Local Business Hits 35 Year Mark

Walz Scale Co. was founded in 1966 when Fred Walz decided to go into business for himself. He learned the scale trade from past work in Chicago and decided to start his own business in Peoria. Peoria offered distilleries, breweries and manufacturing, all of which required scales to produce.

The company started with two employees, his wife and himself. Today, the company has 35 employees, 16 of whom are in the label and mailing division.

In 1975, his son, Tom, joined the company and began looking for ways to expand the company "We were servicing scales used in shipping and mailing and in the late 1970s, the application of electronics to scales and mailing machines brought new opportunities that allowed us to expand into mailing and shipping systems. Then in the early 1980s, bar coding again reshaped the industry bringing us into bar code labeling and data collection devices." Tom’s son, Nate, joined the company in 2000, and the labeling and mailing division moved into a new 9,000 square foot building.

"The company was founded on service, and it is still our driving force," Tom Walz said. Mailing and shipping equipment is used in a time critical application and must be serviced on site. This creates a high level of demand on service, the cornerstone of our company. This same service demand makes it difficult for large companies to compete. "The new century has brought the Internet and we see new challenges, but I believe the service requirements of the industry will continue to drive our growth," Walz said.

Growth is driven by many product innovations. In the 1970s, it was electronic scales that would automatically determine the price for postage and shipping. In the 1980s, it was bar coding that brought on-site label printing equipment. In the 1990s, it was portable data collectors that would track a product throughout the distribution process with wireless interface. The new century brings us to the Internet for online shipping solutions, online label printing and email for shipping or receiving conformations.

The company offers a variety of products including a product for labeling allows anyone with a personal computer to print labels with barcodes, graphics and even color. Other products include mailing machines for a one-person office, to complete automated system that can fold, insert, weigh, seal and apply postage. The shipping systems offered provide rate shopping of all carriers that allow for package tracking, email notification, and discounts from carriers.

"The most important product we have is service," Walz said. "Every product we sell we service on-site within four hours. We provide loaners and 24-hour technical support. We even service our competitor’s machines with the same devotion. The factor that sets us apart from other companies is service." The company offers 24-hour service and technical support, even providing home phone numbers.

"Good service only comes with good employees," Walz said. "My experience has been customers will pay for good service." Technicians all have college or technical school education. All employees receive good benefits and compensation. The cost to train in the industry is high, so the company cannot afford turnover. One of the biggest changes in the industry has been in communication. Communication changes started with the fax machine and now include email and the Internet. "All of these things are good for business," Walz said. "They offer new opportunities that are growing our business, but these same forces are reducing the need for mailing. I believe there will always be mail, but not like it was 20 years ago."

This has also been one of the biggest challenges—adapting to change. Health care, government and technology are changing fast. "So far we have been able to adapt to the changes without compromising our commitment to service and how we add value," Walz said.

One misperception facing our company is that most business owners do not think about their mailing or shipping equipment until there is a problem, and then there is little time to research alternatives.

"People are now starting to understand there is a local alternative," Walz said. "There was only one supplier in Peoria for so long it was difficult to get people to call our company when they had a need." Our new location on I-74 has provided good visibility and is helping with exposure.

Marketing is done through numerous venues. Most is done using direct salespeople who do on-site consulting to match products with customer needs. "The hardest part of our marketing is timing," Walz said. "We need to let customers know there is an alternative when their equipment needs replacement." There is usually urgency when equipment needs to be replaced, and decisions are made quickly. Radio, direct mail, yellow pages, and business periodicals are all used to try to reach customers.

"Although the trend today is for consolidation and merger, company plans to continue the course of building on service with local control and ownership," Walz said. IBI