A History Of Ulbrich

From aircraft to pacemakers, Ulbrich specialty metals provides the precision you need for any product application. Our proprietary manufacturing process can reach unparalled precision down to .0003” in a variety of customizable alloys. Contact a specialist today.

1920s

A young Frederick Christian Ulbrich, who worked as a salesman for US Steel in Denora, PA, became aware of the steel industry’s need for good quality scrap. With just a few dollars in his pocket, Fred returned to his hometown of Wallingford, Connecticut, and opens a scrap yard.

1924

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

1927

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The first of many expansion moves by Ulbrich occurred in 1927 with an enlargement of the original 600 sq ft building to a 1200 sq ft building. In order match the rapid growth of the Stainless Steel Industry, Ulbrich decided to increase inventories. Fred had a true understanding for metal and attended night courses in Metallurgy at Yale University for several years.

1930s

The stock market Crash of 1929 signaled the beginning of the 10-year Great Depression. It represented the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States of America.

1930-1935

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Fred Ulbrich was devoted to getting is scrap yard in good shape. What little money he received was from the occasional sale of scrap to the Ludlum Corporation and the unusual rental of his chicken coop to a local business.

1936

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The Ludlum Corporation merged with the Allegheny Corporation. Fred Sr. could no longer sell scrap directly to the company and it became obvious that he had to pursue a new venture.

1937

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At this time, the Wallingford-Meriden area was a center for cutlery manufacturing. With his knowledge of stainless, Fred dedicated himself to manufacturing dinner quality cutlery knives, forks, and spoons. The items were inexpensive but high quality. 

1939

Fred Sr. was successful and well known in the Wallingford area. Germany invaded Poland, signaling the start of World War II.

1940s

With the beginning of World War II the company receives a contract to supply stainless steel knives for army mess kits. Stainless was very difficult to maintain, however, because it was high in demand for other war-related products. Fred Ulbrich purchased a rolling mill and slitter to the thickness and widths he needed.

1942

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Ulbrich fulfilled contracts with on-time delivery and rapidly earned a place ahead of its competition. Fred Sr.  was also 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 the Warden of Wallingford on January 1, 1944. He ran for re-election twice, each time winning by more votes than the previous time. One of his major accomplishments was paving the roads with real asphalt in the “Shupeck” district on the west side of town.

1946-1949

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After the war, the company expanded its tableware business, offering two distinct products. One is a continuation of the low-cost, diner-grade product, and the other, a high end line of stainless steel carving knives with elkhorn handles, sold in New York department stores. By the end of the decade, Ulbrich had grown to four times its original size with a 2500 square foot building. 

1950s

The company thrived during this time. But, Fred Sr. had a growing family, and saw even more opportunity. Applications for stainless steel grew, and he had both the knowledge and the rolling mill needed to fill an important niche. The big melt mills sold stainless steel on 10,000 pound coils, far too much for small manufacturers to keep in their inventory. Fred bought the big coils in various gauges; he slit them down to narrow widths and sold orders as small as 10 pounds. In just three years, sales jumped from $102,000 to $425,000.

1955

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Re-rolling and slitting was the focus of the Ubrich company’s enterprise. The cutlery business was sold, and a powerful new Sendzimer rolling mill was purchased — the first of its kind in New England. The unique design of this mill enabled Urich to roll gauges that were unheard of at that time (down to .005 inches) and at the same time retained the desired flatness of the strip.

1957-1959

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The response from customers was so favorable that Ulbrich soon invested in two four-high rolling mills to handle the demand. The first non-family employees were hired, and sales increased to $1.3 million. 

1960s

Nickel based alloys were added to the product mix as Ulbrich made a bid for more applications in the aircraft and aerospace industries. Inventories included 20 alloys of stainless steels, and over 40 special metals — totaling a constant inventory of over 5 million pounds.

1963

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The company invested a full year of profit into research laboratories and testing facilities in order to qualify as a supplier to Pratt & Whitney. The approval also opened up business with 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 extremely small gauges, down to .001 of an inch.

1964-1968

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Through monthly newsletters and the development of an in-house sales team, customers began to respond to Ulbrich's quality and versatility. It soon became apparent that the “Biggest Little Mill” needed a national distribution network. Ulbrich of Illinois, located in Alsip, was Ulbrich's first stainless steel strip service center.

1969

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 2.3-million-pound vehicle off the launch pad.

1970s

Fred Ulbrich Sr. transferred ownership of the company to his three sons, Fred Jr., Dick, and Dan. The focus was on modernizing the production facilities, and increasing capacity. Significant new equipment additions were made to improve quality and roll thinner gauges. The company was renamed Ulbrich Stainless Steel Special Metals, Inc., which had over $10 Million in annual sales, 60 employees spread over 3 shifts around the clock, and over 50 products available to customers.

