Armed with $8,000 and a healthy dose of determination, charisma and work ethic, brothers-in-law H.B. McJunkin and Bernard Wehrle opened the doors of McJunkin Corporation in Charleston, W.Va., on February 15, 1921.
Within just three years, a third brother-in-law — George Herscher — joined the business, which had already expanded from a two-man, one-room operation to three branch offices, a forge shop and a warehouse.
Each of the brothers-in-laws’ descendents have played significant roles in the company’s development. While achieving tremendous success and growth — including key acquisitions of Appalachian Pipe & Supply, Grant Supply, Republic Supply of California and Joliet Valves — they also guided McJunkin through such difficulties as the Great Depression, two World Wars and a heart-breaking family and corporate plane crash in 1975.
“The company’s founders never had a limited vision of the company’s future,” Henry B. Wehrle Jr. wrote in the foreword of the McJunkin Pictorial History in 2009. “They would, of course, be greatly pleased with the company’s extraordinary growth, but would probably not be surprised.”
Nearly 800 miles away and 56 years later, Lewis and Betty Ketchum founded Red Man Pipe & Supply Company in Tulsa, Okla. Ketchum, a Native American from the Delaware Tribe, wanted to give back to his community by providing career opportunities and educational assistance for minorities through his company.
His first desk was a card table, and his wife served as the corporate secretary. From these humble beginnings, Ketchum focused on his ultimate goal: To be the “Supplier of Choice” by delivering quality products with excellent service. In 1995, Red Man acquired Vinson Supply, which allowed Red Man to “take our customers from a producing well all the way through the plant process,” Ketchum told a national trade publication at the time. When Ketchum died unexpectedly later that year, Red Man had achieved annual sales of more than $250 million from 38 branches — a far cry from that card table the company was built on!
His son, Craig Ketchum, assumed the role of president and CEO, leading the company together with his mother until Red Man merged with McJunkin Corp. in 2007 — a merger that combined two thriving family businesses. In fact, both Bernie Wehrle and Craig Ketchum are members of the MRC board of directors.
A merger of equals
Both companies had strong cultures of customer service-centered business practices, so melding the two groups into one powerful supply corporation was relatively seamless. An added bonus was the unique skills sets that the teams from McJunkin and Red Man brought to the table. McJunkin had thrived in the downstream market, while Red Man had zeroed in on the upstream market. As a combined organization, they formed the first PVF distributor in North America that was capable of supporting a customer all the way from the oilfield to the market.
Following the merger, a new global headquarters was established in Houston that allowed the renamed McJunkin Red Man Corporation — or MRC — to focus on the expansion of its supply footprint as the “Global Supplier of Choice®.” At the same time however, MRC credits that capability for global growth to its talented employees — many of whom have decades of PVF experience.
“Our customers still have the local service they had before the merger, but now they have access to over 400 global service locations to support their MRO or project needs,” said Rory Isaac, executive vice president-business development. “Through our national and global relationships, we are able to use our global strength to help our customers reach their goals.”
Since the merger, MRC has made several strategic acquisitions, including the remaining 49% of Midfield Supply in 2008 and LaBarge Pipe & Steel in 2008, and Transmark FCX in 2009. While each of these companies brought something different to the table, each had a similar set of core values as MRC — excellent customer service, dependability and quality products.
A global footprint
Today’s MRC has come a long way from its humble roots, providing quality products and services to customers throughout the world from its more than 400 servicing locations throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Australasia. Products include carbon, stainless steel and corrosion resistant pipe, valves and fittings; oil country tubular goods; and related drilling supplies.
Among the markets it serves are:
• Oil and gas exploration
• Distribution and transmission
• Chemical • Petrochemical
• Power • Pulp and paper
The MRC executive management team boasts more than 100 years of experience serving the energy and industry markets. In fact, Gary Ittner, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, began his career working for McJunkin part-time in 1971 while in college at the University of Cincinnati.
MRC also relies on its rich history of customer service-centered business practices to focus on company-wide core competencies:
• Community involvement
• Safety leadership
• Business ethics
• Customer satisfaction
• Operational excellence
• Financial performance
• Employee development.
