The pandemic has exacted a toll on businesses across the globe, forcing many to close and numerous others to operate in a diminished fashion.
All-Clad is among the large global companies that have had their mettle tested over the past 18 months. But according to one of its top officials, the firm is withstanding the heat of this outbreak as efficiently as one of its signature products does while atop a stovetop burner.
“We had a short shutdown and lost a little manufacturing time, making sure our workforce was safe. But we are back at full voltage,” Bill Groll, vice president of research and development, said during a video conference Wednesday.
All-Clad Metalcrafters LLC, respected and relied upon in kitchens from Avella to Ankara, is in the midst of having a golden anniversary. The Cecil Township-based company, manufacturer of cookware, ovenware, kitchen tools and accessories, is 50 years old.
A ribbon-cutting celebration three weeks ago included just about everything but a birthday cake, as Mayor Dave Rhome of neighboring Canonsburg declared May 21 to be “All-Clad Day.”
During the ceremony, chief operating officer Dan Taylor described the firm’s metal workers as “the most skilled in the world.” All-Clad has a payroll of 200-plus – about 160 union employees and 53 who are salaried.
All of All-Clad’s fully-clad cookware is produced in the factory along Morganza Road, on a 40-acre tract featuring a picturesque lake. A full 90% of its products are produced in the United States. Some aluminum items are made in China.
“Any product that is bonded metal is made in Canonsburg,” Groll said. “The thing that made us famous is made here.”
The company primarily supplies retail operators, but also sells online. And its factory sales are popular among consumers.
The company is following an incredible legacy of an incredible man. John Ulam was a metallurgist and innovator who, eventually, would be awarded more than 50 national patents. He also secured a contract from the U.S. Mint to make coins from bonded metal layers instead of solid silver, a process the Mint still employs.
Ulam learned he could develop high-quality pieces by bonding dissimilar metals – known as cladding. The end products retained heat and were chemically resistant, and would result in the production of cookware that would prove to be the foundation of this half-century-old operation.
He launched a business in 1967 called Clad Metals, which grew and morphed into All-Clad Metalcrafters in 1971.
“The early years were very slow, but steady,” said Groll, a 41-year employee who knew Ulam well. He worked directly with the founder for nine years, after being hired by him.
“He recognized a void in the cookware business and was interested in high-performance cookware,” Grollm said. “He wanted to produce the best bang for your buck.”
This was a family-owned business until 1989, the year Ulam died. Pittsburgh Annealing Box, which served a number of niche industries, acquired the company and, according to Groll, recognized All-Clad’s “most valuable property was cookware” and “put all of its chips” on that line of products.
“The ’90s were big growth years” he said of All-Clad. “The ’90s were a wild ride,” as the company worked feverishly to expand its production facility to keep up with a business that was growing exponentially.
All-Clad has been sold two times since. Waterford Wedgwood, an Ireland-based holding company, bought All-Clad in the late ’90s, then sold it in 2004 to the current owner, Groupe SEB, a large, French-based consortium. Groll praised the current owner for its “strong technical, engineering and financial support.”
All-Clad products are well regarded for their durability and performance. They are considered to be expensive, but worth the price, and adorn kitchens in numerous countries.
“Our cookware is for the serious professional or amateur cook,” Groll said during a tour of the Cecil plant two years ago.
He said the company has made changes, adapting to the times, including the use of robotics. Groll emphasized, however, All-Clad workers are integral to the operation, and will continue to be, considering the level of quality control that is necessary.
“Many, many, many hands and eyes touch and look at the product,” he said. “Quality standards are the lifeblood of our brand.”
Fifty years later, that brand continues to easily pass those mettle tests.