Founded in 1924 by Frederick Christian Ulbrich Sr., Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals, Inc. was a small metal scrap processing center in Wallingford, Connecticut.
Ulbrich is now marking its 90th anniversary this year with 700 employees, and 11 locations around the world, including its headquarters in North Haven, CT.
Today, the Company remains family-owned, led by the founder, Fred Sr.'s son, Fred Jr., Chairman of the Board, and grandson, Chris, Chief Executive Officer.
Ulbrich serves stainless steel and special metal markets with strip, flat wire, shaped wire, foil and ultra-lite foil, and sheet product forms. It has evolved into a worldwide, high quality precision metals manufacturing and distribution network.
"We have achieved this milestone as a result of the commitment, loyalty, knowledge and hard work of each employee through the years," said Chris Ulbrich, CEO.
"We also extend sincere appreciation to all customers who have supported Ulbrich with orders and feedback. Our dedicated customer base has always been key to the Company's success."
When Fred Sr. founded Ulbrich in 1924, he could not have known that the Company would endure through the Great Depression, diversify during two world wars, thrive during lunar exploration, and develop into an international business.
Ulbrich supplies precision products at the international level for numerous critical applications in the medical, power generation, energy, automotive, aircraft, aerospace, petro chemical, oil and gas, industrial and consumer markets.
To celebrate its 90th year anniversary, Ulbrich is planning a series of commemorative events at all of it's locations.
Ulbrich Time Line and Facts:
Early 1920s: the founder, a young Frederick Christian Ulbrich (Fred Sr.) worked as a salesman for U.S. Steel in Donora, PA and became aware of the steel industry's need for good quality scrap. With just a few dollars in his pocket, he returned to his hometown of Wallingford, CT and opened a scrap yard. For several years he dismantled old cars and farm machinery, selling the scrap to steel mills and auto parts to auto repair shops.
1924: Fred Sr. founded the "Fred Ulbrich" company that would eventually become Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals, Inc.
1927: The first of many expansions by Ulbrich occurred when Fred Sr. doubled the square footage of his building from 600 square feet to 1,200 square feet. To match his rapid building growth, Fred Sr. decided to increase inventories to generate new customers. During the same period because of his keen interest in metals, he attended evening classes in metallurgy at Yale University.
1929: During the Great Depression lasting 10 years, the demand for scrap declined, but the young Ulbrich made the best of it. Fred Sr. built another addition to the plant with the help of transients hopping off freight trains near the plant. He offered them hot meals and modest wages. Fred Sr. was devoted to getting his scrap yard in good shape. The little money he received was from an occasional scrap sale to the Ludlum Corporation and the unusual rental of his chicken coop to a local Wallingford business.
1936: Ludlum Corporation merged with the Allegheny Corporation and Fred Sr. could no longer sell scrap directly to the merged company. It became obvious that he had to pursue a new venture.
1937: The Wallingford and Meriden, CT area was the center of cutlery and flatware manufacturing. With his knowledge of stainless steel, Fred Sr., decided to manufacture a quality line of knives, forks and spoons. The items were inexpensive but the quality was excellent.
1939: Germany invaded Poland signaling the start of World War II.
1941: Ulbrich receives a contract to supply stainless steel knives for the U.S. Army mess kit.
1942: The Ulbrich Company fulfilled contracts with on-time delivery and rapidly earned a place ahead of its competition. In addition, Fred Sr. was able to convert metal to the proper specifications. Consequently, the company received additional contracts becoming a major supplier of knives during the war.
1944: Fred Sr. became Warden of Wallingford, and one of his major accomplishments was paving the town roads with real asphalt.
1945: Ulbrich sponsored 50 male concentration camp victims that were displaced in Europe, offering employment while the U.S. Government worked to have their families join them a year later. Today Ulbrich still has workers who are related to thesefamilies employed at the Company.
1946: After the war, the company expanded its tableware business offering two different products. One was the continuation of the low-cost, diner-grade tableware and the other a high-end line of stainless steel carving knives with Elkhorn handles that were sold in the finest New York City department stores. Fred Sr. decided with his experience in military knives and cutlery, he would form a company that he called Victory Cutlery Company.
1949: Ulbrich had grown to four times its original size with a 2,500 square foot building.
1950: While the business thrived, Fred Sr. saw an even better opportunity to supply stainless steel for a growing market of stainless steel applications. He had both the knowledge and the rolling mill to fill an important niche. The big melt shops were supplying 10,000 minimum coils, far too much for many small manufacturers. Fred Sr. bought the big coils and slit them into smaller lots and supplied the needed smaller quantities, as little as 10 pounds, to these small manufacturers.
1955: Rerolling and slitting was the main focus of the Ulbrich Company's enterprise. The cutlery business was sold and a powerful new Sendzimer rolling mill was purchased. The unique design of this mill enabled Ulbrich to roll to thicknesses unheard of at the time, down to .005" and at the same time they retained the desired flatness across the width of the strip.
1957: The response from customers was so favorable that Ulbrich soon invested in two-high rolling mills to handle the demand and the first non-family employees were hired.
