Mack Boring & Parts: 100 years and still full speed ahead

By Becky Schultz13 February 2023

It’s a rare achievement for a company to reach 100 years in business, and even more so when it’s over multiple generations of family ownership and operation. Statistics show a survival rate of just 30% for the second generation of family ownership, with the odds cut in half with every subsequent generation.

Patrick McGovern represents the fourth generation of family ownership and operation. (Photo: Mack Boring & Parts)

Currently four generations on, Mack Boring & Parts Co. (Mack Boring) has beat the odds in a big way and shows no sign of slowing after celebrating 100th anniversary last September. Founded in 1922 by Ed “Mack” McGovern Sr. as a small machine shop in Newark, N.J., the company has grown to be an internationally recognized engine distributor carrying multiple lines and covering several geographic regions. With great-grandson Patrick McGovern now at the helm, it was on pace to achieve more than $50 million in annual revenue in 2022.

The major turning point for the business was its entry into engine distribution in the 1950s. “We were that small, local shop in Newark in the ‘50s. When we got into distribution, we started opening branches in Long Island [and] Massachusetts,” Patrick McGovern noted. “We went from very local to regional.”

Now based out of a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility in Somerset, N.J., the company has more than 60 full-time employees working on site and remotely; supplies engines and related components to both the marine and industrial sectors through seven major partners; and manages a network of roughly 400 dealers across 26 U.S. states.

Diving into distribution

Given the area’s thriving boat building business at the time, it’s not surprising that Mack Boring began its distribution business with marine engines. Patrick McGovern estimates there were as many as 25 OEMs just in the state of New Jersey at the time, plus the New England marine market still represents a major part of the regional economy.

“It was a natural fit being in the engine business and being in a part of the country where there was a large recreational marine market. It was an easy transition for us,” McGovern said.

Shown are three generations of McGovern family leadership with one of the company’s first engine lines, GrayMarine. (Photo: Mack Boring & Parts)

The first big line Mack Boring carried was GrayMarine gasoline-powered inboard engines, before going on to handle Chrysler marine engines and later Perkins as its first diesel marine engine line. McGovern estimates the company has worked with 20-25 different marine engine lines of varying types, sizes and success rates. “We’ve tried many things through the years and obviously not everything was a winner,” he acknowledged.

The company’s longest standing and most successful partnership has been with Yanmar. “We partnered with Yanmar in 1974 at a time when not many people were taking bold steps with small Japanese engines,” McGovern said. “Actually, Yanmar wasn’t even established in this country [back then.] They were working through a trading partner, Mitsui. But we saw promise in them and within five years, we took an unknown small diesel line… and made them number one in the sailing market. That was really one of the big game changers for us.”

Today, Mack Boring is Yanmar’s largest marine distributor globally handling both recreational and high-speed commercial engines. The company also offers Scania Marine inboard diesel engines, Suzuki Marine gasoline-powered outboards and Oxe Marine diesel outboards. Offerings are available for everything from small dinghies to 80-100 ft. commercial vessels.

Mack Boring’s partnership with Yanmar began in 1974. Today, it is Yanmar’s largest marine distributor globally. (Photo: Mack Boring & Parts)

In addition, Mack Boring has helped launch ePropulsion electric motors into the U.S. market. According to McGovern, “With these electric motors, it’s really opened up a new world to us in this tiny boat and the freshwater market that we were never too focused on before.”

Though marine makes up the largest segment of its business, Mack Boring also serves industrial customers. “On the industrial side, we have engines from 1 ½ to 2 L all the way up to 16 L,” McGovern said. “Isuzu is our small- and mid-size industrial line. Scania is more competitive on the higher-horsepower lines.”

The customer base is varied. “We have military equipment suppliers, ground support equipment, forestry customers… a lot in the power generation market. So, it’s a nice, diverse mix of customers, markets and products for that side of our business,” McGovern said.

And while the company has dabbled in other industries, a conscious decision was made to concentrate on its two core areas. “One thing we’ve learned… we have gotten into trouble when we lose our focus or we get spread too thin,” McGovern said. “So, we have a wide range of options for those markets, but we’re also very disciplined in that we do focus just on the industrial equipment and the marine market.”

Customer-focused model

Mack Boring has also chosen to stay focused on its business model of connecting engine suppliers with OEMs, boat dealers and major fleets in order to ensure it can deliver what it calls a “premium experience” for its customers.

“We have four key promises of value, performance, expertise and support,” McGovern commented. “And as we make decisions on what we do, and where we do it, our grounding is does it fit into this model?”

Oxe Marine diesel outboard motors Mack Boring offers a broad selection of marine engines, including Oxe Marine diesel outboards. (Photo: Mack Boring & Parts)

For example, Mack Boring chose not to get into retail service work. “We basically have everyone in our organization focused on supporting dealers and OEMs and not trying to compete with our dealers by having our own mobile service fleet,” McGovern said. “That’s pretty rare in the engine distribution space. It seems like everybody’s pretty antsy to… get into that mobile service and do the aftersales service themselves.

“What we find is you can’t be great at everything. So, [rather than] start having our service people focus on making revenue numbers… we instead focus all our efforts on having our people supporting our dealer and/or our wholesale customers.”

