Different Centuries, Different Awards, Same Excellence
In 2007, 65 years after SIFCO received the Navy “E”, the world was a very different place. Global population had grown from about 2.5 billion to 7.5 billion.
The Japanese and Germans were no longer enemies but reliable allies of the United States. Modern computers, which in 1942 were a science fiction dream, could do much of the work once handled by individuals.
The face of manufacturing had changed dramatically in the United States. Many U.S. manufacturing companies had been swallowed up, shut down or had their work outsourced overseas. In 1980, even the Bendix Corporation had acquired Warner & Swasey—the other Cleveland recipient of the 1942 Navy “E” honor.
One thing had not changed in 2007: SIFCO’s ability to make reliable forgings for the U.S. military when they were needed most.
The military program was for the U.S. Air Force Northrup Grumman A-10 Thunderbolt II, more commonly known as “The Warthog.” The Warthog was developed to protect combat troops on the ground.
The U.S. military needed fast response and perfect parts. In April 2007 it placed an order for an aft fin, used to stabilize the aircraft. Standard lead-time on this part was 34 weeks, which would mean the military would receive it around November 2007.
It was a difficult task, but this was SIFCO, and the lives of servicemen and servicewomen were once again at stake. There was nothing standard about that. In response to the military’s urgency, SIFCO applied an expedited shipping date of July 31, 2007.
The lead time for the specialized material needed for the aft fin was problematic. SIFCO and the U.S. military were longtime partners in working toward mutual goals; however, just as the military needed SIFCO to forge the parts quickly, SIFCO needed the military to secure the material in time.
“They helped us do that,” said Jim Woidke, then general manager of SIFCO Forge, and now COO of SIFCO. Thus, with the material in hand, SIFCO could go all-out in an effort to meet the manufacturing and shipping requirements.
To that end, and given what was at stake, on May 30, 2007, Rear Adm. Mark F. Heinrich attended a SIFCO “All-Hands” meeting.
“The meeting was pretty awesome,” Woidke said. “Adm. Heinrich commands a lot of attention when he walks in a room. Everyone at the meeting sensed the importance of our mission, and we felt honored to be part of it.”
The admiral told the story of why the U.S. military needed the parts: retrofitted replacement aft fins for the Warthog were essential to keep it flying safely.
“You’re obviously a group of dedicated people,” recalls Woidke, describing Heinrich’s speech to SIFCO employees at the All-Hands meeting.
The admiral would quickly see how right he was about the folks in the room. He had some honorary coins, he said, about the size of a silver dollar, from the Defense Center Supply Center (DSCR) in Richmond, Va., to pass out to the participants.
The problem was that he only had about a dozen or so, Woidke recalls, and wanted to be fair about who would get one. So Admiral Heinrich asked how many employees had been there for 20 years or more. Far too many hands shot up for them all to get a coin. Then he asked how many had been at SIFCO for 25 years. Still too many raised hands. “How about 30 years?” he asked.
“I think he got to about 35 years of service at SIFCO before he could give the coins out,” Woidke said with an appreciative laugh.
After he distributed the coins to the longtime employees, Admiral Heinrich stayed for most of the morning and took a tour of SIFCO’s forging operations.
Less than one month later, on June 21, 2007, SIFCO shipped the aft fin forgings to Northrup Grumman . . . five months ahead of the standard shipping date and more than a month ahead of the expedited shipping date.
Some of the SIFCO employees hadn’t even been born when the first Navy “E” was presented to SIFCO in 1945. Yet at the All-Hands meeting sixty-five years later they, and all the SIFCO employees, were part of the same kind of effort. Once again, SIFCO had come through for the U.S. military. Yes, much had changed in the world. Yet SIFCO’s dedication to excellence above and beyond the call of duty had remained the same.