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The History Of Ulbrich

From humble beginnings to a global presence, Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals, Inc., stands tall, driven by a passion for excellence and a commitment to pushing boundaries in metallurgy and beyond.

Journey through time on 1924.ulbrich.com


A young Frederick Christian Ulbrich Sr., who worked as a scrap inspector for United States Steel Company in Donora, Pennsylvania, realizes the steel industry’s need for good quality scrap. With just a few dollars in his pocket, Fred returns to his hometown of Wallingford, Connecticut, and opens a scrap yard named "The Fred Ulbrich Company".



Frederick founded the “Fred Ulbrich” company that eventually became Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, Inc.


The first of many expansion moves by Ulbrich occurs in 1927 with an enlargement of the original 600 sq ft building to a 1200 sq ft building. In order to match the rapid growth of the stainless steel industry, Ulbrich decides to increase inventories. Fred Sr. develops an advanced understanding of the metal industry and attends night courses in Metallurgy at Yale University for several years.


The Stock Market Crash of 1929 signals the beginning of the 10-year Great Depression. It represents the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States of America. Ulbrich manages to stay in business amidst dire economic conditions.



Fred Ulbrich Sr. devotes his time and energy into growing his scrap yard business. Fred Sr. is able to turn a profit from the occasional sale of scrap to the nearby Ludlum Corporation and through other business ventures such as operating a chicken coop on the premises.



The Ludlum Corporation merges with the Allegheny Corporation. Due to the merger, Ulbrich could no longer sell scrap metal directly to the company. Fred Sr. pivots and pursues a new stainless steel venture.



At this time, the Wallingford-Meriden area was a national hub for cutlery manufacturing. With his knowledge of stainless steel, Fred Sr. establishes a subsidiary company called "Victory Cutlery Company" manufacturing diner-quality cutlery: knives, forks , and spoons. The items are of high quality, yet inexpensive to produce.


Fred Sr. becomes successful and well known in the Wallingford, Connecticut area as one of the town's most successful businessmen and active member of the local community. Germany invaded Poland, signaling the start of World War II.


At the beginning of World War II, Ulbrich wins a federal government contract to supply stainless steel mess kits (forks, knives and spoons) for the United States Army. Because of the war effort, demand for stainless steel skyrockets. With earnings made his cutlery business, Fred Sr. purchases one of the first Sendzimir Rolling Mills and a slitter machine to precisely manufacture stainless steel strip with various thickness and widths.



Ulbrich fulfills orders more rapidly thanks to the Sendzimir Mill purchase. This new rolling mill technology gives the company the capability to convert stainless steel and other metal alloys to more exact specifications. Consequently, Ulbrich receives additional contracts, becoming a major supplier of mess kits during the war.


Fred Sr. becomes the Warden of Wallingford on January 1, 1944. He is re-elected twice, each time winning by more votes than the previous election. As a pro-business Democrat, one of his major accomplishments is paving roads with real asphalt in the “Shupeck” district on the west side of town.


After World War II, the company expands its cutlery business, offering two distinct products: one being a continuation of the low-cost, diner-grade cutlery, and the other, a high-end line of stainless steel carving knives with elk horn handles, sold in New York department stores. Ulbrich is now four times its original size and its manufacturing facility, now a 2500 sq. ft. building. Fred Sr. and his wife Ada have a growing family of three sons and one daughter. Fred Ulbrich Jr. begins his career at the company as a factory worker.


The company thrives during this time period. Applications for stainless steel multiplies. Fred Sr. has the knowledge, experience and the technology needed to fill an important industry niche. Large "melt mills" such as US Steel sell stainless steel strip on 10,000 pound coils, far too much for small manufacturers to keep in their inventory. Fred Sr. plans to buy these large coils in various gauges (thickness) and to slit them to narrow widths. Customers are able to order quantities of stainless strip as small as 10 pounds with precise specifications. In only three years, sales jump from $102,000 to $425,000.



Re-rolling and slitting strip metal is now the focus of the Ulbrich's enterprise. The cutlery business is sold and a new, more powerful Sendzimer mill is purchased. The unique design of this 20-high cluster mill enables Ulbrich to roll strip to gauges that are unheard of at the time (down to 0.005 inches thick) while retaining the desired flatness of the strip.



The response from customers is so favorable that Ulbrich invests in two 4-high rolling mills to handle greater demand. Total sales increases to an average of $1.3 million per year.


Nickel-based alloys are added to the product mix as Ulbrich makes a bid to supply the booming aircraft and aerospace industries. Inventories include 20 alloys of stainless steel, and over 40 types of special metals — totaling a constant inventory of over 5 million pounds. Richard (Dick) and Daniel Ulbrich, sons of Fred Sr. enter the business.



