(Article below originally published in Industry Today)
Marotta Controls is a third generation family-owned small business with 280 employees whose products literally reach not only around but out of this world—this New Jersey-based company holds over 200 patents and boasts an ever-expanding portfolio of pressure, power, motion, fluid and electronic controls for shipboard and sub-sea applications, weapons systems, aerospace and defense systems, satellites and launch vehicles.
“Marotta is not an off-the-shelf component supplier,” explains president and CEO Patrick Marotta, grandson of the company’s founder. “We are an innovative solutions provider with the unique ability to build upon our legacy products to meet the increasingly challenging needs of our customer’s programs today. In addition to evolving our heritage product lines, we understand the increasing capabilities of the platforms our systems are used on and have adapted to this by designing and developing new technologies to address unique requirements for controlling pressure, motion, fluid, electronics and power.”
|Dedicated production cells enable Marotta to deliver high quality products on schedule||To that end, Marotta Controls employs a staff of 80 engineers. While engineers are typically assigned to a specific market segment—aerospace, marine, space, weapons — most of the technologies that they work on are applicable to most, if not all, of the company’s market segments. “Increasingly, our technology isn’t limited to market-specific applications,” Marotta explains. “We’re finding instead that what we’re doing in one segment can also apply to applications found in another. Our engineering expertise and experience provides us with a complete understanding of those market needs and conditions which enable us to design and manufacture the optimal technical solutions, for each and in doing so develop the fundamental building block needed for today’s complex fully-integrated systems.|
A key factor in Marotta’s success is its long-standing partnerships with many of its customers, some dating back 50 to 60 years. Marotta notes that, “We have a number of long lasting relationships with customers as well as a reputation as a strategic partner and agile supplier. We place a high value on internally investing in our programs and products as well as on research and development. We place the needs of our customers first and foremost to cultivate a strong, long-standing partnership. As an example, we currently have full time engineering resources at a customer’s facility to co-engineer solutions as well as provide on-site support to ensure aggressive schedules are maintained. Our ability to be an agile, responsive partner coupled with our commitment to invest remain the core reasons that our long-standing partners and customers continue to come to Marotta.
|The company’s base of operations is situated on 25 acres in Morris County just 35 miles northwest of New York City. Marotta Controls is currently in the midst of a 25,000 square foot state-of-the facility renovation and addition to its existing 100,000 square foot assembly and testing plant, its first expansion since 1985, scheduled for completion within the next two years. The expansion will not only enable Marotta to take more of its manufacturing and testing capabilities in-house but is will also add facilities and resources that are necessary to achieve its aggressive growth targets.||Facility expansion includes an additional 10,000 ft2 for assembly & test|
“Just as Boeing and others in the aerospace industry over the last five years moved from outsourcing most manufacturing to bringing certain capabilities back in-house, Marotta Controls is doing the same,” Marotta points out. “We’ve always done low volume production runs—lots of less than 25 units, However, in 2010 this began to change with our strategic shift to a higher volume of systems and subsystems production. In order to support this shift we instituted a fully staffed, two-shift, CNC machine shop and implemented processes to automate 90 percent of our tooling. As a result, since 2010 we have increased our in-house manufacturing ability by 300 percent.”
Marotta also says that, “The company tripled in size over the last eight years, entirely through organic growth. About two years ago we started planning how to replicate and maximize that growth through 2025.” He adds that a combination of a favorable economy and a broad customer base is helping to achieve this.
“I never wanted this company to depend on one kind of customer with one kind of product,” he says. “For the past 30 years our business segmentation was consistently divided equally into thirds between marine, space and aerospace. While all those segments remain strong, we’re seeing tremendous growth in aerospace and space production while marine, with a longer production and program lead times has remained at its steady yet nominal growth rate. Our diversified mix of customers and capabilities has provided our company with stability; when certain market segments may be experiencing slower, longer cycles, other segments are in rapid growth periods.”
