As World War II slowly came to an end, Adolf Würth knew two things: he needed to support his family and he wanted to work independently. With a post-war focus on new construction and rebuilding, a wholesale business focused on fasteners made sense.
So, in the summer of 1945, Würth officially set up his own business — Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, which became the parent company of today’s Würth Group — selling screws in Künzelsau, Baden-Württemberg (Germany). But this took some perseverance.
As one tribute from the Würth Group’s records points out:
“It was not easy to procure goods in the occupation zones. It was hard to find rooms. Finally, a room could be found in an annex of Schlossmühle (castle mill) in Künzelsau: the globally operating Group saw the light of day in an area of just 170 square meters.”
Although today’s Würth Group is an example of a massive and successful global enterprise, it did not start this way. In fact, the first screws were transported with a borrowed ox cart.
Little did Adolf Würth know that this small room in the annex of a mill would eventually load some 750 tons of ordered parts daily, just for customers in Germany. And he likely never could have imagined that the Würth Group would develop into the largest distributor of fasteners in the world with more than 125,000 products, distributed via more than 400 companies in more than 80 countries — all led by his son, Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth.
“We actually refer to Dr. Würth as the Professor,” shares Todd Aronson VP, Global and National Sales, Würth Industry North America. “And yes, he still works at the company and is turning 87 this year. He took over the family business at 19, after his father’s unexpected passing.”
That was in 1954, when Dr. Würth took over with the support of his mother, Alma Würth, making the Würth Group a two-person company. By the early ’60s, he considered expanding, setting up the first subsidiary in the Netherlands in 1962. In 1969, Würth USA Inc. officially launched in America and the growth has not stopped since.
“It has truly been his life work,” says Aronson. “Dr. Würth turned what was a small, family-held company into a global enterprise with more than 83,000 employees. Just this past year, it made more than $20 billion in sales and more than $1.5 billion in profit.”
One part of this global growth includes Würth Industry North America (WINA), which is now a $1 billion division of the Würth Group. WINA provides customers with an extensive global reach and local knowledge from investments in its network of distribution centers across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.
WINA has four strategically aligned customer-centric market divisions: Industrial, MRO/Safety/Metalworking, Construction, and Specialty Markets. These divisional companies include Würth Industrial Division, Würth Construction Services, Würth MRO, Safety, & Metalworking, Marine Fasteners, and Würth Additive Group.
“It has been the philosophy of Dr. Würth and the Group to acquire very successful companies, connecting their products and innovations with Würth’s resources and operations,” he explains. “And in the mid-90s, Würth Industry North America was launched, representing the first acquisitions in the industrial and OEM markets in the U.S.”
These acquisitions began with Würth Revcar Fasteners in Roanoke, Virginia, which is a full-service assembly component supplier, and an approved Level One fastener distributor to many U.S. Navy and military accounts, worldwide.
“It continued with a succession of acquisitions, including Würth Service Supply, Würth Adams Nut & Bolt, Würth McAllen Bolt & Screw, and several others throughout the years,” adds Aronson. These companies are located in several different states, including Indiana, Minnesota, and Texas. “And today, WINA covers the entire North American market, including in Mexico and Canada.”
With more than 420,000 parts in its international supply chain, WINA works as an industry solutions provider to nearly any industry you can name, including construction, agriculture, energy, MRO and industrial supplies, and the list goes on. Along with fasteners, WINA also offers kitting and assembly, safety supplies, vending, as well as engineering assistance, quality control, inventory management, and industrial 3D printing.
“What makes us different in today’s world is security. Given the recent supply-chain issues related to the pandemic and current events…well, this is where we excel. Safety and security are the hallmarks of WINA and, of course, the Würth Group overall,” says Aronson. “Through our inventory-management programs, technical expertise, and buying power, we’re able to offer reliability. At the end of the day, it’s about securing the supply chain for our customers and that’s what we do.”
WINA’s success can be attributed to both experience and the Würth value system, which has always represented reliability, predictability, and honesty. One of the principles upon which it was built is that a company with “a strong set of values does not have to fear change.” Rather, it learns from economic and market challenges and turns that knowledge into solutions.
Here’s one example: “Back in ’07and ’08, when the financial crisis hit, several OEMs faced similar challenges as they do today,” says Aronson. “In response, we developed CPS GLOBAL, a software solution that provides proactive monitoring of a customer’s activity. When used in combination with our VMI programs, CPS enables transparency and analysis of customer’s usage trends, including forecasting, so we can get ahead of any potential supply-chain changes or challenges.”
VMI is a vendor-managed inventory platform that allows a supplier to manage and best optimize inventory for its customers. This program lets the team at WINA analyze customers usage at the individual component level on both a local and an international basis.
“What we often hear from customers, at least lately, is that many feel taken for granted. There hasn’t been a lot of proactive support, so, we strive to offer pre-emptive measures that can insulate our customers from market changes or delays. Again, it comes down to security,” he says.
The Würth global network certainly has its perks. For one, there are Würth international parts numbers, which enable the quick and easy identification of fasteners and assembly components from around the world. Secondly, it has a team of supplier quality engineers that are continually auditing and verifying its processes to ensure reliable products and supply chains.
“WINA is extremely customer-centric…and, innovative. Würth has always encouraged bringing forth new ideas that could benefit or grow our capabilities.” Aronson adds that the company fosters ideas and strategies that, ultimately, generate greater simplicity and success for its team and customers. One such idea is the Würth Fastener Academy.
“This is a training program that we use to support our customers and the industry, in general, which explains and teaches about all aspects of fasteners — from design and manufacturing to assembly and coatings, including several other technical aspects.”
WINA also launched a YouTube series last year, Würth Knowing, which is inspired by the Fastener Academy. It features two of Würth’s team members: Technical instructor, Randy Lammers, and applications engineer, Aaron Keevan. The duo meets in Lammers’ Texas workshop to discuss and demo many different topics related to fastener engineering.
“The first season, which is produced by our director of marketing, Molly Hauer, is based on the topics we routinely get asked by engineers and our customers. It’s quite insightful and fun to watch.”
Another example of an idea that was so successful it turned into its own WINA division is the launch of the Würth Additive Group in 2021.
“This started because one of our managing directors was interested in 3D printing, which he was encouraged to explore. It’s since turned into its own WINA division and used by our global customers,” says Aronson.
Essentially, additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is done by adding material layer-by-layer to manufacture three-dimensional products without using any tools. It allows changes to a virtual model to be quickly transferred to the physical prototype. Manufacturing a prototype is typically time-consuming and more costly. 3D printing saves on both.
Additive manufacturing is also ideal for those parts with complex geometry, such as a uniquely shaped nut or washer.
“Another bonus is the digital inventory capabilities it provides. So, instead of needing to keep an extra part or repair tool on hand, customers can simply access a digital blueprint and use their in-house machine to print it whenever required,” he says. “We’re really the first movers of this technology as a fastener distributor.”
And that’s one thing the Würth Group, including its divisions such as WINA, have truly mastered. The Group shows no reluctance when it comes to being the first mover in the industry to take a chance, to acquire, to try new technology, or to grow and expand.
“There is such an entrepreneurial spirit here. When we have an idea, we’re encouraged to see it through. When my team needs the resources to support a customer, it’s provided,” says Aronson. “Würth is heavily invested in its team and our customers, and the feedback and results we get in return proves its success time and time again.”