Quick: when did you last survey your employees to see if they have adopted your "quality values"? And how is your "strategic quality planning process . . . evaluated and improved?"

Not sure? Let's hope you don't supply Motorola. Motorola is requiring 3,000 suppliers to announce when they will apply for the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which entails addressing 133 topics like these; Motorola says it has dropped 200 companies that refused. Meanwhile, IBM is suggesting that its 10,000 suppliers use the Baldrige criteria internally, whether or not the companies apply. Award director Curt Reimann says other corporations are considering similar tacks.

These requests are another part of the trend toward companies asking more from suppliers. Here the theory is that the 50-page application yields a quality report card. Motorola's Ken Stork argues that if U.S. industry united around this one standard, small companies' lives would be much simpler.

But should the standard be Baldrige? Even Carl Thor of the American Productivity and Quality Center, which helps administer the award, admits that the application is geared more to big companies. Another quality award, he notes, is more attractive to small U.S. companies because the criteria are less complex. That's the Shingo Prize -- honoring a Japanese quality expert.

-- Martha E. Mangelsdorf