but other Ops Divisions with
whom we work.

The reason for entering the world renowned PEX awards was to see how we compared to industry. We were the little fish in the big pond competing against industry giants. A nomination into the Finals would have sufficiently validated our entry into a new way of doing business for the Lab. Receiving nominations into two awards was above even our comprehension. There were six finalists in each of the two categories, five of each being for-profit, multi-billion dollar companies, including Merck, Roche, Citi, SingTel, Telus, etc., and from multiple countries throughout the world and the sixth was Berkeley Lab’s Facilities Division.

The Wait

Our two interviews concluded midday on Monday, Jan. 16, and the awards ceremony wasn’t until the evening of Jan. 17. Although workshops and educational seminars were ongoing, our minds were preoccupied with “winning.” Imagine a 10,000 sq. ft. room with 800 chairs and tables and a stage lit up like the Academy Awards. Our first award announced was the Best Start-up Business Process Excellence Program (Under 2 years) and Roche won Honorable Mention. When they announced the winner as Berkeley Lab, I became frozen to the chair. Tammy literally pushed my back and I went up to accept the award on behalf of all the Facilities employees at Berkeley Lab who made this happen (one minute speech. When winning Deployment Leader of the Year, I was even more in shock. Senior Vice President of Roche Pharmaceuticals, Pat Yang in Switzerland sent a congratulatory email, as did other former winners of awards from different countries. It was really an overwhelming experience for all of us. Chris Peach of IT participated with us as well and “felt the anxiety.”

The Facilities Division through Process Improvement returned $3.3 M of overhead to the Lab Directorate for redeployment.

Go here to view a video of the awards.