Q&A with Karen Young

Vice President at United Tool Supply

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You’re celebrating your 50th year in business in 2023. How did it all begin?

It all began in February of 1973, when my husband, Rusty Young, and I took a little bit of money from wedding presents and purchased Mitutoyo Measuring Instruments and started a company in a spare bedroom of our house. In the early days, we also sold perishable tooling to compensate the income. If someone had a need, we tried to fill it — whatever they needed. That’s how we got the name, United Tool Supply.

After so many trucks were stopping and unloading on our busy street, we decided it was time to get a real office. We moved to a two-room office — one for inventory, and the other was for office space, and it was just the two of us. In 1978, we built an office building with a retail store, manufacturing space, and rental offices to help with the mortgage.

How has the development of the Unite-A-Matic been a game changer in the industry?

In the mid-1980s, everything started to slow down in the tooling world, and Rusty and I recognized the need for a gear measurement system that could be used universally. It needed to be robust, accurate, and easy to operate. That led to the first Unite-A-Matic OD measurement machine, which really changed the business.

Everybody from Ford, Chrysler, GM, Allison — all the gear guys —recognizes the Unite-A-Matic as a tool that gave gear companies a reliable, accurate way to measure a gear that was much more consistent than the old method.

Our business today isn’t dramatically much different than it was 25 years ago because we build a high-quality product and support it well. That made our company well known in the gear industry. From that foundation, we’ve been able to extend our product offerings.

In what other ways has United Tool Supply evolved in order to stay current with a constantly changing industry?

The main thing that we’ve done over the years is innovate and expand our product offerings. We also purchased new equipment to help streamline our manufacturing process and bring things in-house to manage supply chain issues. United Tool started as a resell business. Over time, we phased away from that to become more of a manufacturer of our own product.

In 2021, we purchased KMI — Karr Metrology Instruments — and its main focus is reselling metrology items, which was exactly how United Tool started.

With the purchase of KMI, it reestablished us as a supply business within the metrology industry. We’re focused on brands such as Mitutoyo, and we’ve grown from one of the smallest in our region to becoming one of the largest for reselling just the Mitutoyo product.

We’ve expanded our product lines that we manufacture internally, and KMI has helped us with the resale side of our business. Essentially, in the past three years, our company has increased revenue significantly. We also retained all the KMI employees, which is always a super positive with any merger.

Being a family-owned company, what’s it like working with your son (company president Jeff Young)?

I never dreamed that it would come to this. I’m super proud of the opportunity. It’s fun; it’s challenging, and sometimes, a little nerve-racking, but we get through it. This whole business is our passion, and so, it’s fun to get to be involved with it and to work with my son.

In addition to our owner dynamic, we have another father and son on our team. We also have a salesman whose daughter is a part-time employee. We are very family oriented.

How have your relationships with your loyal customers and partnerships helped keep United Tool Supply as a continued go-to source in the industry?

It’s customer service. That’s something Jeff and I have really worked hard on is to treat people how we would want to be treated — with great customer service designed to give them the best value for what they need.

For example, there is a smaller company we do business with that I’ve supported throughout the years. There was an opportunity to give this company better support, and it turned into a nice residual account.

It’s tough starting and building relationships, and strong partnerships take time to form, but we have been very fortunate with the customers that have come to trust us, and we’re working with Fortune 500 businesses. We’re very proud of that.

The fact that we have this foundation of relationships to continue to build on is super important to us, and we do our best to constantly support them. What’s also exciting is that, every month, we will gain new customers. I think a lot of that is due to customer service and word of mouth.

Where do you see United Tool Supply as it enters the next 50 years?

A sure part of the next 50 years is the evolution of the gear industry, and our products and business will continue to evolve with it.

We will continue to grow and support different areas of manufacturing, not only with the gear side of our business. Since we’ve tapped into KMI’s customer base, there are other ways to now support all those accounts. We look forward to new gauging methods and opportunities in additional industries.

We’ve been given some great opportunities with Mitutoyo, and to even start selling CMMs. Bottom line: We look forward to more growth while maintaining our customer base and treating them well.

MORE INFO  united-tool.com