After 8 yr. of working on the West Coast, Boucher, after being promoted to vice president/general manager with responsibility for Ulbrich of California and Aisa, got the call to open a sales office in Shanghai, China, along with service centers in Suzhou, China, and Penang, Malysia. Following those endeavors, he moved to the corporate office in Connecticut to work as president of distribution, responsible for the firm’s service center group. Then, in 2022 Boucher took on his current role as group chief operating officer.

Ulbrich’s 100-yr. historical overview also has this to say about Fred Sr.:

Ulbrich mill“Fred Sr. had another strong trait: persistence. Once he had a plan, nothing would deter him until the task was accomplished.”
And, again, I sense the same from Boucher, as he recites those core tenets noted earlier and stresses their importance to Ulbrich’s continued success. They are:

  • Customer Responsiveness
  • Family Values
  • Total Company Involvement
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Quality Commitment.

“We are a capabilities-driven company,” Boucher says, noting its difference from typical capacity-driven steel mills. “Regardless of the differences among our various locations, we always settle back on this ‘capability-driven’ concept. Every piece of metal that we stock is customer-specific, precisely why we have our own service center metallurgy group. We spend a lot of time working with our customers, developing the unique specifications that each of them requires. 

“Believe it or not, we’re buying metal now that we don’t anticipate we’ll receive until 2025,” he continues. We’re planning our anticipated capacity well into 2025 and early ’26.”

Challenges/Opportunities Lie Ahead for PMA

Boucher carries these concepts of ‘capabilities-driven’ and customer responsiveness to his year at the head of the PMA table. 

“One of my key initiatives since taking on the role of group chief operating officer at Ulbrich,” Boucher says, “has been breaking down the silos so that we are ‘one Ulbrich.’ That starts with diligent hiring practices. We really work hard at identifying who’s going to fit the culture, and who will not. Anyone that we interview who seems driven by ego, we know that they’re going to have a hard time surviving here.” 

Gregg Boucher“I have been in the metals industry for 40 yr.,” he shares. “Sometimes you need to look at the past to get a glimpse of the future. The metal forming industry in North America constantly has been evolving. Many generic, commodity parts have migrated out of the United States, along with certain industries. Yet, the industry—specifically PMA members—continue to succeed because our members can respond to customer requirements to produce very specific parts with exacting performance expectations, difficult to replicate elsewhere. 

“We continue to see consolidation within our industry,” Boucher continues. “Meanwhile, so many companies, in particular privately held and often family-owned companies, must make capital investments continuously to remain competitive.”
These trends, Boucher says, fuel the merger and acquisition market among metal formers, to provide the needed access to capital.

Ulbrich Stainless Steel lab“But I have one underlying concern,” he shares: “The founding and growth of many of these companies trace back to an entrepreneur, the people that formed the backbone of our industry. These individuals were committed to their trade and to producing parts, and always sought ways to improve the functionality of the parts and assemblies that they manufactured, or they looked for better ways to produce them. Many companies today might have the money available to make the investments in equipment, but are they going to be so focused on the return on investment that they’re going to kill some of the entrepreneurial drivers?

“I worry that many company leaders have lost that entrepreneurial spirit,” Boucher continues. “Successful metal forming companies must enhance and invest in their IT tools,” he says, including Industry 4.0 tenets. “Managers need immediate access to data and must communicate—at an accelerated pace—both internally and externally. All of this hugely impacts the type of workforce required and their skillsets. Position responsibilities will continue to expand as we all continue to evolve from manufacturers into technology-driven companies.”

Evolving with its Community

Ulbrich Stainless Steel winder“PMA must, then, continue to evolve with its community,” Boucher says, “responding not only to the changes within its member companies, and their specific needs, but also to the needs of member-company management and executive teams. Many companies are seeing younger leaders rising through the ranks, and their needs for information and support often differ from the needs of their predecessors. During my term as board chairman—and I hope well beyond—PMA will focus on identifying those needs, and on responding to them. This will allow PMA to remain the premiere trade association within the metal forming industry.”

Boucher already has a two-tier approach to hit the ground running on his mission for PMA: “Enhancing Value to Achieve Metal Forming Excellence!”

“Right from the start I plan to engage with a strategy consultant and work with PMA president David Klotz to formulate a long-term strategy for PMA. We must truly understand what the membership wants from the association, so that we’re putting our time, energy and resources into those areas. It might be to enhance what we already do, and we may need to look at other opportunities as well.” 

Boucher then plans to work with an independent research organization to conduct a member survey. “Not just a matter of filling out a survey online,” he says, “but conducting in-depth phone interviews with members. I think this is important—really important.”

PMAA Big Year for Events

It’s going to be a busy fall in 2024 for PMA from an events perspective.

On the agenda:

FABTECH Orlando, October 15-17

For the first time ever, FABTECH heads to Orange County Convention Center, and provides a convenient “one-stop shop” venue where metal formers can meet with 1500+ worldclass suppliers. “The Orlando venue is terrific,” says PMA president David Klotz, “and it’s relatively easy and affordable to travel there.”

