17:19 PM

A Quality Path: Alumnus Kris Bird '19 Finds a Rewarding Future in Manufacturing


In 2014, after six years working in restaurant management, WCTC alum Kris Bird decided to try something different: manufacturing. "I know that’s a broad subject, but I felt that manufacturing is the future," he said.

By 2015, Bird had been hired for a six-month apprenticeship program at Accurate Pattern, Inc., a manufacturing engineering company in Butler, Wis. He started in assembly and learned how to operate a three-axis CNC machine, then quickly took to machine programming and tool pathing. Within two years, he had started to explore 3D parametric design. "I am a literal sponge and want to soak up as much information as possible," said Bird. "I am ambitious."

Bird’s ambition was recognized by Accurate Pattern CEO Bruce Williams, who encouraged him to pursue further education in manufacturing. "After Bruce came to me, I decided to look earnestly at what I wanted to do in my life," Bird said.

An Interest in Lean Manufacturing

While researching his options, Bird discovered lean manufacturing – an approach that aims to maximize efficiency and reduce waste in manufacturing systems, ultimately leading to better outcomes for the company and its customers. With a passion for continuous improvement, Bird said he "immediately fell in love with the concept of lean."

Bird completed WCTC’s Quality Management associate degree in 2019. "The rest is history," he said. "Enrolling was easy, and to this day, I am still surprised that credits from classes that I took 13 years prior could transfer over. I still count it as a blessing."

Brenda Wolfe, WCTC Quality Management instructor, explained that "quality management professionals stand out from the crowd and are helping organizations navigate the need for increased customer satisfaction and loyalty." She highlighted how this field boasts high salaries and universally applicable skills.

Thanks to his quality management training, Bird was able to take on the roles of quality manager, manufacturing designer and purchasing manager at Accurate Pattern. His classes helped him lead the company through International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification. To comply with ISO standards, Bird worked with company management to document current processes and incorporate new ones. "Leading ISO 9001:2015 certification for my previous employer has been my proudest achievement thus far," he said. "I wouldn’t have had that knowledge if it wasn’t for WCTC."

Bird says his instructors have played a key role in his professional development. "The instructors’ love for the material was astounding," he said. "Their passion all showed." He especially thanked Wolfe, who worked with Bird both as his instructor and as a consultant for Accurate Pattern through the WCTC Corporate Training Center.

"First and foremost, Kris is a people person and he values building relationships with those he works with," said Wolfe. "I was extremely impressed with the efficiency and thoroughness he demonstrated when overseeing the implementation of the ISO 9001:2015 certification at Accurate Pattern last year."

Leadership Growth and Advancement

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Bird enrolled in an online program at Grand Canyon University. He was able to transfer all his WCTC credits and is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in Business Analytics.

Bird also serves on the advisory committee for WCTC’s Leadership Development and Quality Management degree programs. His input helps guide the curriculum to better align with the latest industry trends and employer needs.

In January, Bird took on an exciting new role as lean manufacturing leader at GE Healthcare. "The role allows me to grow within a company that has been around for well over a hundred years with many advancement opportunities," said Bird. "It is truly fantastic to positively impact an organization and watch fellow employees absorb and contribute to a culture of 
learning and change."

Bird’s advice to prospective students: "At 28, I went back to school and found my true calling. It is never too late to pursue your dreams." 


By Chelsey Porth, Writer/Marketing Specialist