CARY, N.C. – It’s been an epic year for LORD Corporation.

First, it signed its biggest contract in company history with Boeing last March, closing on a deal to develop and manufacture the auto throttle module for Boeing 737 Max.

Then a few months later, with its work in the electric car industry booming, it earmarked an $80 million investment in its chemical manufacturing plant in Saegertown, Pa.

As if that wasn’t enough, it then opened a $12 million state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Pont de l’Isère, France, to close the year.

A LORD employee at work at its facility in Pont de l’lsère, France. The state-of-the-art manufacturing facility is the hub of LORD’s European Aerospace work.

On the back of those accomplishments, the company announced today that it has achieved a significant milestone – securing $1 billion in sales.

By all accounts, LORD is one of the Triangle’s most unknown and biggest success stories. But according to its president and CEO, Ed Auslander, that’s the way the company likes it.

“We somewhat purposefully try to keep a low profile,” he told WRAL TechWire. “Our scope is global; we act globally. We don’t do a lot of manufacturing here. I’d venture to say that we really try to focus on our customers more than ourselves.”

95 years in the making

It all began 95 years ago when a patent attorney by the name of Hugh Lord began exploring the potential of bonding rubber to metal and founded the company in Erie, Pennsylvania.

His innovation quickly led to inventions such as chemical formations, bonding processes, elastomers and adhesives, among other things.

Photo shoot: Inside Lord Corporation’s new high-tech plant

Decades later, in 1981, the company moved its research and development (R&D) center to MacGregor Park in the Triangle. By 1995, its world headquarters was based in Cary.

These days, LORD has grown into a global enterprise with more than 3,000 employees in 26 countries. (There are around 350 employees based in the Triangle.) Adapting to the ever-changing marketplace, its reach is wide with a foothold in key industries such as aerospace, automatic, oil and gas, and industrial.

The booming years

And it’s on a roll.

In 2017, the company grew 10 percent – and again 10 percent in 2018.

Another 6 percent growth is forecast this year, said Auslander, who credits the growth, in large part, to the company’s initiative called LORD Summits, which it launched in 2016.

“A big part of that was a cultural transformation driving the company to a more growth-oriented mindset,” said Auslander. “We wanted to narrow what we did. Instead of doing a lot of things poorly, we wanted to do a few things very, very well. Two years ago, we had 18 different growth initiatives; now we have about six.”

Outside Lord’s new facility in France, from left: Joel Rood, Ed Auslander, Charmaine Riggins, Andrew Hecker.

In addition to being more focused, the company aimed to speed up its delivery time.

“LORD is a little bit more of a traditional company, yet we were starting to work with companies that were in the high-tech fields,” Auslander explained. “Instead of delivering a prototype in in four weeks, we needed delivered in four days, so we needed to speed up our processes to be able to support our customers.”

Engaging clients was also a priority. “Ten years ago, our scientists were not allowed to visit customers. Now they visit customers all the time and they focus on collaborating with the customers.”

Moving cautiously

Looking ahead, the company is expected to go on another “broad-based” hiring wave.

However, Auslander said the company plans to move slowly. “I won’t provide the exact numbers. We’re a little uncertain as we move forward with the global uncertainties in China’s economy, and global economy, we’re starting the year a little cautiously in that regard.”

And as for any plans to go public, he remained tightlipped. “We really enjoy being a private company.”