Minneapolis, MN—Robert Ulrich, founder and president of LAI Companies, died unexpectedly October 4th. Ulrich founded Laser Applications Inc. in Maryland in 1979, as a contract laser processing shop for heat-treating cardboard corrugating rolls. He built the company into a multi-laser job shop by pioneering many application solutions for a growing number of customers throughout the United States.
Ulrich was a strong advocate for advanced processing technology, introducing water jet cutting into job shops in the U.S. He was also enthusiastic about the concept of job shop networks, an issue that led me to interface with him in the mid 1980s, when I was making inquires on behalf of a group seeking to build a North American job shop combine that, by offering diverse regional services, could assist one another through business cycles.
With an accountant's perspective Ulrich realized the value of such an arrangement, even though this venture never materialized. However, he later put the idea to practice within his own company, building LAI into a multi-shop, multi-region business. Today, LAI is thought to be the largest combined laser/water jet job shop in the world.
Ulrich's sudden death at the age of 53 leaves a void in the contract processing business. His friends, associates and employees will miss his unique leadership both as an administrator and technician.—DAB