In a single building on Moog Inc.’s sprawling Elma campus, employees build components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, ensuring the planes fly with military precision.
Aircraft parts are a big part of the picture at Moog, but they are far from the only part.
The motion control equipment maker’s components helped deliver the Perseverance rover to Mars last year, and the company produces technology for weapons systems and medical equipment, among other applications.
Moog takes a long-term view of the business projects it embraces, said John Scannell, president and CEO.
“We’re playing for the long, long haul,” he said. “When we take on a new program, a new military or commercial aircraft program, as I describe it to investors, it’s not my retirement fund, it’s my children’s retirement fund, and they’re just starting their careers. how far we think when we think about the investments we make.”
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With good-paying jobs, strong customer connections and technical know-how, Moog’s operations are the type of manufacturing that area business recruiters most desire.
With its reliance on engineering and skilled technical jobs, Moog is a magnet for attracting talent to the area that local officials say is essential to growing the regional economy.
And Moog executives have big plans.
The publicly traded company is targeting $3 billion in revenue in the current fiscal year, which ends in early October. And Moog shows no signs of slowing down, in jobs, investments or acquisitions:
• State officials recently welcomed a $25 million investment by Moog in its operations. This followed a $44 million investment that Moog had recently completed for a project to support its aviation business.
• Moog is the region’s largest manufacturer, with approximately 4,000 jobs, and one of the region’s largest private employers. Its presence extends far beyond Western New York. Worldwide, Moog has a total of approximately 13,300 employees at 25 locations.
• Acquisitions have fueled its growth. Earlier this year, Moog bought an engineering and aerospace business based in Ireland. And in late 2020, the company bought Texas-based Genesys Aerosystems Group for $78 million.
• Moog continues to expand into new product areas, partnering with Doosan Bobcat to design and manufacture an all-electric compact track loader.
• Moog has had stable corporate leadership, with only two different CEOs since 1988. Scannell was named CEO in late 2011 and later added the duties of chairman. He succeeded Robert Brady, who had been CEO for over two decades, guiding 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 headquarters in the region benefits the manufacturing sector in several ways, supporters say.
“We are very fortunate to have a Moog in Western New York and their dedication 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 come down south or move their plants to other places, but they have this commitment to the Western New York area.”
Moog helped start the Buffalo Manufacturing Works, a center in the Northland complex that promotes innovation and participates in other initiatives that support manufacturing. Moog was among the businesses that recently sponsored a “boot camp” to train new tech workers at the Tech Academy in the Seneca One tower.
Many area businesses 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.
The number of manufacturing jobs in the Buffalo Niagara region has hovered around 52,000 in recent years, though the average has dipped somewhat during the pandemic. Large employers like Moog consistently boost those numbers.
Scott Pallotta, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Manufacturing Council, said Moog’s presence also helps with the issue of bringing new people into the manufacturing pipeline.
“We don’t see this crisis ending anytime soon, but leading companies like Moog are helping to get the message out 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 and important history in Western New York, and Moog has taken a leading role in the next phase of that history.”
A hallmark of Moog is its diversified business lines.
Where some other major manufacturers make variations of one type of product – such as tires or engines – Moog has multiple business areas: 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 no, we’re using the same technology – motion control, fluid control – whether it’s aerospace, medical, industrial, aircraft, it’s the same underlying motion technology.”
This diversification helps Moog withstand a downturn in any business area. When the commercial aircraft industry took a hit during the pandemic — slowing the need for more aircraft parts — some other Moog divisions, such as defense, remained strong.
“Because we have this diversified end market, we tend to ride through storms,” Scannell said. “And we’re very focused on building technology and capabilities and investing very, very long-term.”
When William C. Moog Jr. founded Moog in 1951, 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 use the technologies we have and expand them into new growth markets,” said Scannell.
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 it has tremendous potential, and we work with very large customers — Bobcat, we’ve talked to, other big (original equipment manufacturers), multibillion-dollar companies.”
While construction vehicles represent something new, the product line builds on Moog’s expertise in integrating high-tech systems and components.
“You have this ability to integrate systems that very few players have,” Scannell said.
Growing at such a large scale also exposes Moog to challenges that many other businesses don’t face.
Moog’s operations in Shanghai had to be closed for six weeks as part of China’s strict policy to combat Covid-19.
Moog has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a former employee stole trade secrets related to drone aviation and took them to a new startup. The startup, Skyryse, called the lawsuit “totally baseless.”
Last fall, Moog became the target of protests over a planned federal government mandate to vaccinate federal contractor employees. The vaccine requirement has not been enforced, amid legal challenges from several states.
Manufacturers everywhere say they are struggling to find skilled 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 struggle as much as others. In fact, we tend to pick up people from other companies. But we still have our challenges. We still lack people we need: skilled engineers, good, hardworking people who want to make precision aircraft parts.”
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 area has long been known for. “If nothing else, 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 that is we have very skilled people, but it’s hard to keep recruiting those kinds of people,” he said. “There’s just not a lot of young people coming out of school who want to pursue these 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, they’re now programming the system.”