William Urschel probably didn’t realize in 1910 that the machine he designed to prune his gooseberries would end up as the launching product of a company that sells its equipment in more than 120 countries in 2010.
The Gooseberry Snipper designed by Urschel could do the work of 100 workers, and shifted the gooseberry farmer’s job away from farming and into technology. It is that same slicing and dicing core competency that makes Valparaiso, Ind.-based Urschel Laboratories Inc. what it is today.
And the company is still run by the Urschel family. William Urschel’s sons, Joe and Gerald Urschel, started designing food cutting machinery with their father in the 1920s. They were awarded more than 70 patents during their careers.
The company’s most popular product for produce, the Model G, was developed in 1957 by the company Joe and Gerald Urschel were then leading. William Urschel died in 1948.
Today, the Model G is being slowly replaced by the DiversaCut, an updated version Rick Urschel described as an amalgamation of three or five of the company’s best selling machines.
Today, 80% of the company’s market is fresh produce, said Rick Urschel, vice president of operations. His father, Bob Urschel, is the company’s chief executive officer, and his uncle, Dan Urschel, is vice president of manufacturing.
In 2009, Urschel Laboratories released its TranSlicer 2510, the next generation of the TranSlicer 2500.
“That machine is specifically designed for the fresh bagged salad industry,” Rick Urschel said.
“If you look at salad from Fresh Express, Taylor Farms, Dole, it all goes through that machine.”
The company specializes in two genres of size reduction machines — slicers and dicers.
“The No. 1 advantage we have to being a family company is that we’re not a very diverse company. We only do one thing — dicers, cutters, things with knives,” Rick Urschel said.
“If we were a public company or not a family-owned company, we may not have stayed that focused.”
With this advantage, the Urschel family keeps all of its more than 300 employees focused on their goal of building the highest quality machines, not making the most money.
“We’re certainly not focused on returns as much as another company would be,” Rick Urschel said.
“That’s been a philosophy since my great-grandfather got started in 1910.”