Amos Woodward’s improved waterwheel governor patent, May 31, 1870.
The man who started it all
In 1870, Woodward founder Amos Woodward was working as a machinist at the N. C. Thompson Company, making an assortment of agricultural tools such as corn planters, plows, tooth harrows and cultivators. While the business was doing well, Amos knew that waterwheels were what powered all production. The existing waterwheel governors were large machines that took up to 10 minutes to open and close, causing a slowdown in production any time the water speed was adjusted.
During the summer of 1869, Amos tested a prototype, and on May 31, 1870, he received a patent for his waterwheel governor. Within a year, he had sold 13 of the new and improved governors. Due to the success of his invention, Amos left N. C. Thompson and founded the A. W. Woodward Company.
Beginning a Legacy
Amos Woodward leaves the N. C. Thompson Company to begin his waterwheel governor business, the A. W. Woodward Company.
A Big Move
The A. W. Woodward Company rents a three-story building at 658-660 Race Street, which formerly housed the N. C. Thompson Company.
Amos Woodward incorporates the Woodward Governor Company.
A Bigger Building
The construction of a five-story facility is completed on Mill Street to better accommodate the expanding operations.
Passing the Torch
Amos Woodward dies on March 23. Elmer Woodward becomes president and chairman of the board.
A Woodward member giving visitors a tour.
Woodward’s general manager, Irl Martin, saw a problem. After visiting customers to check on their new waterwheel governors, he noticed that customers were not using the governors to their full potential. To help buyers get the most out of their investment, Martin started a school in 1927 to educate customers on how the governor functioned. Martin and Elmer Woodward taught the first class.
The classes brought together customers and Woodward engineers. Customers learned more about the products, and engineers learned about their customers’ needs. (In 1930, this camaraderie sparked an impromptu baseball game, umpired by Monsieur Jardy of France, who spoke no English.) By 1933, the school was called the Prime Mover Control Conference, and was divided into three sections: hydro, steam and diesel.
Elmer Woodward installing his diesel governor for Fairbanks-Morse.
True Customer Service
As with Amos Woodward’s improvement of the slow, bulky waterwheel governor during the 19th century, Elmer Woodward’s diesel governor came about because of a problem with existing machinery.
Woodward customer Fairbanks-Morse, a diesel engine manufacturer, was having trouble with one of its plant’s waterwheels. Their Woodward waterwheel governor was so sensitive that it was taking regulation away from a faster diesel engine. Elmer traveled to the Fairbanks-Morse facilities in Beloit, Wisconsin, where he developed a prototype that worked with, instead of against, the diesel engine. This prototype became the Woodward internal combustion (IC) governor, completed in 1933.
L’Orange Is Founded
Rudolf L'Orange establishes Gebrüder L'Orange Motorzubehör GmbH.
The Great Depression
Elmer Woodward cuts hours and promises to protect employees during the Great Depression.
Elmer Woodward and his airplane propeller governor, 1935.
The first satisfactory airplane propeller governor
During the Great Depression, customers continued to ask Woodward for help with their engineering problems, despite the dire economic circumstances. In 1933, Hamilton Standard, a division of United Aircraft, asked Woodward to produce a governor that would automatically adjust a variable pitch propeller. Woodward had not manufactured any aircraft parts at that point.
Woodward engineers initially tried to adapt an existing governor, but the results were too heavy and too expensive. Elmer Woodward suggested a non-compensating governor, like the waterwheel governor Amos Woodward had invented. However, no one was familiar with such an “old” design, so Elmer spent the winter of 1933-1934 working on a solution, walking to and from his shop with so many castings in his pockets that he could not close his coat. Once he completed his airplane propeller governor, he traveled to Connecticut to personally deliver it to Hamilton Standard.
The Talitha Super Yacht
Universally considered the inspiration for modern yacht design, the Talitha Super Yacht (known as Chalena in the 1930s) used Woodward’s SI governor to synchrophase engines and reduce vibration for comfort.
Woodward’s cabinet actuators were used by the U.S. government on the Bonneville Dam in Oregon. The Bonneville Dam’s actuator, the largest ever produced by Woodward, had to be assembled at the Ingersoll Milling Machine Company in Rockford.
British Spitfire aircraft from World War II.
