What is now Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, Inc., started out in 1924 when Fred Ulbrich, Sr., started a scrap metal reselling business at One Dudley Ave. in Wallingford, CT. Fred, Sr., soon began manufacturing cutlery, and during World War II was awarded the contract to supply stainless steel knives for the U.S. Army’s mess kits. This contract allowed the company to purchase its first rolling mill, which was instrumental in transforming Ulbrich from a utensils-based manufacturer to a custom stainless steel strip operation in the post-World War II years.
Soon after World War II, the growth of the jet aircraft industry created a demand for high-performance metals. After a significant investment in quality control systems and modern manufacturing equipment, Ulbrich went on to supply metal for such varied aerospace applications as the B-1 Bomber, several jet fighters and the Space Shuttle. As its customers began expanding their horizons, Ulbrich added other specialty alloys such as nickel and nickel alloys, cobalt alloys, and titanium and titanium alloys.
As customers began to respond to Ulbrich’s quality and versatility in the 1960s, it was apparent that the Biggest Little Mill in the Country needed a national distribution network. Ulbrich of Illinois, located in Alsip, was Ulbrich’s first stainless steel strip service center. It was followed by Ulbrich of Georgia and Ulbrich of California and allowed Ulbrich to better service regional markets. During this time, Fred Sr.’s sons Fred Ulbrich, Jr., and Richard Ulbrich took control of the business.
As the service centers were starting up and beginning to thrive, the original Wallingford plant now renamed Ulbrich Specialty Strip Mill (USSM) was adding new rolling mills and annealing furnaces to keep pace with both technology and its customers demands. As customers began to demand narrower and narrower widths for their precision strip orders, Ulbrich developed a new product line and the Ulbrich Shaped Wire division, located in North Haven, CT, was born.
Ulbrich employs over 600 people around the world, speaking over 25 languages in a diversity of culture, concept, and understanding. Over 80% of these employees have very long tenures, thereby giving them frequent opportunities to refine their current skills and broaden their knowledge base. The majority of Ulbrich employees stay on to eventually retire from the company. As one of the highest compliments that can be paid to any company, many of our employees recommend employment at Ulbrich to their children and other family members. It is not uncommon to have two and three generations working for the company concurrently. These artisans perform daily tasks for our customers, participate in the running of our company, and work on continuous development of their skills and knowledge.
Except where required by law or custom, Ulbrich’s workforce is non-union, thereby providing it’s customers with a stable and predictable product flow. Fiercely loyal employees support the continuance of the unique working environment provided by Ulbrich in each of its locations. Beginning in its management ranks, Ulbrich has worked hard to forge a spirit of teamwork between its divisions, departments, and employees. This team spirit finds its source in the four tenets of Ulbrich’s revolution:
- Total Customer Responsiveness
- Total Company Involvement
- Total Quality Commitment
- Continuous Professional Development
All of Ulbrich’s employees are continuously trained. In addition to the requirements of ISO, QS, and other industry standards, Ulbrich provides its own corporate policy and measures the training and education achievements of it’s employees. Furthermore, Ulbrich provides financial encouragement to employees who would continue their education outside of the working environment.
But one thing remains unchanged, according to our late Chairman, Fred Ulbrich, Jr., “Our philosophy in the early years is the same as it is now: give customers what they need, when they need it, and do your best to exceed their expectations. Our challenge now is to keep the fire of this idea alive in the minds of our employees and into the next generation of management.”
Ulbrich is now celebrating it’s 90th year in business.