Sponsored by Energy Trust

Forging ahead

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012

BY LINDA BAKER

1012 Tactics 01
Dan Ulven, president of The Ulven Companies.
// Photos by Leah Nash

In 1971 Ulven Forging was a single company that forged hooks, shackles and logging tongs for timber harvesting. Forty years later, the Hubbard-based metal components manufacturer has evolved into The Ulven Companies, a family of four individual businesses catering to the oil and gas, maritime, and defense industries — as well as other markets that have a need for Ulven’s casting, forging, machining and rigging supplies.

In 2012 the Ulven group continues to grow and diversify. The companies already support an array of manufacturing capabilities, from traditional blacksmithing to robotic welding. Now Ulven executives are expanding physical-plant capacity and implementing new marketing and lean manufacturing initiatives. The goal is to become more efficient, help recruit top talent and develop new products for contemporary applications.

“We’ve had tremendous growth, but we lacked good organizational systems and processes,” says president Dan Ulven. Coupled with significant capital investments, the decision to streamline administrative and shop procedures is “generating great results,” he says, noting that in the past year and a half, the company has already boosted sales and “become more competitive.”

The Ulven Companies
President: Dan Ulven
Founded: 1971
Employees: 175
Fun fact: Manufactures more than 5,000 discrete parts

Located on 35 acres in Whiskey Hill, Ulven’s family-owned businesses consist of Ulven Forging, Skookum, Wolf Steel Foundry, and Houston Structures. Operating four companies as individual corporations allows Ulven to offer more manufacturing capabilities and product lines while also enabling efficiencies gained through vertical integration, Ulven says. The different companies also reflect Ulven’s strategy of acquiring niche businesses that allow the Ulven group to expand into new industries.

Wolf Steel, for example, was acquired in 1988, adding casting capabilities to the Ulven forging plant. Houston Structures specializes in engineered packages for suspension bridges; the company supplied the vertical cable assembly for the St. Johns and Sauvie Island bridges in the Portland metro area. Skookum, a former competitor founded in 1890, produces blocks and shackles for the offshore oil and gas and the defense industries.

“Early in the company’s history, my father recognized the need to be diversified,” says Ulven, 39, who succeeded paternal company founder Andy Ulven as president two years ago. “Right now, the oil and gas markets are really strong, so we are focusing on that,” Ulven says. But when those markets enter a down cycle, Ulven will have other businesses to sell to. “Everything is countercyclical,” says Ulven.



 

More Articles

The short list: 5 companies making a mint off kale

The Latest
Thursday, November 20, 2014
kale-thumbnailBY OB STAFF

Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.


Read more...

I Know How You Feel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Most smartphones come equipped with speech recognition systems like Siri or Cortana that are capable of understanding the human voice and putting words into actions. But what if smartphones could do more? What if smartphones could register feeling?


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...

Corner Office: Pam Edstrom

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits of information from an agency partner and co-founder of Waggener Edstrom in Lake Oswego.


Read more...

Tackling the CEO-worker pay gap

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY OREGON BUSINESS STAFF

An SEC rule targets the disparity between executive and employee compensation, reigniting a long-standing debate about corporate social responsibility.


Read more...

Corner Office: Marv LaPorte

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

The president of LaPorte & Associates lets us in on his day-to-day life.


Read more...

Growing a mobility cluster

News
Friday, October 31, 2014
0414 bikes bd2f6052BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland?  The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented.  But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS