In just one building on Moog Inc.’s sprawling Elma campus, employees manufacture parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to ensure the planes fly with military precision.
Aircraft components are a big part of the picture at Moog, but far from the only part.
The motion control equipment maker’s parts helped deliver the Perseverance rover to Mars last year, and the company produces technology for weapon systems and medical equipment, among other things.
Moog takes a long-term view of all business projects it encompasses, said John Scannell, chairman and chief executive officer.
“We’re playing very, very long-term,” he said. “When we take on a new program, a new military or commercial aircraft program, the way I describe it to investors is that it’s not my retirement plan, it’s my children’s retirement plan, and they’re just beginning their working careers. That’s how far we think when we think about investments we make.”
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With well-paying jobs, strong customer relationships and technical know-how, Moog’s operations are the kind of manufacturing that the region’s recruiters are keen on.
With its reliance on engineering and skilled technical jobs, Moog is a magnet for attracting the kind of talent to the region that local development officials say is essential to growing the region’s economy.
And Moog executives have big plans.
The public company is targeting $3 billion in revenue for its current fiscal year, which ends around early October. And Moog shows no signs of slowing down, on jobs, investments or acquisitions:
• State officials recently welcomed Moog’s $25 million investment in its operations. This was followed by a $44 million investment that Moog recently completed on a project to support its aircraft business.
• With around 4,000 jobs, Moog is the largest manufacturer in the region and one of the largest private employers in the region. Its presence extends well beyond western New York. Moog employs around 13,300 people at 25 locations worldwide.
• Acquisitions drove growth. Earlier this year, Moog bought an Ireland-based engineering and aerospace company. And in late 2020, the company bought Texas-based Genesys Aerosystems Group for $78 million.
• Moog continues to develop new product areas and is working with Doosan Bobcat to design and build an all-electric compact tracked loader.
• Moog has had stable governance since 1988 with only two different CEOs. In late 2011, Scannell was appointed to the role of CEO and later promoted to Chairman. He succeeded Robert Brady, who served as CEO for over two decades and led Moog through a remarkable turnaround. By the time Scannell became CEO, he had spent 21 years with Moog in Europe and the United States.
Moog’s presence in the region will benefit the manufacturing sector in many ways, proponents say.
“We are very fortunate to have a Moog in West New York and its commitment to West New York,” said Peter Ahrens, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance. “I’m sure they’ve been approached a million times about going south or moving their plants elsewhere, but they have this dedication to the western New York area.”
Moog helped found Buffalo Manufacturing Works, a center in the Northland complex that encourages innovation, and is involved in other initiatives to support manufacturing. Moog was among the companies that recently sponsored a “boot camp” to train new technicians at the Tech Academy in the Seneca One Tower.
Numerous companies in the region benefit from Moog’s presence by acting as suppliers to the Elma-based company, said Ben Rand, president of Insyte Consulting, which works with manufacturers.
Manufacturing jobs in the Buffalo Niagara area have hovered around 52,000 in recent years, although the average has fallen somewhat during the pandemic. Big employers like Moog consistently amplify these numbers.
Scott Pallotta, chairman of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Manufacturing Council, said Moog’s presence also helps bring new employees into the manufacturing pipeline.
“We don’t see an end to this crisis anytime soon, but leaders like Moog are helping to spread the word that a career in manufacturing is a great way to make a living,” said Pallotta, also CEO by Zehnder Riding. “Manufacturing has a long history and an important history in western New York, and Moog has taken a leadership role in the next phase of that history.”
A hallmark of Moog is its diversified businesses.
While some other major manufacturers make variations of one type of product — like tires or engines — Moog has multiple business segments: aircraft controls, space and defense controls, and industrial systems.
Some investors look at Moog and see it as a conglomerate, Scannell said. He does not do it.
“Our view is no, we use the same technology — motion control, fluid control — whether it’s aerospace, medical, industrial, aircraft, it’s always the same underlying motion technology.”
This diversification helps Moog weather a downturn in one business. As the airliner industry took a hit during the pandemic — slowing demand for more aircraft parts — some other Moog segments like defense stayed strong.
“Because we have this diversified end market, we tend to fight our way through storms,” Scannell said. “And we’re very focused on building technology and capability and investing for the very, very long term.”
When William C. Moog Jr. founded Moog in 1951, he gave the company local roots that run deep 71 years later. The business has grown far beyond what he could possibly have ever imagined, but the company’s tradition of innovation continues.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to grow the business and leverage the technologies we have and expand them into new growth markets,” Scannell said.
One of these potential new markets is electric construction vehicles.
“It’s an early stage,” Scannell said. “We have small volumes of sales. But we think it has tremendous potential, and we’re working with very large customers — Bobcat, we’ve talked about it, other large (OEM), multi-billion dollar companies.”
While the construction vehicles represent something new, the product line draws on Moog’s know-how in the areas of system integration and high-tech components.
“They have that system integration ability that very few players have,” Scannell said.
Growing to such a large level also poses challenges for Moog that many other companies don’t face.
Moog’s Shanghai facility was forced to close for six weeks due to China’s strict anti-Covid-19 policies.
Moog has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a former employee stole trade secrets related to unmanned helicopter aviation and took them to a new startup. The startup Skyryse has described the lawsuit as “completely unfounded”.
Last fall, Moog was the target of protests against a proposed federal government mandate to vaccinate employees of federal contractors. The vaccination requirement was not imposed despite legal challenges from several states.
Manufacturers everywhere say they are struggling to find qualified employees to fill vacancies. Moog is no exception.
“We have a small advantage because it has a reputation as a good place to work,” Jennings said. “We don’t have as many problems as others. In fact, we tend to bring in people from other companies. But we still have our challenges. We still lack the people we need: qualified machinists, good, hard-working people, the precision components want to build for airplanes.”
Some of the qualities Moog looks for in new employees are an attention to detail and a commitment to the job, Jennings said. “When we have to get the work done, we have to be flexible. And we want people who can be flexible.”
Ahrens said Moog’s job opportunities will help stem the “brain drain” the region has long been known for. “If anything, people move to Buffalo to work for Moog because of the quality of their company and the many different areas that they serve,” he said.
Moog is always looking for ways to improve its level of automation, Scannell said.
“Part of it is that we have very qualified people, but it’s difficult to recruit these types of people,” he said. “There just aren’t a lot of young people who want to get out of school and take those kinds of opportunities, even though they’re really good jobs.”
With increased automation comes improved processes, Scannell said. “But that just changes the job — it means that instead of the person holding the part, the system is now being programmed.”