Automation Founders Circle
Innovation, business leadership, earn Leonard Moore ISA’s Honorary Member award
EDITOR’S NOTE: ISA continues its tradition of honoring leaders throughout the automation industry by presenting the Automation Founders Circle awards. This year’s recipients are Leonard Moore with the ISA Honorary Member award, the highest honor bestowed by the society; Peter Martin with ISA’s 2009 Life Achievement Award; Dr. John Ziegert with the Arnold O. Beckman Founder Award; and Kristofer S. J. Pister with the Albert F. Sperry Founder Award. This month, we write about Moore and Martin. In September’s issue, we will feature Ziegert and Pister.
By Jim Strothman
Almost everyone has, at one time or another, encountered an odd home plumbing or other maintenance problem, gone to his or her “big box” or local hardware store to find a quick fix, yet come back home empty. The exact tool or part they needed could not be found.
The same problem happens in the industrial world, of course. After searching for hours through catalogs from giant parts makers, manufacturers sometimes have to find a person inside or outside their company capable of designing and installing the unique fix they require.
To an entrepreneur, getting a reputation as the “go-to” person in those situations can lead to great success.
That is the story of Leonard W. Moore, who audio/video recording giant AMPEX Corp. turned to 41 years ago to fix a unique problem in which they needed to build a new product.
“In 1968, we started out in the proverbial garage very close to where our world headquarters is now located just outside Los Angeles,” recalled Moore, founder and president of Moore Industries, North Hills, Calif.
“The very first Moore Industries’ customer, AMPEX Corp., needed a special low pass active filter for one of their instrumentation recorder products. They came to us because, as many of our early customers did, they needed a specialty instrument, and we were willing to provide it quickly and cost-effectively.”
After that initial customer “special,” it was not long before Moore’s start-up firm was delivering its first product line of six signal interfaces, and other products, to dozens of small, medium, and Fortune 500 manufacturing and engineering companies throughout the world.
Remains privately owned
Today, 41 years later, Moore Industries has a string of “industry firsts” and several hundred employees, who are all encouraged to innovate from their first day on the job. Exact revenue and earnings numbers are unavailable because the company remains privately owned, despite scores of overtures from industrial giants to buy it. Son Nick Moore, who is widely expected to fill dad’s shoes when the 75-year-old entrepreneur is ready to turn over the reins, has vowed to keep it that way.
In recognition of his business and technical leadership, ISA elected Moore to be its 2009 ISA Honorary Member, the highest honor bestowed by the society.
Moore’s citation, to be presented during the ISA’s annual Honors and Awards Gala in Houston on 5 October, credits him “for contributions to the advancement of the arts and sciences of automation over a 40-year career of innovation, product development, and business leadership.”
Asked for his reaction when he learned of the honor, Moore said: “The list of previous winners is impressive to say the least. I am, of course, extremely honored to be part of this elite group. I truly do believe that honors like this come only with the support of those around you. This award is the final celebration of Moore Industries’ 40th year in business.”
Startup helped by fast-changing market
Recalling his company’s early days, Moore said, “The concept that made us the customer’s choice back then is that often we were the only choice available for instrument ‘specials.’ As technology moved from pneumatic to analog, instrumentation and control system manufacturers all seemed to be going in different directions.
“With so many devices emerging so quickly, signal standardization became a big problem. Our being willing, even eager, to meet a customer’s unique signal conditioning and packaging needs were paramount in our early success,” he said. “When a customer came to us with something odd—and plenty did—we’d design it that night, and build it up the next day if we could. This earned us a lot of customer loyalty and repeat business over the years.”
Custom-built instruments are still made at the North Hills plant. “Today, one of our standard microprocessor-based, programmable instruments usually fits the bill for most ‘specials,’ ” Moore said. “However, if we can solve a customer’s exclusive problem with custom instrumentation and still make a little money, we will. Then, we watch as they come back to us time and time again for our standard products.”
Credits company’s employees
Supporting the “business leadership” portion of the ISA Honorary Member award, Moore Industries has a reputation in the San Fernando Valley area as a good place to work, with a motivational culture.
“While I have been involved with many exciting product and business development pursuits during our 40-year history, I think what I am most proud of is the culture we have created here,” Moore said. “When I learned about this honor, and this might sound corny, the first thing that came to mind was all of the talented people that have come through our door to earn an honest living, and that we have supported them with a great place to work.
