This newsletter’s employee spotlight features two employees critical to the safety and well-being of the employees and various facilities at Innovance, the parent company of Lou-Rich.

Laverne SchroederLaVerne Schroeder (Schultz)

LaVerne Schroeder (Schultz) has been a member of the Lou-Rich team for 39 years. He started working at the Lou-Rich Hayward facility in 1982 in the Tool Room and worked his way up to a Senior Tool and Die Maker. In 2004 he accepted his current position as Safety & Environmental Manager for Innovance. Schultz has plans to retire this coming spring.

He has three grown children and lives on an acreage on a gravel road. He enjoys driving and riding horses, bailing hay, farming, the World of Outlaw Sprint Car Racing, and Classic Rock & Roll. He considers himself “an honest, straight shooting “Recycled Teenager” – just an old hippie from the 70’s!”

Ryan MartensRyan Martens

Ryan Martens started his career with Lou-Rich in 1999 as a painter and has dedicated 22 years to the Lou-Rich team. Over the years, he has assisted the Panels Plus team, as well as the Assembly Team at Lou-Rich and eventually worked his way up to Painting Department Lead. Ryan was awarded the position of Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator for Innovance and started his new role in July 2021.

Ryan has been married for 27 years, and has three children, all grown. He enjoys traveling off the beaten path and fishing. He also spends his time volunteering and sharing the teaching and preaching duties at his church, the Albert Lea Church of Christ for the past 25 years.

Worksite and Environmental Safety at Innovance

Worksite safety is important in all organizations but is especially valued at Innovance, as an 100% employee-owned organization. We attribute this to the sense of family that is present and the personal stake every employee holds in the organization.

In the last 17 years as Safety & Environmental Manager, Schultz has made significant contributions to both Lou-Rich and the rest of the Innovance facilities. “There wasn’t a fulltime safety person when I first started. My extent of training was very minimal, and most of the job I developed on my own,” stated Schultz. He attended OSHA seminars and monthly Stateline Safety Council Meetings, which discussed various safety topics and helped him implement new safety standards and programs at the Innovance facilities.

Over the years, Innovance has dramatically decreased our Mod factor (a company’s safety score in reference to their workers’ compensation insurance coverage) from 1.25 to 0.82. When Schultz first became Safety & Environmental Manager, Innovance facilities had around 30+ recordable injuries a year. This year, all 5 of our facilities have a combined total of 5 recordable injuries, which is unheard of in the manufacturing industry. This is largely due to his passion for safety, implementation of a Near Miss Program, and more preventative safety measures being taken in our facilities. We’ve also made many environmental improvements regarding disposal of waste that we create in our process like physical waste and facility emissions.

Filling Schultz’s Shoes

With news that Schultz would be retiring in the following year, finding a replacement was a large task. In fact, when Schultz wrote down a list of his responsibilities and expectations for his replacement, the document was three pages long! Some of these duties include:

  • OSHA, Environmental, DOT, Workers Compensation, and Facility Compliance
  • MNSHARP Certification
  • Facility Security
  • Janitorial/Custodian Supervision

Since July, Ryan has been shadowing and working alongside Schultz in preparation for taking over the full list of job responsibilities. “What excites me most is having a bigger reach in the company and being able to affect the company as a whole, not just those around me,” stated Ryan Martens, Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator. Although Schultz’s shoes will be very large to fill, Innovance is in good hands with Ryan Martens. “He’ll do really well, but there are a lot of new things still to learn,” stated Schultz.

Thank you, Schultz for all your hard work and dedication to the Innovance and Lou-Rich team! Your passion for our employees and organization has not gone unnoticed. We also thank Ryan for his years of service and look forward to seeing what accomplishments and improvements he makes in the coming years!