MRC recently opened a representative office in Shanghai, believing that having resources on the ground in emerging markets like China will allow the company to perform quality assessments throughout the region, strengthen its sourcing position and vendor relationships in the area, and offer greater in-plant inspections at key manufacturers.
In addition, the company relocated its Singapore operation to a new facility complete with warehousing, workshop services, automation and valve engineering/modification. The new 45,000-square-foot Asia hub will house three test benches for valve testing up to 36 inches, and additional test equipment for larger sizes up to 1.8 meters in diameter.
“We are no longer just a distributor, but a complete solution provider, adding value to customers’ businesses,” said MRC regional vice president-Asia L.J. Han.
Shortly before presstime, MRC announced its latest acquisition, that of Stainless Pipe and Fittings Australia Pty Ltd (SPF), which will now operate as MRC SPF. The acquisition, which was scheduled to close by the end of June, will enhance MRC’s global project capabilities. SPF, founded in 1996, is the largest distributor of stainless steel piping products in the southern hemisphere. Headquartered in Perth, Western Australia, SPF has seven locations across Australia as well as Korea, Italy, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates. SPF is a leading project supply specialist with proven capabilities supplying the oil and gas, mining and mineral processing, chemical and petrochemical and water treatment and desalination industries.
Its 430,000-square-foot facility in Perth will become MRC’s premier pipe, fittings and flange stocking and distribution center for Australasia. This facility is equipped with state-of-the-art materials handling facilities including the ability to facilitate project laydowns and provide bulk supply provisions. There are two additional stocking locations in Australia as well as strategically placed stockholdings in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, UAE and in the United Kingdom.
This acquisition increases MRC’s global PFF stockholding in stainless steel to a value in excess of US$50 million, with global stainless PFF sales of more than US$300 million.
According to MRC chairman, president and CEO Andrew Lane, “This acquisition furthers our vision to be the world’s premier PVF distribution company to the energy and industrial markets. SPF’s PFF capabilities would allow MRC to expand on our valve platform to have a complete global PVF supply capability. We are excited to expand our presence in Australia and with major EPC projects globally. We are also very pleased to be adding Graham Yarker and Jeff Nicholas to the MRC management team and all of SPF’s 145 employees to MRC on the closing of this acquisition.”
Because the industry is constantly growing and changing, MRC must adapt to meet its primary goal of providing top-level customer service. The recent boom in activity in the North American Shale Plays has been a prime example of MRC adjusting to best serve its customers.
Across North America, MRC has organically added new branches and supply hubs surrounding major shale plays. The company has also made strategic acquisition like that of South Texas Supply in the heart of the Eagle Ford shale play and Dresser Oil Tools and Supply surrounding the Bakken shale region, in order to best serve its customers.
“MRC is intensely focused on these shale plays and we are continually reviewing our business development and operational objectives to ensure that they align with our customers’ goals in these regions,” said EVP Rory Isaac.
Another of MRC’s key strengths is its total project management system. The company has developed a process they describe as “strategic sourcing,” which relies on six key principles for managing project solutions and creating value for customers:
• A sole source model to help customers realize their economic, commercial and technical goals through cost management, quality products and delivery assurance
• Advanced scale and purchasing power
• Utilization of manufacturer relationships
• Dedicated project management team
• Global MRO and project experience
• Enhanced capabilities to drive efficiency and reduce overall costs.
To mark this 90th anniversary of the founding of what is now MRC, the company held simultaneous celebrations in Tulsa, Charleston and Houston on February 15. These celebrations honored the founders, and every employee who has had a part in creating the legacy of MRC.
“We’ve faced many challenges over the past 90 years including the recent recession, but through our employees’ hard work, we’ve always found a way to overcome these issues and set MRC up for success,” said president and CEO Andy Lane. “There are not many companies that are leaders in their chosen fields that also have a 90-year history of successes to build on.”
MRC is still, as Jerry McJunkin and Bernie Wehrle envisioned 90 years ago, “The House that Service Built,” taking great pride in the high level of service it provides every customer. The company continues to work towards a future where they are, in Lewis Ketchum’s words, “the Supplier of Choice” — just on a much larger scale.