“We have an employee retention rate that is phenomenal in any industry, and during any economy. We have many employees that have been with us 10, 20, 30, and even over 35 years,” Moore said. “We have to be doing something right to keep our people happy and productive for so long. Couple this with the fact that we are successfully manufacturing our products in one of the most expensive places in the world, just outside of Los Angeles, Calif., here in the U.S.A, and it’s a pretty gratifying story.”
Owns numerous patents
Moore Industries “has been fortunate to have had many gifted inventors with us over the years and to own numerous patents,” the company founder said. Moore personally owns six U.S. and foreign patents for innovations relating to electronic instrument packaging, signal conditioning and instrumentation, and monitoring systems.
“In the beginning, one of my patents was as straightforward as a terminal block that protects the instrument against the harmful effects of RFI/EMI (radio-frequency interference/electro-magnetic interference). Simple? Yes. Yet this is an attribute you can definitely get on board with if an RFI source is tripping alarms all over your plant at 2 a.m.”
In the late 1980s, he patented and introduced the company’s Cable Concentrator System, which allows dozens of input/output devices to be transmitted on a single, twisted-wire digital communication link. “This is, of course, commonplace now,” Moore said. “Back then, it turned heads.”
Numerous industry firsts
Recently, along with the rest of the industry, Moore Industries has been adapting to support digital communication protocols. One of its “industry firsts” is the first redundant, fault-tolerant fieldbus physical layer the company calls TRUNKSAFE. Other “industry firsts” it claims are:
Incorporating galvanic electrical isolation as a standard feature
Manufacturing loop-powered hockey-puck designs for safe and simple installation in the field
Incorporated patented RF terminal blocks and RF immune transmitters
Offering plug-in transmitters and alarms, and plug-in instruments in explosion-proof enclosures
Industry-first extruded aluminum explosion-proof enclosures and DIN enclosures for transmitters and alarms
Installing LED status indicators on the front panel of alarm trips
Developed plug-in DIN I/P transmitters with LED indicators and quick-connect air header racks
Engineered a screen-configurable, RF-protected process computer
Innovating digital cable concentrating technology that dramatically reduces the cost of sending multiple signals long distances
When asked about his personal involvement in the “firsts,” Moore said: “Even after 40 years, Moore Industries has remained entrepreneurial in nature. As such, everyone, from day one, is encouraged to be involved in any company activity at any point in time, within reason of course. As such, at any given time, I may be involved in the implementation of my own ideas as well as the ideas of others. I was involved in each of our ‘industry firsts,’ both from a technological and management standpoint. However, for each of the same ‘industry firsts,’ we worked as a team, from marketing to engineering to manufacturing to shipping them out the door to our customers.”
Once a radio disc jockey
Prior to founding Moore Industries in 1968, Moore attended Iowa State College, where he worked at WOI-TV and was a disc jockey on campus radio. After returning from the U.S. Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery, where he taught radar and mechanical analog computers, he worked at Hughes Aircraft, Swanson Engineering, Ronan Engineering and Waugh Controls Corp.
In 1996, he was elected an ISA Fellow, which recognized Moore’s contributions to the advancement of signal conditioning instrumentation and monitoring systems, including RFI/EMI protection.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Moore has been a no-holds-barred individual on both a business and a personal front. An avid fun-seeker, Moore was a SCCA-licensed professional racecar driver, is an accomplished trap and skeet shooter, and received his pilot’s license at age 73. He continues to fly his restored Ercoupe model 415D airplane most every week.
“I guess you can say that I have been ‘unofficially’ flying for most of my life, again getting my first taste in Iowa,” Moore said. “Since then, I’ve continued to fly, but always with instructors or other certified pilots. Getting my pilot’s license was always something on my list to do, but with the company and all, the time just never presented itself.”
When Moore saw an Ercoupe sitting abandoned as a pile of parts at a remote California airport, “the bug bit me again,” he said. “The Ercoupe was originally built from 1946-1948, and sold at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and at some JC Penney’s stores. Over the past five years, I and two retired U.S. Air Force mechanic buddies rebuilt what is known as ‘everyman’s airplane.’ Upon completion, I did my formal training and time and got my license.”