1959: A new Sendzimer rolling mill was added and 12 new employees were hired. At this time Fred Sr.'s oldest son, Frederick C. Ulbrich, Jr., joins the company and sets up a sales department, alleviating the firm's dependence on the service centers that had been selling their products. In addition Fred Sr.'s second son, Richard J. Ulbrich joined his father and brother in the business to focus on manufacturing and mill operations.
1960: Nickel-based alloys were added to the product mix as Ulbrich made a bid for new applications in the Aircraft and Aerospace industry. Inventories included 20 stainless alloys and over 40 different Special Metals which combined into a constant inventory of over 5 million pounds.
1963: The Company invested all of its profit into new laboratories and testing facilities in order to qualify as a supplier to Pratt & Whitney, located in Hartford. The approval opened up business from Boeing, North American Aviation, Rohr and other subcontractors. Ulbrich was selected as a supplier to the Air Force's B70 Bomber Project. This required the company to roll to as light as .001"in thickness.
1964: Fred Sr.'s third son, Daniel Ulbrich, entered the business and Ulbrich decided to hire its own sales force instead of depending on independent sales representatives.
1965: Ulbrich became an important metal supplier to the U.S. troops in Vietnam.
1968: As customers began to respond to Ulbrich's quality and versatility in the 1960's, it became obvious that the "Biggest Little Mill" needed a national distribution network. Ulbrich of Illinois became Ulbrich's first stainless steel strip service center located in Alsip, IL and served the Midwest market.
1970: Significant new equipment additions were made to improve quality and capability to roll to even thinner thicknesses. The company was renamed as Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, Inc. with60 employees working three shifts around the clock and over 50 alloys in the product line.
1971: Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Apollo spacecraft, which was built using Ulbrich metal. The metal produced by Ulbrich helped make it possible to lift the 6,262,500 pound vehicle off the launch pad.
1974: Ulbrich celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
1977: Chris Ulbrich, Fred Jr.'s son, joined the company full time after working part time, operating most of the machines in the plant.
1980: Fred Jr. CEO and his brother, Dick, COO set a target of expanding sales ten fold by 1990 and begin plans to reach that goal. They decided to reinvest all corporate profits into their capital expansion programs.
1982: A 100,000 square foot building was erected at the main plant in Wallingford. A regional Service Center, Ulbrich of New England, was created. After a series of strategic meetings, the "The Ulbrich Revolution" was underway, and the company embarked on an employee-wide effort emphasizing quality and customer commitment.
1986: Ulbrich opened Ulbrich of California, its fourth service center in Fresno, CA which would cover the Western and Southwestern markets.
1989: Ulbrich is now serving a broad market that includes makers of cars, trucks, aircraft, aerospace vehicles, medical instrumentation, implantable parts, petrochemical and power generation equipment and many others.
1990: Ulbrich announced a company-wide quality improvement initiative. All employees began attending regular Quality Control meetings with equipment operators, staff, and managers where they were trained on the following Four Tenets: Total Customer Responsiveness, Total Company Involvement, Total Quality Commitment, and Continuous Professional Development.
1994: The quality improvement effort paid off as Ulbrich attained its ISO Quality Certification at the mill with all Divisions following soon after.
1997: Titanium became an important part of the Ulbrich product offering. Also, Ulbrich expanded its distribution network with a facility called Ulbrinox in Queretaro, Mexico, and it purchased The Diversified Stainless Company with two locations in Toronto and Montreal, Canada.
1998: A third generation Ulbrich takes the helm with the appointment of Fred Jr.'s son, Chris Ulbrich, as President. The Company reaches record Sales.
1999: Ulbrich marks its 75th anniversary with over 600 employees with facilities in four countries. The Company was now buying over 140 different alloys from various melting sources all over the world to maintain its commitment for wide product choice and quick deliveries.
2001: Ulbrich acquires a flat wire division in South Carolina that they name Ulbrich Precision Flat Wire.
2002: Ulbrich opens a sales office in Shanghai, China and also opens Ulbrich Precision Metals, Ltd in Galway, Ireland to produce and distribute fine wire to the medical market in the EU.
2005: Ulbrich increases capacity to produce wire called PV Ribbon that is used in the production of Solar Panels. The Ulbrich Special Wire Group opens a PV Ribbon facility in Austria.
2006: Ulbrich expands it Wallingford, CT rolling mill facility by 12,000 square feet and enters into the Ultra Lite Foil business improving it thickness capability to less than .0004".
2007: Ulbrich Asia Metals (a service center and trading company) opens in Hong Kong to provide Ulbrich products to Asia.
2011:Ulbrich Solar Technologies prepares to open another manufacturing location for producing PV Ribbon in Hillsboro, Oregon.
2012: Ulbrich continues into the fourth familygeneration with 700 employees, and 11 locations. The company moves into a new corporate headquarters at 153 Washington Ave, North Haven, CT.
2014: Ulbrich celebrates its 90th Anniversary with a series of commemorative events planned at all locations during the year.