Because the industrial side of the business is very OEM driven, over the past 25 years, Mack Boring has built up its “engineering strength.”

“We have two mechanical engineers on staff [who] work directly with OEMs, sharing CAD files, designing applications, before we ever make a sale,” McGovern explained. “Then, once we do make a sale, we’re responsible for doing all the application review and ensuring that we’re meeting all the factory criteria and, more importantly, the emissions criteria with all these sophisticated aftertreatment systems.

Mack Boring helped launch ePropulsion electric motors into the U.S. market. The product now makes up over 10% of its business. (Photo: Mack Boring & Parts)

“On [the industrial] side, it’s really managing the OEMs and working with the dealer network.”

This includes providing aftersales support. “Every one of our lines, we’re responsible for the entire aftersales support models. We’re finding, [recruiting] and training the dealers and we’re providing their parts and their engines for them,” McGovern said.

In addition, Mack Boring will train major fleet customers as needed. “We do a lot of work directly with Sunbelt [Rentals]. We do all their training nationally for Isuzu and we do a lot of parts support, as well,” McGovern said. “That’s something we’ve been entrusted with by Isuzu, which has been an incredible partnership.”

With the marine side of the business, the sales support process is a “little more intimate,” said McGovern. “At the boat shows, you’re meeting a lot of end users who are considering whether they’re buying a new boat or repowering a boat… They spend a lot of time talking with our sales team. We’ll ultimately do the sale through our dealers, but it’s a very collaborative sales process between Mack Boring and the dealers… Our sales guys really are there to support them in closing deals.”

Of course, there is also new marine OEM business to cultivate. “Our salesforce is very active in prospecting, working with OEMs, giving them the support,” said McGovern, “and when they do have projects, making it as easy as possible for them to install our products versus anything else they’d be looking at.”

Mack Boring is continuing to expand its reach as well as its offerings. “Our current plan and strategy… is to grow our propulsion products for the marine and industrial markets anywhere we can fulfill our customer promise,” McGovern said. “We operate out of our main headquarters here in Somerset, N.J., but we do have a lot of remote employees deployed throughout the regions we cover. We have employees everywhere from Maine to Florida. With ePropulsion, we cover all of North America.

“We’re spreading out geographically… These days, our motto is: We will cover any territory where we could be the best – as long as we can guarantee a premier customer experience.”

Powering forward

Mack Boring is always looking to see which direction its markets are heading, and which solutions are likely to be best for its customers. This is what led it to ePropulsion.

Key partners such as Scania and Yanmar are already working on alternatives to the traditional diesel engine, whether electric or hydrogen solutions. (Photo: Mack Boring & Parts)

“In 2017, we started working with the electric motor company ePropulsion. It was a bit of a dipping our toe in the water and learning about that market,” McGovern said. “What we learned is there is way more demand and application than we ever expected. It’s been our fastest growing line in basically the last three years.” The small electric outboards now make up over 10% of Mack Boring’s business.

This experience has McGovern intrigued by the opportunities alternative power sources can offer, and confident in how his company is positioned to take advantage as they develop. Key partners such as Scania and Yanmar are already working on alternatives to the traditional diesel engine, whether electric or hydrogen solutions.

“I like where we are in that we have partners trying different approaches on this,” he said. “I think what we’ve learned so far is some things make sense and might take off quicker than people expect. The vast majority of the shifts are harder to implement and to sustain and support than everybody wants to believe, and those are going to take longer to really gain traction.

“I’m a big believer in that it’s not going to be one thing that changes the world… Every application, every duty cycle out there has a different type of need, and there’s pros and cons to all these different alternatives being suggested. So, I think just having the ability to offer many options for our customers – which is what we’ve always done – is the best position to be in.”

A unique aspect of Mack Boring, said McGovern, is that nearly every line it has handled has been a new, emerging company, meaning it has more experience than most in launching new products to market. “We know about that trial and error – stubbing your toe on the ground 20 times until you get it right. It gives you a certain level of persistence and ambition to make new things work.

“Mack Boring as a partner is as well positioned as anyone to be nimble to figure out the solutions and not be stuck with ‘this direction or bust.’ We’ll work with our partners in finding the right combination that’s a value to the end users and also is a long-term sustainable approach.”

With its key partners already looking to the future of engines, Mack Boring is in a good position to take advantage. (Photo: Mack Boring & Parts)

Focused on the next century

Looking ahead to the next 100 years in business, Mack Boring’s approach will be much the same as the one it has successfully followed over the past 10 decades. “My family and our company have been really focused on working hard, not taking anything for granted and changing with the times,” McGovern said. “That kind of core foundation prepares us for the technological shift.

“The world is going to keep changing at a faster pace every year. It’s accelerating; it’s not going to plateau and say, ‘Okay, we’re done.’ So, you have to be willing to try and look at new things, I think, to succeed in that world.”

McGovern sees being a multi-generation, family owned and operated business as a strength, rather than a risk, in this environment. “[It’s] the passion and the excitement we all bring to the business when it’s yours and you have that tradition and that history,” he said. “Nobody wants to buy an engine because your great-grandfather sold an engine. But it’s more of that ingrained pride in what you do.

“I own the company as well as run it and we don’t have to answer to anyone other than our customers. There are less and less companies in our space that are set up that way these days. So, I think that’s another huge advantage.”

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