Around 1880, an orphan from Switzerland came to Central Illinois and started a hardware store. His name was Henry Altorfer. In 1906, his teenage son A.W. designed one of the first power washing machines and over time the Altorfer Brothers Company (ABC) became one of this nation’s leading manufacturers of home laundry equipment employing over 1200 people.
After working at ABC until it was sold, both of A. W.’s sons, H. D. and A. W. Jr., bought a five-story, 125,000 square foot building in 1953 with the intention of creating a manufacturing business of their own. While they were planning this new endeavor, they began warehousing other companies’ products, so it was quite by accident that United Facilities, (UF) started in the public warehousing business.
With their background in design and manufacturing, they saw opportunities in what is now known as the logistics industry. Instead of just storing products, they decided to integrate inventory coming from various points to ship customer orders. In 1959, this type of innovative thinking led to one of the first multiyear warehouse contracts in the nation, which established United Facilities as a pioneer in the outsource logistics industry. The company’s success has not been by accident, but rather through innovation and superior customer service.
Due to the excellent service provided in Peoria, one customer requested that the brothers open an out-of-state distribution center in 1967. This made United Facilities one of the first existing multi-state warehouse service providers in the industry.
In addition to being a pioneer in logistics, United Facilities also developed new material handling methods. In 1980, the first prototype half-clamp forklift attachment was introduced. Even today, unique equipment is being designed to fit particular needs with two new attachments being developed in the last five years.
PC-networked systems were seen as an operational, competitive advantage as early as 1984. A few years after that, a systems designer was hired full-time to develop a WMS System, which, with several upgrades, is still used today.
The 1990s brought about many new initiatives to further enhance customer service. Product sampling services were provided to customers, as well as in-store display setups, packaging, kitting, light assembly, and contract manufacturing services. This also included programming and technical writing expertise, computer-aided design, layout and other engineering services and internet fulfillment.
United Facilities has expanded its Packaging department which has become an area of expertise for the company. They have focused a large amount of energy in streamlining the packaging processes and also using cutting edge technologies to save money and increase productivity, and drive incremental sales growth.
Today, a new generation of Altorfers is active in managing the company. Through an ever-expanding variety of services, the company has grown to over 5 million square feet with operations in eleven cities.
Expansion and innovation is what drives the current generation of United Facilities. Emphasis on technology, continuous improvements and community presence are key aspects of how United Facilities continues to evolve in the world supply chain arena. New tracking and inventory control programs have been introduced in the last three years which have markedly helped boost productivity and reduce costs.
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