Adds Boucher: “We definitely will have a team in Orlando to look for new technology on display. In the past we’ve mined the FABTECH floor very successfully for new equipment, including robots for end-of-line automation, and a special cut-to-length line for light-gauge, wide strip, designed to handle bipolar plates for fuel cells.”

ICOSPA Congress, October 23-25, Osaka, Japan

ICOSPA (International Council of Sheet Metal Presswork Associations) comprises metal forming associations from six countries: United States (PMA), United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and China. The largest ICOSPA event is the International Congress, held every 3 yr. and hosted and organized on a rotating basis by one of the member associations. The primary focus of the ICOSPA International Congress is to establish a greater understanding of business issues and practices, technology development, safety, and management practices affecting the metal forming industry. Typical attendance includes some 300 to 500 delegates and spouses from more than 10 countries. 

“The previous Congress was attended by 25 PMA member companies,” Klotz says. “We expect a solid turnout this time as well.”

EuroBlech 2024, October 22-25, Hannover, Germany

Concurrent to the ICOSPA Congress is the EuroBlech international trade show, held every other year in Hannover.

“In addition to these events, PMA continues to host several educational events throughout the year,” Klotz adds. “These include our annual Automotive Parts Suppliers Conference, which for the first time was held in the Southeast United States (Greenville, SC) in 2023 and returns to Pontiac, MI, September 11-12, 2024. In 2025 we’ll again head south, to Nashville, TN.”

“Gregg is working from a common theme,” explains Klotz, “that we believe will help drive PMA for the next several years, not just during his 1-yr. term. He and the board chairs that follow him will work with the staff to get behind this mission, to provide the next generation of PMA members with the services and support they need in order to remain viable and profitable.”

Klotz and Boucher point out that the PMA board of directors is noticeably different today than just a few years ago. “The board is much more diverse today,” Klotz says. “Guided by a task force created by the board in 2022, we’ve had an infusion of younger company leaders join the board, and we now have more women on the board.”

Networking with Success Breeds Success

PMA has experienced significant growth in membership in recent years, and Ulbrich has been along for the ride. In its 30+ yr. of PMA membership, many of its employees have been involved at both the district and national levels.

“For example, Forming our Future (the PMA leadership conference and annual meeting) always is a great venue not only for networking with peers,” Boucher shares, “but also for exposing our team members to new ideas. 

“I also find that interacting with successful people helps make you become successful,” he continues. “My father instilled that belief in me. He used to say, ‘Just hang around successful people, because they’ll drive you to be successful.’ I’ve found that to be true. PMA member companies are successful, and my many associations and friendships created via PMA help inspire me and help make Ulbrich a better company.”

Klotz adds, “PMA actively looks for members to get involved in networking groups, either by joining one of our six existing networking groups, or perhaps helping to start a new one. Those who get involved in a networking group will find that their participation in PMA grows dramatically. This holds true whether it’s manufacturing members that form and fabricate metal parts and assemblies, or the associate members that provide equipment and services. Networking provides more than just selling opportunities; it’s about being part of the community and part of the industry.”

Adds Boucher: “For me and others here at Ulbrich, networking through these groups allows us to benchmark and align ourselves with best practices. We all succeed together.”

One example of employees (beyond Boucher) embracing the PMA culture, and in turn bringing new ideas to Ulbrich: Mike Wine, an Ulbrich product manager who also works in strategic sales. Wine serves as treasurer with the PMA Southern New England district.

“And, we’re engaging plenty of others in PMA activities,” Boucher says, “in networking groups, for example, the numerous technical webinars the association produces, and we’ve sent several associates through the PMA Management Development Academy (MDA). Every employee that engages with PMA exhibits significant growth as individuals as a result, and they bring that growth to Ulbrich. We want to instill this with the younger generation taking over in all metal forming companies. Engage with others in the industry and you don’t become only business associates, you become a member of a close-knit community.”

Management Development

New ideas come fast and furious when Ulbrich team members attend PMA-produced events, in particular MDA. MDA comprises an interactive, three-part series of customized workshops to coach next-generation leaders—department supervisors, team leaders and other mid-level managers—preparing them for success. Each 2.5-day session features expert-led workshop sessions, facilitated debriefs, and time to connect with the presenters, facilitators and cohort peers. 

“We’ve sent several middle managers through the program,” Boucher says. “We regularly see, after they complete the program, our team members return with a great deal more self-confidence, a better understanding of how to communicate, set goals and execute their jobs on a day-to-day basis. In a nutshell, I’d say that MDA graduates express a raised level of professionalism.”
Note, the upcoming schedule of MDA cohorts:

July 29-31, 2024; Cleveland, OH

October 28-30, 2024; Asheville, NC

January 29-31, 2025; St. Petersburg, FL.

“We can have the greatest production equipment that money can buy,” Boucher says. “But it’s the people (750-strong throughout the Ulbrich family of companies) who make it all work. And, we’re very proud of our less-than-1% turnover rate.” MF

Industry-Related Terms: Center, Core, Form, Forming, Functionality, Point
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals Inc., Precision Metalforming Association

Technologies: Management, Materials


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