In just one building on Moog Inc.’s sprawling Elma campus. employees make parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, ensuring the planes fly with military precision.
Aircraft components are a big part of the Moog picture, but they are far from the only part.
The motion control equipment maker’s parts helped deliver the Perseverance rover to Mars last year, and the company makes technology for weapons systems and medical equipment, among other applications.
Moog takes a long-term view of all the business projects it covers, said John Scannell, chairman and CEO.
“We’re playing for the 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 pension fund, it’s my children’s pension fund, and they’re just starting their working careers. That’s how far we think when we think about the investments we make.”
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With good-paying jobs, strong customer relationships and technical expertise, Moog’s operations are the type of manufacturing that business people in the region eagerly aspire to.
With its reliance on engineering and skilled technical jobs, Moog is a magnet for attracting the type of talent to the region that local development officials say is essential to driving regional economic growth.
And Moog executives have big plans.
The publicly traded company is aiming for $3 billion in revenue in its current fiscal year, which ends around early October. And Moog shows no signs of slowing down in terms of jobs, investments or acquisitions:
• State officials recently welcomed a $25 million investment from Moog in its operations. This follows a $44 million investment that Moog recently completed for a project supporting the aircraft business.
• Moog is the largest manufacturer in the region with about 4,000 jobs and one of the largest private employers in the area. Its presence extends far beyond Western New York. Moog has a total of approximately 13,300 employees worldwide at 25 locations.
• Acquisitions fueled its growth. Earlier this year, Moog bought an Irish-based engineering and aerospace business. And in late 2020, the company bought Texas-based Genesys Aerosystems Group for $78 million.
• Moog continues to branch out into new product areas, working with Doosan Bobcat to design and build an all-electric compact track loader.
• Moog has had stable corporate leadership, with only two different CEOs since 1988. Scannell was appointed to the role of CEO in late 2011 and later added the duties of chairman. He succeeds Robert Brady, who served as CEO for more than two decades, leading Moog through a remarkable turnaround. By the time Scannell became CEO, he had spent 21 years with Moog in Europe and the United States.
Basing Moog in the region benefits the manufacturing sector in a number of ways, advocates say.
“We are very fortunate to have Moog in Western New York and their commitment to Western New York,” said Peter Ahrens, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance. “I’m sure they’ve been approached a million times to go south or move their plants to other places, but they have this commitment to the Western New York region.”
Moog helped launch the Buffalo Manufacturing Works, a hub at the Northland complex that fosters innovation and participates in other initiatives that support manufacturing. Moog was among the firms that recently supported a “boot camp” to train new tech workers at the Tech Academy in the Seneca One tower.
Many local businesses are taking advantage of Moog being here by acting as suppliers to the Elma-based company, said Ben Rand, president of Insyte Consulting, which works with the manufacturers.
The number of manufacturing jobs in the Buffalo Niagara region has hovered around 52,000 in recent years, although the average number has declined somewhat during the pandemic. Large employers like Moog are steadily increasing these numbers.
Scott Pallotta, chairman of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Manufacturing Council, said Moog’s presence also helps with the issue of bringing new people into the manufacturing process.
“We don’t see this crisis ending anytime soon, but leading companies like Moog are helping to spread the message to the community that a career in manufacturing is a great way to make a living,” said Pallotta, also CEO of Zehnder Rittling. “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 diverse business lines.
Where some other major manufacturers make variations on a single type of product—such as tires or engines—Moog has multiple business segments: aircraft controls, space and defense controls, and industrial systems.
Some investors look at Moog and see a conglomerate, Scannell said. He doesn’t.
“The view we have is negative, we’re using the same technology – motion control, fluid control – whether it’s aerospace, medical, industrial, aircraft, it’s all the same basic motion technology.”
This diversification helps Moog withstand downturns in every single business area. When the commercial jet industry took a hit during the pandemic — slowing the need for more aircraft parts — some other Moog segments, such as defense, remained strong.
“Because we have this diversified end market, we tend to weather storms,” Scannell said. “And we’re very focused on building technology and capabilities and investing for the very, very long term.”
When William S. Moog Jr. founded Moog in 1951, he gave the company local roots that run deep 71 years later. The business has expanded far beyond what he probably ever imagined, but the company’s tradition of innovation continues.
“We are constantly looking for opportunities 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 early stages,” Scannell said. “We have small amounts of sales. But we think there’s huge potential and we’re working with a lot of big customers — Bobcat, which we talked about, other big (OEMs), billion-dollar companies.”
While construction vehicles are new, the product line builds on Moog’s expertise in system integration and high-tech components.
“You have that system integration ability that very few players have,” Scannell said.
Growing to such a large level also exposes Moog to challenges that many other businesses don’t face.
Moog’s Shanghai operations had to be shut down for six weeks under China’s strict policy to combat Covid-19.
Moog has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a former employee stole trade secrets involving unmanned helicopters and took them to a new startup. The startup Skyryse called the lawsuit “totally baseless.”
Last fall, Moog was the subject of protests against a planned mandate by the federal government that federal contractor employees be vaccinated. The vaccine requirement has not been imposed amid legal challenges from several states.
Manufacturers everywhere say they are struggling to find qualified people to fill jobs. Moog is no exception.
“We have a little bit of an advantage because it has a good reputation as a good place to work,” Jennings said. “We don’t have as many problems as others. In fact, we tend to rip people off from other companies. But we still have our challenges. We still lack the people we need: skilled machinists, good, hardworking people who want to create precision aircraft components.”
Some of the qualities Moog looks for in new hires are attention to detail and commitment to work, Jennings said. “If we have to get the job done, we have to be flexible. And we want people who can be flexible.”
Ahrens said Moog’s job opportunities 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 they’re in,” he said.
Moog is constantly looking for ways to improve its level of automation, Scannell said.
“Part of it is that we have a lot of qualified people, but it’s hard to keep recruiting people like that,” he said. “There’s just not a lot of young people coming out of school wanting to go into these types of opportunities, even though they’re really good jobs.”
With increased automation comes improved processes, Scannell said. “But it just changes the job – it means that instead of the person holding the part, now they’re programming the system.”