The company invests a full year of profit into a testing laboratory in order to qualify as a supplier for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. After Ulbrich earns approval as a certified supplier, the company earns the business of Boeing, North American Aviation, Rohr, and other subcontractors. Ulbrich is selected as a supplier to the Air Force’s B70 Bomber project. This requires the company to roll extremely small gauges, down to .001 of an inch.



Through the publication of monthly newsletters and the development of an in-house sales team led by Fred Ulbrich Jr., major original equipment manufacturers (OEM's) begin to respond to Ulbrich's quality and versatility. Ulbrich earns the moniker as “The Biggest Little Mill in the Country” and seeks to expand operations. A national distribution network is needed to service the company's nation-wide customer base. Ulbrich of Illinois, located in Alsip, is founded in 1968 as Ulbrich's first stainless steel strip service center.


Neil Armstrong walks on the Moon. NASA's Apollo 11 spacecraft is built using state-of-the-art technology and various metal components rolled by Ulbrich. The company is incorporated and renamed "Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals, Inc.


Fred Ulbrich Sr. transfers ownership of the company to his three sons, Fred Jr., Dick, and Dan. Ownership reinvests into the business by modernizing the production facilities and increasing capabilities and capacity. Significant new equipment additions are made to improve quality and to roll even smaller gauges. The company earns over $10 million in annual sales, boasts 60 employees working 3 shifts, and offers over 50 different types of metal alloys.


Ulbrich celebrates its 50th anniversary.


Fred Ulbrich Sr. passes away. His purpose in life was to do the best in everything he did, and he accomplished that. Fred Sr. loved people, most of all his co-workers and their families.


Fred Jr. and brother Dick set a target of $100 million in sales by 1990, and they set in motion plans to reach that goal. They decide to reinvest all corporate profits into new capital expansion programs. Ulbrich breaks into international markets and new economic sectors.



A 100,000 square foot building is erected next to the main plant on Route 5 (South Colony Road) in Wallingford, Connecticut. A regional service center, Ulbrich of New England, is created to more readily service customers. After a series of strategic meetings, company management introduces the "Ulbrich Revolution". Already known for its excellent quality, Ulbrich sets the bar higher by emphasizing the quality, customer commitment and professional development.



A service center designated Ulbrich of Georgia is established near Atlanta to service South and Mid-Atlantic states.



On September 19th, a fourth service center in Fresno, Ulbrich of California is opened, supplying coverage to the Western, and South Western markets.


Thanks to expansion and a larger footprint throughout the United States, Ulbrich services of several industrial and consumer markets including automotive, aircraft, aerospace, medical, electronic, and power generation. Sales reach $100 million.


Customers seek more specialized products that are more challenging to produce. Ulbrich responds by upgrading its operational capabilities and even greater focus on improving quality. Habitual meetings between machine operators, supervisors, and managers are held on a regular basis. A new company philosophy emerges in the form of these Four Tenets: Total Customer Responsiveness, Total Company Involvement, Total Quality Commitment, and Continuous Professional Development.


Ownership and top management embark on an initiative to increase international sales. Partnerships in France, Japan, and China are brokered. Ulbrich purchases Aerodyne Alloys in Hartford, Connecticut to broaden the company’s product line into stainless and nickel alloy bar, sheet, and plate.


Titanium-based alloys become an important element of Ulbrich’s product offerings. Ulbrich acquires Diversified Stainless of Canada, with facilities in Toronto and Montreal. A new stainless steel service center is founded in Queretéro, Mexico to supply Central and South American markets.


The third generation of the Ulbrich family takes the helm with the appointment of Chris Ulbrich as President. Meanwhile, Ulbrich of Illinois celebrates its 30th year in business. Sales reached $250 million a year.



Ulbrich marks its 75th Anniversary with over 600 employees and 18 facilities in four countries. At the time, Ulbrich is buying over 140 alloys from various melting sources in order to maintain their commitment to customers and quick delivery.


Ulbrich acquires Steel Heddle, and transforms the business into a flat wire division - Ulbrich Precision Flat Wire, located in South Carolina. The manufacturing facility expands Ulbrich's capabilities to produce fine wire for the medical industry and Photovoltaic Ribbon to the solar industry.


Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals Ltd., Shanghai representative office, opened in China. Ulbrich Precision Metals Ltd., located in Ireland, is created and equipped to handle supplying fine wire to the medical industry in Ireland, and the EU.


Ulbrich acquires Delta Precision Alloys whose capabilities in ultra fine wire and plating enhanced the product offerings for the Ulbrich Specialty Wire Group. Ulbrich then opened another company and facility for the precision flat wire product, Ulbrich of Austria.


Ulbrich Specialty Strip Mill adds a 12,000 square foot expansion to house a new ultralight foil, including a rolling mill, annealing line and slitter capable of processing stainless steel and special metal to gauges less than .0004 of an inch.