1974

Ulbrich celebrates its 50th anniversary.

1975

Fred Sr., whose health had been in decline for the past five years, passed away. His purpose in life was to do the best in everything he did, and he accomplished that. He loved people, most of all his co-workers and their families.

1980s

Fred Jr. and brother Dick set a target of $100 million in sales by 1990, and set in motion the plans to reach that goal. They decided to reinvest all corporate profits into their capital expansion programs.

1982

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A 100,000 square foot building is erected to the main plant in Wallingford. A regional service center, Ulbrich of New England, was created.  After a series of high-level strategic meetings, the "Ulbrich Revolution" began. Already known for its excellent quality, Ulbrich set the bar higher by embarking on an employee-wide effort to emphasize quality and customer commitment.

1983

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A service center following the same pattern, Ulbrich of Georgia, is established near Atlanta to service South and Mid-Atlantic states.

1986

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On September 19, a fourth service center in Fresno, Ulbrich of California was built, covering the Western, and South Western markets. 

1989

Through expansion, and the service of several markets, including automotive, aircraft, aerospace, medical petrochem, and power generation, sales reached $100 million.

1990s

Although quality was always a priority, Ulbrich raises the bar even further. By bringing their employees into the effort. Quality control meetings involved 0perators, staff, and managers on a regular basis. A new company ethos emerged from these meetings expressed in these four tenets: Total Customer Responsiveness, Total Company Involvement, Total Quality Commitment, and Continuous Professional Development. Reminders were posted everywhere in the facilities.

1993

Ownership and top management embark on an initiative to increase worldwide sales. Partnerships in France, Japan, and China are brokered, and the groundwork is laid for an overseas facility. Ulbrich purchases Aerodyne Alloys in Hartford, CT to broaden the company’s product line into stainless and nickel alloy bar, sheet, and plate.

1997

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Titanium became a very important part of Ulbrich’s product offering. Ulbrich acquired Diversified Stainless of Canada, with facilities in Toronto and Montreal.

1998

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The third generation of the family takes the helm with the appointment of Chris Ulbrich as President. Sales reached $250 million a year. A new stainless steel service center, Ulbrinox,  was built and equipped just outside Mexico City to supply Central and South American markets. Meanwhile, Ulbrich of Illinois celebrated its 30th year in business.

1999

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

2000s

Ulbrich acquires a flat wire division, Ulbrich Precision Flat Wire, located in South Carolina. UPFW expanded its capabilities to produce fine wire for the medical industry and increased capacity to supply PV-Ribbon to the solar industry.

2002

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.

2005

Ulbrich acquired 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.

2005

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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.

2006

Ulbrich Specialty Stip Mill added 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 metals foil to gauges less than.0004 inches.

2007

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

2009

Ulbrich became a global manufacturer for shaped and flat wire, with five facilities located in the major markets for this industry throughout the world. Ulbrich had 15 companies located in six countries, with over 700 employees. Ulbrich loses $400 million in sales due to global downturn, suffering the first annual loss in 20 years.

2010s

Ulbrich continues into the fourth generation with 800 employees, 15 locations worldwide, and sales reaching over $300 million. Due to a natural disaster, the new corporate headquarters are located in North Haven, CT.

2011

Ulbrich Precision Special Metals (Suzhou) Co. opened in Jiangsu, China, providing stainless steel and special metals stip. On June 29, Ulbrich Asia Metals Malaysia opened in Penang, Malaysia, offering a new Precision Coil Center specializing in light gauge stainless steel and special metals strip.

2013

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Ulbrich Specialty Wire Products expands into the High Performance Cable market. Also in June, Ulbrich Shaped Wire ran its first production of the new Fuhr shaping mill expanding its business in the wedge wire market.

2014

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.

2015

The Fred Ulbrich Memorial Fund is established to honor the late Fred Ulbrich, Jr.’s continuous support of youth development in the Wallingford community.

2016

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On June 15th, Ulbrich announced the opening of a new sales office in Fresno, CA, to better serve the West Coast. The following month, Ulbrich Shaped Wire completed construction of a 17,000 square foot warehouse. In October, Ulbrich of Illinois installed its ninth and most versatile slitting machine yet; the new 24” Stanat Slitter.

2016

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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.

2016

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Ulbrich closes the year having sold 162 alloys to customers in 46 countries. The Ulbrich family committed $80 million in capital expenditures to further support the business and continue to exceed customer expectations.

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