Joe Spinosa, Vice President of Business Development at East/West Industries, recently spoke with NYS Manufacturing Now about the company’s history, strengths, and plans for the future. Joe also shared how East/West Industries was the recipient of a cybersecurity grant from the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NY MEP) – and why cybersecurity is critical for manufacturers in the defense supply chain.
Steve Melito: Hey, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito, and today we are here with Joe Spinosa from East/ West Industries. Joe, welcome to the podcast.
Joe Spinosa: Hi, Steve. Thanks for having me.
Steve Melito: It’s great to have you here. Joe, what is the East/ West Industries story? How did the company get started? How long have you been around?
Joe Spinosa: Well, it’s an interesting story. Started back with Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad were the founders of the company. Mary and Dom Spinosa. Dom was an engineer working with Republic Aviation and Mary was in the banking business, and basically Dom had worked his way through a couple of things. He was not the usual engineer. He had, I’m going to say, a sales marketing background. When he tried to advance in Republic, they said, ” No, you’re a good engineer. We’re just going to keep you on the drafting board.” Basically, what happened at one point, Mom queried Dad and said, ” Look, we’re doing all this stuff, but we’re not doing anything for ourselves.” There’s the thought of starting their own company back in 1968. Started on the dining room table and kind of moved from there. Dad originally was working ejection seats, defense aircraft things. They started doing things, small connectors, ventilation, communication, anti- G, and continued to build the company. It started in Bellmore in a small office, probably the size of most people’s living room and kitchen, and then just grew it from there, from a design firm into a design and manufacturing firm. We moved from Bellmore to Farmingdale, added machine shop capabilities, oxygen capabilities, started doing survival kits. Then we moved into ground support equipment and some seating systems, and then they continued to grow the company from there. It moved from Farmingdale, a couple locations into Hauppauge, and then to Ronkonkoma where we are today.
Steve Melito: What a great story. The American Dream in action. Love it. For those who are listening, Joe’s got a background, East/ West Industries saving aircrew lives. Brilliant slogan. Really explains what you do. So, tell us more about the core capabilities of East/ West Industries, and what do you do exceptionally well, and what are some of those services?
Joe Spinosa: Okay. Well Steve, what is beautiful about the company is as we grew, we bolted on different capabilities, but stayed with the core, which is engineering and manufacturing. We’re a mechanical engineering firm, mechanical manufacturing, machine shop, sheet metal shop, military sewing, oxygen lab. Again, high quality. Our quality systems are always the highest in the industry. Currently ISO and AS9100. So, what do we do exceptionally well? We bring all those capabilities together. I want to say we take the product from womb to tomb. We take it through its entire lifetime, and the beauty about that and the size and agility that we have, the primes like Boeing, and Lockheed, and Northrop Grumman, et cetera, they all appreciate the ability that East/ West has all under one roof, as opposed to having to go out to different vendors to do things. We do have a vendor base. We have about a thousand vendors. We have them do, I’m going to call it the light lifting. We do the heavy lifting. So, we’ll take a product. We’ll design it. We’ll then test it. We’ll then take it to initial low- rate manufacturing and then take it to full- rate manufacturing, and then provide mature product support over its life. So, what do we do great? We do all those things in that entire chain that the customer can trust us to manage that product for them. By and large, we do it by designing products that we maintain the intellectual property rights to, and then we do have a build- to- print business. We do things for our customers that they can’t get done by other companies.
Steve Melito: So, a lot of services all under the one roof, one- stop shopping, things that make it convenient for the customer. Now Joe, you had mentioned that the company, East/ West Industries has been around since 1968. So, you’ve got a proven track record in the defense industry, and there are opportunities in the commercial sector as well. Is that something that you’re going to go after that you’re interested in?
Joe Spinosa: Correct. What I’ve tried to go after is diversifying the company from the defense only. As you know, the defense has its cycles that it goes through. I wanted to take in the commercial side, and most recently we’ve done that with our Crashworthy helicopter seat business. What we’ve done there is take technology that we’ve developed in the defense field and transitioned it over to the commercial sector. Most recently, Bell Helicopter has selected us for the 505 Jet Ranger X helicopter. We’re doing Crashworthy passenger seats, as well as Crashworthy VIP seats.
Steve Melito: Wow, impressive stuff.
Joe Spinosa: So, what does that do? That kind of, I’m going to say smooths out all those bumps that you run into the cycles of the defense industry, because the commercial runs pretty much on the opposite cycle.
Steve Melito: Right. So as a company, what are some of the greatest successes that you’ve had?
Joe Spinosa: The greatest successes? Well, obviously transition into the second generation. Mom and Dad started it. My sister and I operate it today. I’m the VP of Business Development for East/ West, and my sister is the President of East/ West, so we have a woman- owned small business certification. Getting into that second generation, to me, is a success because most businesses don’t make it to that second generation.
Steve Melito: That’s right. That can be a tough one, that succession planning and making that move.
Joe Spinosa: Right. To talk about the business side of stuff though, our greatest success is that if you look at our business, we have many legacy programs on board. When I say legacy, weapon system programs for products on aircraft such as the F- 18 Hornet, the T- 45, the F- 35 program, the Chinook H- 47 program, the CH- 53 Deltas and Echoes for the Marines. So, those are legacy programs, but even I think more important than the legacy is our success that we’ve had recently and out on the horizon programs, programs that continue to go out there. The Future Vertical Lift program. We, with Sikorsky, have our seats on the S- 97 Raider, and with the Sikorsky- Boeing team on the SB- 1 Defiant. So, we’re looking not only for programs that are, I’m going to say, the standard programs, but also the programs that are the future for the business, high- speed helicopters, things of that sort, new oxygen systems that protect the aviators for a substantial amount of time longer than they’re currently protected.