|Marotta Controls’ considerable reputation as an innovator of new technologies and creative problem solver is another factor behind its continued growth. That is why, for example, Marotta Controls enjoys a significant market share for control actuation systems for next generation weapon systems. “We have a high profile in offering unique capabilities and engineering expertise in this segment,” Marotta says. “Out of the last 10 proposals for control actuation systems we’ve responded to, we won seven.” Additional unique capabilities include electronic motor drives, high pressure pneumatic systems, multi-functional proportional fluid controls, power electronics, and power supply and power conversion applications.|
Commitment to R&D
Marotta adds that, “Since we offer a wide portfolio of products, we tend to have a wide range of competitors that are not necessarily in every market that we are. The critical mass for all of us is to provide every capability using the best practices at the best cost. What differentiates us from our competition in every market we compete in is that Marotta Controls invests 20 percent of our revenues back into our programs as well as research and development. Our intent is to be on, if not ahead of, leading-edge trends in technology and the industries we serve. Our customers are constantly on the look-out for anything that reduces size, weight and cost and that can also offer enhanced capability. We provide solutions that address all of these needs and more.”
Case in point is Marotta Controls’ Piezo actuated valves. “A mechanical valve is basically an on/off switch that is limited to one function. Piezo is a crystal that converts electrical energy to mechanical energy and provides multi-functionality by providing isolation as well as regulation,” Marotta explains. “Instead of needing three mechanical valves in a sub-system to perform three distinct functions, we can design a single Piezo actuated valve to perform the same three functions in one valve. The result is less complication in a lighter, smaller component that uses less energy and runs more efficiently.”
While Piezo is a commercially available technology, Marotta Controls employs a proprietary system in building its valves. “It’s part of our secret sauce,” Marotta says.
Marotta has a wide-variety of piezo actuated valves
Another ingredient of that secret sauce is employee development. “We partner with vo-tech schools and colleges such as MIT to offer internship programs. Many of these interns come back to work for us; allowing us to gain new employees that are one step ahead with a couple years of Marotta working experience,” he says.
Marotta adds, “People sometimes think working for a small company limits your career opportunities. Our argument is that a small business, specifically one that is growing like we are, offers more career options. Some of our employees have started out in entry-level or administrative positions 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, but as we grew as a company our employees grew with us to gain more exposure and industry knowledge. In one specific example, an entry-level engineer who started in 1978 is now a principal engineer heading their market segment team’s technical operations. We firmly believe that offering our employees challenges and expanding opportunities provides not only personal and professional growth, but benefits our customers and our business with the support of a highly-skilled, knowledgeable and loyal work force.”
Growing out of the Basement
Like Amazon, Apple H-P and other high-tech innovators, Marotta Controls started out as a home-based business; back in 1943 its first mission was supporting U.S. troops during World War II. “The story goes that once my grandfather had a full-fledged machine shop operating in the basement where workers had to share the one bathroom in the house, my grandmother kicked him out,” his grandson’s namesake chuckles. “From the basement he moved operations into an abandoned schoolhouse in 1945.
The original schoolhouse where Marotta Engineering Company held operations
|While the schoolhouse was razed in 1985 during an expansion project Marotta’s facility still sits on the same property today in Montville, New Jersey.” In 1945, Pat Marotta, the company founder, invented the “balanced poppet” that enabled smaller, lighter solenoid valves with higher operating pressures ideally suited for the post-war rocket industry. One notable application was its use in the fuel control valves of the Bell X-1 rocket piloted by Chuck Yeager, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier.|
Pat passed company leadership to his son Tom in 1978, who led Marotta to become the largest privately held supplier of fluid controls on the International Space Station and the first, and only, small business to twice achieve the coveted NASA George M. Low Award for Quality and Excellence.
Seventy five years from its inception, the company provides hundreds of valves and flow controls for the most sophisticated aerospace and defense platforms in the world, all based on the balanced poppet concept of founder and innovator, Pat Marotta.
About Marotta Controls
Founded in 1943, Marotta Controls is a fully integrated solutions provider which designs, develops, qualifies and manufactures innovative systems and sub-systems for the aerospace and defense sectors. Our portfolio includes pressure, power, motion, fluid, and electronic controls for weapon systems, shipboard and sub-sea applications, satellites, launch vehicles, and aircraft systems. With over 200 patents, Marotta Controls continues to build on its legacy as a highly respected, family-owned small business based in the state of New Jersey.