World War II
As the United States prepared for World War II, Elmer Woodward’s newest inventions, the diesel governor and the airplane propeller governor, were sold largely to the U.S. military for ships and airplanes. Some airplane propeller governors were used in British Spitfires and Hurricanes, which flew in the Battle of Britain.
In 1943, the U.S. government requested Woodward’s engineering expertise on a secret project to develop a governor for a gas turbine. This project was an important part of the development of the jet engine. The United States and Germany were in a race to complete the first jet engine. In 1945, the United States introduced its first jet fighter, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. While the plane did not make it to the Pacific Theater before the end of the war, it was invaluable during the Korean War.
The Woodward Governor Company goes public.
Building a Landmark
The company moves into a new facility on North Second Street, adjacent to Loves Park. The new plant is climate controlled and contains a first aid room and cafeteria.
Irl Martin articulates his philosophy of fairness and corporate responsibility in the Corporate Partnership.
Rudolf L’Orange’s pump nozzle.
L’Orange’s combined pump and injector unit
While Rudolf L’Orange was known for many inventions, the one with the most lasting impact is the combined pump and injector unit. L’Orange met Karl Maybach of Maybach-Motorenbau following World War II, when both men were developing diesel engines for the French army, which occupied Germany at the time.
In 1947, L’Orange and Maybach collaborated on a fast-running diesel engine for trains and ships. The unit allowed for a shorter injection time, so the train or ship could move faster. In 1950, L’Orange filed a patent for the combined pump and injector unit.
The first X1307 jet engine control sent to General Electric, 1957.
A flagship control
Woodward’s 1307 gas turbine fuel control, which was developed between 1954 and 1957 for General Electric’s J79 jet, served as the company’s flagship control for more than a decade.
Initially, the 1307 took almost 100 hours to assemble and 40 to 100 hours to test. Then, Rex Hunt, foreman of the Diesel Department, took over the 1307 project and created a six-station assembly line. Each station had its own inspection and checkoff procedure. This new process shortened assembly time to just 12 to 18 hours and testing to six to eight hours. The time savings dramatically increased profits.
The 1307 control continued to be a best seller through the 1960s.
Across the Pond
Operations begin in Bolton, England.
Woodward has always prided itself on its longtime strategic alliances with key customers worldwide. This is most evident in the relationship between Woodward L'Orange GmbH and MTU Friedrichshafen, which dates back to the 1960s. L'Orange at one point was a subsidiary of MTU, and MTU is today one of L'Orange's most important customers.
When Woodward purchased L'Orange, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, in 2018, it became part of this relationship between MTU, an aircraft engine builder, and L'Orange. At the time of this sale, a 15-year service agreement was established ensuring that L'Orange would sell its products exclusively for use in MTU’s engines.
"This is still a strategic partnership, supported by a long-term service agreement between L'Orange and MTU. It really is almost like a worldwide partnership, in terms of what they are doing for each other," said Dr. Andreas Lingens, general manager and vice president at L'Orange.
MTU bought L’Orange in 1985 with a strategic plan in mind. "Not only was it that MTU wanted to own the fuel system supplier, but they also wanted to invest into the joint development of the first common-rail system in that engine market," Lingens said.
Moving into the 1990s, MTU became a pioneer for common rail systems, working hand in hand with L'Orange as its fuel system supplier, Lingens said. By 1997, MTU had introduced its new Series 4000 engine. L’Orange and MTU worked side by side to help launch the common rail industry.
Through the years, L'Orange continued to supply key products to MTU, and the business has kept growing. "This was a very deep strategic partnership in terms of developing new technologies," Lingens said. "As of today, we can state that L'Orange is a technology leader in terms of common rail systems in many different aspects."
The first electric governor enters production.
McMaster Products Corporation (MPC) is founded in Chicago. The company produces precision rotating servo control components and electromechanical assemblies.
A branch office opens in Sydney, Australia.
Irl Martin develops the Woodward Constitution to enshrine the Corporate Partnership and ensure his successors defend it. The membership votes to accept the Constitution on October 1.
Woodward invents the first digital control system for the Harpoon Missile.
A plant in Campinas, Brazil, is established.
Engineers begin development of the full authority digital electronic control (FADEC) for aircraft turbine engines.
Woodward’s 3278 fuel controls went into production on General Dynamics Air Force F-16 Fighters in 1984. The fighter remains a staple in militaries around the world and is projected to stay in use until 2070.