Ulbrich Asia metals, a service center/trading company is opened in Hong Kong to supply the growing demand for strip products in Asia.


Ulbrich becomes a global manufacturer of shaped and flat wire, with five facilities located in the major markets throughout the world. Ulbrich suffers first annual loss in 20 years due to Global Financial Crisis, but the company withstands the downturn.


Ulbrich continues into the family's fourth generation with over 700 employees, 12 international locations, and annual sales grow to $300 million. A new Corporate Headquarters is established in North Haven, Connecticut. Manufacturing precision strip and wire remains the main focus.


Ulbrich Precision Special Metals (Suzhou) Co. opens in Jiangsu, China, providing stainless steel and special metals strip. Ulbrich Asia Metals Malaysia opens in Penang, Malaysia, offering a new Precision Coil Center specializing in light gauge stainless steel and special metals strip.



Ulbrich Specialty Wire Products expands into the High Performance Cable market. Ulbrich Shaped Wire runs its first production of the new Fuhr Shaping Mill, expanding its business in the wedge wire market.


As the company celebrates its 90th anniversary, three members of the fourth generation are employed in the family business. During this year, Ulbrich establishes its commercial strategy as being a development partner and supply chain partner.


The Fred Ulbrich Memorial Fund is established to honor and continue the philanthropic work of the late Fred Ulbrich Jr. The fund supports youth development organizations and initiatives in the Wallingford community.



Ulbrich announces the opening of a new sales office in Fresno, California, to better serve the West Coast. The following month, Ulbrich Shaped Wire completes construction of a 17,000 square foot warehouse. In October, Ulbrich of Illinois installs its ninth and most versatile slitting machine yet; the new 24” Stanat Slitter.



In an effort to unify Ulbrich’s community outreach programs and events that employees have championed over the years, the Ulbrich Community Outreach Team is formed. Ulbrich fully commits to the “Lean Philosophy” by completing over 600 A3s in 2016.



Ulbrich closes the year having sold 162 different alloys to customers in 46 countries. The Ulbrich family commits $80 million in capital expenditures to further support the business in its endless effort to exceed customer expectations.



Ulbrich of Illinois celebrates its 50th anniversary as one of the metal industry's most effective service centers. Diversified Ulbrich Toronto opens a new facility.

Diversified Ulbrich is more than ready for a new business location as they have been located in the same facility in Downsview for over forty years, with limited space for showcasing their newest product lines. This additional space, including six additional loading docks, will add increased functionality, allowing orders to be filled and delivered faster.

Also in 2018, two divisions reached important milestones - Ulbrich of Illinois celebrates its 50th anniversary, while Ulbrinox (Mexico) passes the 20 year mark in operation.



On October 9, 2019, Ulbrich Steel is named as the “Best Place to Work in Central Connecticut at the Record Journal’s Readers’ Choice Awards ceremony.


Ulbrich quickly adapts to new ways of working in order to keep employees safer as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world.


A new high-tech advanced rolling mill is added at USSM as part of Ulbrich’s commitment to continuous improvement initiatives.

USSM's new high tech rolling mill


Three of Ulbrich's divisions receive notable accreditations: USSM earns its ISO 14001:2015 certification proving Ulbrich's ongoing efforts in preserving the environment; Diversified Ulbrich is awarded the AS9120B certification granting the ability to delve into new materials for the aerospace industry; Ulbrinox's service and quality of products supplied to the automotive industry is recognized with being IATF 16949:2016 certified.


On January 31st, Ulbrich acquires ATl's Pico Rivera distribution facility, operating under Ulbrich of California.

At the forefront of our sustainability efforts, Ulbrich of Austria releases a Sustainability Report measuring its environmental performance and impact.

Wallingford Family YMCA names the company Community Partner of the Year for its philanthropic contributions, while the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce honors Ulbrich with the Achievements in Manufacturing Award.

CEO Chris Ulbrich leads the Ulbrich-Sponsored Wallingford 350th +2 Jubilee Parade as Grand Marshal.

Grand Marshal Chris Ulbrich rides with wife Tammie as Ulbrich employees march along during Wallingford 350th +2 Jubilee Parade


Ulbrich of Illinois' processing capabilities are upgraded with the install of a new cut-to-length line.

In addition to winning "Best Place to Work in Central CT" for the fifth year in a row, Ulbrich earns the title of "Best Family-Owned Business" at the Record Journal's Readers' Choice Awards.


Celebrating its centennial, Ulbrich sets forth with a comprehensive and visionary plan for the next 100 years. With a focus on long-term planning, talent development, technology integration, as well as community and environmental responsibility, Ulbrich embraces the future with confidence. The company's unwavering commitment to its workforce, customers, and values ensures Ulbrich will remain an industry leader, contributing to technological advancements and shaping the landscape of stainless steel and special metals for generations to come.

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