Steve Melito: Those are some great names. Those are essentially household names, and if you know the defense industry, those are fantastic clients to have. So, you’ve had some great successes. What are some of the challenges that you’ve had to overcome?
Joe Spinosa: Oh, there’s business and technical challenges all the way along from the usual business cycles and being able to survive those business cycles and prosper as we go forward. No one realizes in the defense industry, it’s not a guarantee. You get your business and you work hard at it, but not a guarantee all the time. So, we’re out there constantly pulling business in I think, based on our performance. We are a company that performs well. Been recognized most recently by Boeing. We received our fifth Boeing Performance Excellence Gold award. That means that sits us up in the top 3% of all Boeing suppliers, commercial and military worldwide, and then just to toot our own horn, in 2017, Boeing had selected us as one of the small businesses of the year. So, that put us in, I think it was the top 1%. So again, good business successes there because we perform for our customers. But then there’s also technical challenges. One of the technical challenges of recent has been with the digital transition of the company to CAD programs and CAM programs for manufacturing, et cetera. Putting the whole company on that digital thread all the way through is the cybersecurity challenge. Not only did we recognize it, but obviously the defense and the government recognized that they need to protect their property, the companies that are in the supply chain, and cyber is a big element of that. So, we had that technical challenge posed to us with the advent of the government saying, ” You need to comply with NIST 800-171.” We went through our investigation of that and came up with you folks, FuzeHub, as a source of being able to help us along there. That, combined with a New York State government grant that said we’ll help pay for some of the assessment really gave us a jump on things. We were one of the first on Long Island to be checked out and assessed by you folks and achieve the 800-171 benchmarks.
Steve Melito: I’m glad that you did. I’m glad that we met. I’m glad that New York State was able to help. For the folks who are listening, if you’re a defense contractor at any level of the supply chain, and I mean if you make screws, bolts, if you make boxes that things go in, this 800- 171 applies to you. If you don’t meet the requirements, you can lose the existing contracts that you have. Moreover, you can lose the ability to bid on new ones. It’s really a big deal. Joe, what was your experience like going through the cybersecurity assessment process? Was it painful? Was it easy? Someplace in between, I would imagine.
Joe Spinosa: Someplace in between, because we do have three people on board in our IT department. One of them is dedicated to cyber. But I got to tell you, you folks at FuzeHub did a wonderful job in helping us through that, because it could have been very painful. It could have been very challenging. With your experience in that field and the guidance along there, it really did help us quite a bit. I just want to amplify one thing that you said there. It is important. I have heard it because I’ve done some of the research in the cyber for the company. The government has come out. Their Cyber Czar has come out and said, ” Look, when we start getting companies that are certified with this NIST 800- 171, we will be letting contracts when there are two of those companies competing.” If you are an incumbent and you don’t have that cyber certification, you’ll be barred from doing the competition in there when the government says you have to have it. So, it is a barrier to entry and also a barrier to incumbents that don’t gain it. So, if you’re an incumbent and need it, go get it. If you’re looking to get into the business of defense, you have to get that cybersecurity and more to that end, the government’s going to be coming out with further notching up of cybersecurity, as we’ve seen what’s happened with the recent pipeline situation. They’re going to come out with what’s called CMMC, which is another notch up on the 800- 171. If you’re not 800- 171, you’re certainly not going to be prepared for CMMC. So, I would say go out there and get that assessment done and get your certification process under the way.
Steve Melito: Joe, thank you. Help is available for manufacturers in the defense supply chain, any level. FuzeHub is part of the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership. So, if you go and look at nymep. org, look for the cybersecurity information, we can learn more about how we can help you. We’re anxious to help you because we know what the stakes are. Those stakes are high, and there’s also some good opportunities that you can get because you’re doing what maybe your competitor isn’t. So Joe, where do you see East/ West Industries in about five years from now?
Joe Spinosa: Well, I see East/ West building further and further into new business, both in the commercial field as well as the defense field. I see opportunities in both those areas and we’re constantly increasing in size. When we started a couple years back, we were only 50 people. We’re up to almost a hundred people now. We sit in a 60, 000 square foot facility and we’re going to be looking for more space. We’re adding more programs as we go along. I think that’ll probably end up bringing the company up at least another 50% in business.
Steve Melito: It’s a great success story and happening right here in New York State. Joe, before we close, is there anything else you’d like our listeners to know about East/ West Industries?
Joe Spinosa: Well, I would say to those folks that are out there, number one, again, get your cybersecurity. We are underway with all our vendors. All our supply chain is going to be required to have the cybersecurity in place. So get that education. Do your assessment. Get the work that you need to get done. Do your homework, because the homework’s going to pay off in the long run. If you want to find out more about East/ West, go to our website or follow us on any of the social media channels that you use.
Steve Melito: Fantastic. That’s great advice. We’re here with Joe Spinosa from East/ West Industries, and I’m your host, Steve Melito for New York State Manufacturing. Now hey, before we close, you’re probably wondering, how do I get help? What if I have a business or technical challenge? Well, the way that you can do that is to go to www. FuzeHub.com. Go and look for the Manufacturer Solutions program link, and then request an expert consultation, and a member of our manufacturing solutions program will get in touch with you. So, whether you want to know more about cybersecurity, or automation, or prototyping, or material selections, supply chain challenges, supply chain solutions, we’re happy to talk to you about all those things. So again, we’ve been talking to Joe Spinosa from East/ West Industries, and I’m Steve Melito for New York State Manufacturing, now signing off.