Rome-Fiumicino International Airport.
Keeping the lights on
The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a complete power governing system developed by SEG, which was acquired by Woodward in 2006. Just as Woodward dedicated itself to prime mover controls for many years, SEG focused its talents on power generation starting in the late 1960s.
In the early 1990s, SEG sought to extend the capacity of its technology by integrating new power electronics with its existing products, leading to the UPS.
One of the earliest orders for the UPS was from the Rome–Fiumicino International Airport in Italy. In the early 1990s, 20 UPS units were installed around the runway to provide constant lighting for planes. As of 2017, about 50 percent of the original equipment was still in operation.
WISE rollout dates.
Innovative Business Systems
Woodward is constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to information technology (IT) solutions that drive customer support and productivity.
In 1992, Woodward developers began customizing an off-the-shelf software solution to suit Woodward’s unique needs. In May 1994, the new Woodward Integrated Systems Environment (WISE) was piloted at Fort Collins. Prior to WISE, each Woodward location operated independently. WISE helped standardize processes as well as software across the whole company.
Between 2012 and 2013, the Manufacturing Information System (MIS) was added to the Woodward arsenal. MIS, which is used at the Rock Cut campus and in Fort Collins, is tracking software that enables members to keep tabs on manufacturing progress for each product and get up-to-date work instructions. As with WISE, MIS will eventually be introduced in all Woodward locations.
Joint Venture in India
Woodward forms a joint venture to open a plant in India.
Woodward acquires Einspritzgerätewerk Aken, a fuel pump manufacturer in Aken, Germany, that is renamed Woodward Governor Germany GmbH.
Woodward acquires HSC Controls, a recognized leader in electromagnetic devices in Buffalo, New York.
The Forbidden City
Woodward opens an office in Beijing, China.
A Woodward member in the shop.
Commitment to quality
From waterways to the sky above, Woodward always pushes itself to offer its customers the best quality product. Such dedication to craftsmanship and attention to detail can be seen starting with Amos and Elmer Woodward’s numerous inventions, leading all the way to the development of True North.
As the business began to transform in the 1990s, John Halbrook took the next step to ensure Woodward was working to continuously improve the quality of its products. Through customers General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, Woodward was introduced to the Six Sigma and Kaizen methodologies, both well-known tools for improving manufacturing processes. These methodologies presented not only techniques for improving quality but also a mentality of continuous improvement that continues today.
Introducing formal, ongoing process improvement measures paid dividends: Within five years of adopting Six Sigma and Kaizen, Woodward’s internal and external quality improved by 60 percent.
Train to Busan
Woodward establishes an office in Busan, South Korea.
L’Orange introduces the world's first electronic common-rail injection system for large diesel engines.
Mapping out the future
While John Halbrook focused on quality in the 1990s, a new Woodward member named Tom Gendron was thinking about customers’ future needs. Gendron predicted that computers would allow fuel delivery systems to perform functions previously reserved for speed controls. In his 1997 study titled “Fuel Delivery System (FDS) Strategy,” Gendron made the case for Woodward to transition to develop total fuel delivery systems.
To bring this vision to life, Woodward engaged Gemini Consulting to produce a transformation map. This map had members begin with the goals they wanted to achieve, such as improve quality by “x” amount or win specific contracts, and then plan out steps to reach those goals. This process, paired with scientific methodologies, helped move Woodward into the 21st century.
Fuel Systems Textron
Woodward acquires Fuel Systems Textron (FST) of Zeeland, Michigan, a company that produces fuel system products for gas turbine engines.
A Woodward member at work.
Mark Sundstedt, Woodward’s customer service representative for Caterpillar, faced a dilemma. In the year 1998, he printed out and reviewed hundreds of sheets of paper containing incoming product orders, requirements, and other details. This process took roughly three hours.
Fortunately, Woodward was developing a solution that would make his workday easier. Between 1999 and 2000, the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) program debuted. EDI was developed in-house by Woodward developers. For the first time, customers sent their delivery schedules and product orders to Woodward electronically. EDI automated order processing so that it took a matter of minutes. Woodward entered a new era of technology-assisted customer service—and Sunstedt got back three hours of his day.
Woodward acquires Leonhard-Reglerbau, a power generation startup in Stuttgart, Germany.
