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Quality Takes Control at Woodward Aerospace

03 February, 2023

Lean principles and safety best practices run the show at Woodward Aerospace. The company prides itself in its effective safety management strategies. It diligently ensures its standards for quality, efficient work are met, which benefits the company and continuously improves it.


Ensuring products meet requirements and efficiency standards are Richard Schelir's primary responsibilities as a quality control manager at Woodward Aerospace in Fort Collins, Colorado. Schelir has been a part of the independent system and components designer and manufacturer for 23 years. Woodward leads the way with innovations in aerospace and industrial sectors, and Schelir said safety is an integral element.

Guided by Lean Principles

Woodward prides itself in sustaining a culture of continuous improvement. A combination of lean principles and Kaizen have resulted in a continuous reduction in lead times, turnaround times, and work-in-process. This has improved overall on-time delivery, responsiveness, and costs. What has kept Woodward in business and thriving is the company's adaptation of Six Sigma methodology and a strong, effective safety management system.

"It's everyone's responsibility to practice safety, from the CEO to the janitor," said Schelir, who leads safety evaluations and investigations when something is amiss on sites throughout the U.S. and sometimes even the Caribbean. His job requires a lot of critical thinking as he monitors operations and solves problems. "As an authority in quality issues, I look out for safety. I tell workers to always be aware of your surroundings. People get into patterns and get too complacent, and that is when accidents can happen."

Schelir makes sure Woodward and its suppliers are building products per requirements. If standards are not being met, it's his job to figure out the root cause and take corrective actions. Some of the challenges Schelir said he has faced are safety in manufacturing methods and the use of certain chemicals. "To address those issues, sometimes the manufacturing methods were changed and some of the chemicals used were changed out for something else. In some cases, adjusting practices or improving processes can increase time, but that is a huge opportunity cost when compared to someone getting hurt."

Ladder label reminds workers to watch step.Quality Work Practices

It is this diligence to the elimination of accidents and injuries from operations that make Woodward a highly sought employer. The company was listed among America's Best Employers in 2016, according to Forbes magazine. Woodward attributes its safety record to addressing work site evaluations and care, thorough employee training from date of hire, hazardous material control, safety rules, record keeping, weekly tool box talks, accident prevention, and reporting.

Some of the topics Schelir said he focuses on routinely are safety rules for ergonomics/lifting, ladders, chemical labeling, machine pinch points, personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout, energized equipment work, and hazard communications. He said it is important to reinforce safety through proper visual communication. For example, he stressed the importance of having expiration dates on chemical labels: "In some cases, preprinted labels to take out the guess work."

Schelir said he commonly hears complaints over not wanting to wear respirator masks, safety glasses, or pay for high-quality safety shoes or other personal protective equipment. "Sometimes people think safety is a hassle," he said. He's thankful Woodward helps bear the brunt of those costs to make it easier for employees to perform even safer. "It's better to be safe now than sorry later."

Learn the power of the 5S system to improve safety, productivity, and morale. Get an overview of each of the five steps to 5S and color-coding tips in our free 5S System Guide.