Meet Neil Haggard of Ward Leonard

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Ask Neil Haggard, Senior Operations Manager for Controls, what makes Ward Leonard special, and he’ll tell you, “We are in charge of our own destiny” – a fitting perspective for a former high school hall of famer who, instead of chasing personal records in track and cross country, now inspires coworkers to go the distance in their careers.

Haggard has spent nearly three decades working at Ward Leonard. He joined the company 28-½ years ago after earning graduate and undergraduate mechanical engineering degrees from Columbia University. At Columbia, he focused on mechanical and manufacturing engineering. At Ward Leonard, he’s also gained experience in electrical engineering.

Designing and testing drive-based controllers for the Navy’s DDG surface combatant ships is one of the most rewarding projects Haggard has worked on. He assisted with the controllers from the design and engineering phase all the way through to troubleshooting with customers on board the ship.

Haggard’s proud to work with and meet the high expectations of naval leadership, and a few kind words tossed his way from a hard-to-impress admiral is among his career highs. The admiral’s stern nature inspired a little fear and a lot of healthy respect among people during site visits. During one of the visits, Haggard showed the admiral how he had implemented a streamlining process called LEAN, a method that removes waste and fosters improvements. Instead of having tools lying around, the workplace is kept tidy. Unnecessary procedures are removed to simplify workflow. After witnessing the transformation, the tough admiral gave Haggard a great compliment, telling him, “It’s one thing to have someone talk about LEAN, but to have someone who has lived with it and implemented it is very impressive.”

Striving for and achieving success is a work ethic that Haggard very much appreciates at Ward Leonard. Along with the family feel, it’s what has kept him on the job for so long. And it’s not just that the company is competitive among other regional manufacturers. Haggard’s loyalty also stems from the company’s commitment to customers. And its size is just right – not too small or too big, even as it grows.

Haggard is pleased to see FMD get involved in the day-to-day operations at Ward Leonard. Instead of delegating the plant’s operation to someone else, they share their talent, and their expertise is welcome at all levels. From encouraging sister companies to source from Ward Leonard instead of with competitors to networking at the highest levels to ensure timely, accurate information about the navy’s needs and access to key decision-makers, FMD has massively augmented the company’s resources and contacts.

Always pushing forward, Haggard, who also ran cross country and track in college, is ready to take on the new challenges ahead. At Ward Leonard’s Connecticut location, he’s been a part of the company’s growth from 50 to 120 employees and is excited to see what the next ten years hold with FMD at the helm.


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