Woodward acquires Schaltanlagen-Elektronik-Geräte GmbH & Co. KG (SEG), an energy control company in Kempen, Germany.
Woodward moves its headquarters from Rockford, Illinois, to Fort Collins, Colorado.
Woodward’s components, including the 787 EDAS Airframe System, are used on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, one of the most advanced passenger planes in the world.
Woodward acquires Integral Drive Systems AG (IDS), a company that engineers, designs and produces wind converters and renewable energy electronics. IDS is based in Switzerland, with a plant in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The 828 digital control.
A Sweet Solution
Pu’unene Mill on Maui Island is the last sugar mill in Hawaii. This 36,000-acre plantation generates its own electricity through renewables, including several on-site hydroelectric power plants. But in early 2012, these plants were operating with slow turbines and unstable controls from the early 20th century.
In a long-overdue move, the mill renovated its hydroelectric plants in 2012 and 2013, including the addition of four new Woodward 828 digital governor controls. The 828 digital control is customizable, can be fitted for new machines and retrofitted for older ones, and allows for remote control.
With the 828s in place, the results were immediate. Operators could now control the power plants remotely and with greater precision than with the previous mechanical governors. In one sweep, the Pu’unene Mill had joined the 21st century.
Woodward purchases GE Aviation Systems’ thrust reverser actuation systems business in Duarte, California.
Woodward publishes its first annual sustainability report.
Woodward’s annual Key Leadership Summit offers an important opportunity to take stock of the company—to celebrate successes and address challenges. But in 2016, senior leaders at the summit threw down the gauntlet.
Despite having some of the best solutions for the aerospace industry, Woodward’s product quality and on-time delivery were suffering. “There was a lot of stress and a lot of pain we were causing our customers,” said Ben Hunter, Director of ASV. “And, to be sure, they reminded us of that every single day.”
CEO Tom Gendron tapped longtime Woodward leader Jim Rudolph to lead what would be known as True North—a cornerstone initiative to fix key operations by increasing speed of execution and delivery, and ensuring defect-free production. These were lofty goals, but they were necessary in order to deliver the excellence that customers expect and deserve.
Rudolph selected his own dream team, comprised of 20 to 30 cross-functional experts from operations, product life cycle, materials and other key areas. The company allocated funds for the initiative, which had the full support of the Board of Directors.
The True North team took a two-pronged approach, analyzing both operations and the product development process. It became clear that there was little standardization. Different teams and locations had too much leeway, and there was limited common ground from which to build or iterate.
“True North is really reflective of the pros and cons between flexibility and having a standard approach,” said John Tysver, Woodward’s Corporate Vice President for Technology. “We have probably erred on the side of being too flexible.” The growing company needed a clear baseline, which they termed Standard Work. “Without that,” said Tysver, “you can’t work on continuous improvement, because there is no basis for it.”
Complementing the concept of Standard Work was Leader Standard Work—bringing leaders back out on the shop floors, educating them on the processes, and collaboratively looking for problems to solve and barriers to knock down.
In part, this manifested as GEMBA Walks, a consistent, structured opportunity for leaders to observe and reflect on the health of a given system and discern “what good looks like.” Daily standups, a focus on real artifacts and visualizations, and open communication helped teams arrive at “what’s broke” and then collaboratively figure out how to fix it, without defensiveness.
True North quickly became important to customers, a competitive advantage. “After the institution of the True North principles,” Hunter said, “it led to improved operational execution that has laid that foundation for truly healthy [customer] conversations going forward.”
FMU Director Scott Johnson saw a similar turnaround in customer relationships. “It’s a completely different tone to the whole interaction,” he said. “Today, we have credibility in the [commitments] that we make, we’re hitting those commitments, and we’re showing positive progress.”
Hunter cited shipping metrics—increasing from about 450 to 1,400 components shipped each month—but the bigger story, he said, was “the investment in the education, the training, and the broad teams that have been a part of that.”
“It’s an evolution here,” said Chuck Ciaccio, Operations Supervisor for ASV. “The membership is engaged, our leaders are engaged, and the [Integrated Support Team] is engaged. … We know we have our work cut out for us, but we have the tools today to be successful.”
Woodward opens a new facility in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
Woodward commemorates its 150th anniversary in 2020.