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In 1931, Lloyd Langworthy was intrigued by what he saw to be a problem—there had to be a more efficient and easier way of installing gas appliances than with the industry standard of rigid black pipe. Its inability to be flexible and agile created inefficiencies in installation, and with safety at the forefront, there had to be a better alternative to prevent a failure in the event of a catastrophe.
Not satisfied with status quo and driven by creativity, Langworthy developed and patented the flexible gas connector, which quickly became an acceptable method for installation—considered an innovative, creative, and time saving device for installers. What started as the development of a product soon turned into an evolution, and the company DuraTrac was formed.
The Growing Pains of an Industry Giant
From its beginnings, DuraTrac understood customer pain points—the simplicity of knowing the root of an issue and the desire to address it is what the company stood on. Helping to solve these issues was the key to DuraTrac’s growth within the space and ultimately becoming an industry leader in innovative gas and fluid technologies. By keeping an eye out for the many ways to service the plumbing industry, DuraTrac expanded its family of products to include BackStop Expansion tanks, DuraTrac gas connectors, gas valves and water connectors, push fittings, and much more.
In 2015 the company was purchased by Elbi of America, a manufacturer with more than 40 years of experience in water storage, heating, and treatment systems. As part of the acquisition, DuraTrac found a new home in Elbi of America’s headquarters in Brea, California, alongside BackStop and Arrow Industries —two other divisions. DuraTrac takes great pride in exemplary service and its professional approach in all they do. Customer service and expertise in its products is the core of the company—providing the highest level of customer service and professional approach and support for its customers. With three locations—Anaheim, California; Houston, Texas; and Pottstown, Pennsylvania—DuraTrac can seamlessly operate from coast-to-coast, but it did not take long before the company outgrew the California location and needed to find a new warehouse and office space to accommodate all three divisions.
John Ridgely, VP of Sales for DuraTrac, who has been with the company for more than 50 years, could see the challenge at the corporate location. While walking through the warehouse, he would see row after row of stocked and stacked shelves, with additional materials stacked in the aisle, on the floors, and in any open space. "We had inventory in every available space, and as a solution we leased space that became available in the building next to us, doubling our floorspace,” Ridgely says. In addition, “We rented seven 40-foot ocean containers and placed them in the parking lot for storage and it still wasn't enough," Ridgely adds. The companies needed to find a solution.
Finding the adequate space to house the corporate headquarters, its three divisions, and a warehouse would be a challenge. Ridgely also wanted to make sure that the location would be easily accessible for its employees.
"We are all faced with a labor shortage, he says. "It's difficult to find help, and I've been very fortunate, as we have a great group of employees—they are the company backbone, and my backbone! We depend on them, and I love them all. And it shows. There are seven employees that have worked for Ridgely for more than 40 years. "The last thing I wanted was to move to a location that wasn't convenient for our employees," he adds. This is a testament to both the company and its leadership.
Ridgely and his team set out to find a new location that would allow for convenience in travel for its employees and delivers on a larger office and warehouse space footprint. After months of searching, they found a location in Anaheim, California. The new building would showcase 75,000 square feet of warehouse space able to accommodate the much needed 28-foot racking system and 6 docks, as well as 10,000 square feet of office space that would house all the divisions under one roof.
Before the move-in, the company applied for a high stack permit to accommodate four layers of pallets. "One of the most important things was to design a racking system for the building that goes all the way up to the 28-foot ceilings," Ridgely says. He wanted to make sure the layout and logistics could accommodate the growing companies, so he turned to someone who knew better how to plan for something like that. "We hired an expert that worked for United Parcel Service to help us plan the layout of the racking and the layout of the picking and packing tables. It has paid off because it has allowed us to be ultra-organized," Ridgely says. With products now having a dedicated location on shelves, it makes for an easier pick, pack, and ship. In addition, the new site has a large locked and gated yard.
The big move took place over Thanksgiving in 2020, and to do it right, Ridgely hired movers experienced in complex business moves to eliminate any downtime and ensure the products move from the old space to the new space would be seamless.
Methodically planning out each step, it was promised to happen in one day. When the time came for the actual move, Ridgely was skeptical yet hopeful. The move occurred as planned, with the movers clearing the old building in five hours and setting up the new office space the same day. "My wife Susan, who does our graphics, was sitting in her new office in the new building creating graphics at four o'clock the same day," Ridgely says.
Settling in and Make Room to Grow
A cornerstone to DuraTrac is its belief in committed partnerships, and to be constantly searching for ways to improve its customers’ businesses. With servicing each customer efficiently and effectively in mind, and to keep up with the growing demand, DuraTrac implemented a new software system before the move to streamline the new location and focus on it delivering exceptional service.
"We went over to an all-encompassing program that runs all our systems in real time, so when we ship inventory it instantly updates in our system," Ridgely explains. With the new system, company inventory, sales, and analysis are all kept in one place, making it easier to focus on delivering exceptional service—from coast-to-coast.
The next step will be to launch a new warehouse management system that will help in locating and picking from the more than 5,000 products/SKUs stored in the warehouse. Taking the time to implement it correctly, Ridgely explains, “just like the move itself, it needs to be done correctly.” They are certainly headed in that direction. In the meantime, if there happens to be a question on where an item is in the tall racking and expanded warehouse space, they know who to turn to. "We have an employee who runs our warehouse operations and knows where EVERYTHING is located,” Ridgley says. It’s interesting to note the gentleman has been with the company for just over 45 years and smiles when asked if he truly does know where everything is located—rest assured, he does.
With supply chain issues worldwide, Ridgely and the sales team keep their focus on customer service. "We are expanding all the time, in all of our divisions," he says. And it's a controlled growth to maintain operations and service our existing customers, especially with supply chain and logistics issues. He says controlled growth is essential to ensure new customers will receive the same attention to detail.
But the company and Ridgely, who is 80 years old, have no plans to slow down. "Technically, I am the VP of sales, but right now, I'm the VP of everything because things are—shall we say— interesting!”