From Two Horses and a Wagon to a Midwest Stalwart

Twin Cities' Murphy Warehouse Company marks 100 years in the logistics business

Twin Cities' Murphy Warehouse Company marks 100 years in the logistics business

Minneapolis, MN — November 9, 2004 — In 1904 an Irishman named Edward L. Murphy, Sr., bought a team of horses and a wagon and launched a legacy that has evolved into Murphy Warehouse Company, one of the Midwest's largest logistics companies, and Murphy Rigging and Erecting, one of the top rigging and millwright organizations in the region.

Today, marking their 100th anniversary, these multi-million dollar operations employ approximately 225 people in multiple locations throughout the Twin Cities, serving more than 200 clients ranging from Fortune 500 to start-up companies here and across the country.

Defying the statistics of family business, Richard Murphy, Jr., president and CEO, is currently the fourth generation of the Murphy family to run the family enterprise. (Statistically, most family businesses only last two generations.)

Murphy Warehouse Company is now one of the Upper Midwest's largest asset-based logistics companies. Murphy works with its clients to create logistical and supply chain solutions through a range of services, including warehousing, distribution, transportation, cross-docking, fulfillment and administrative, as well as international logistics through its Midwest International Logistics Center. The company serves industries ranging from food and beverage to hospital supplies, retail to recreational, automotive to power generation, and paper to publishing. Murphy services the supply chain from raw materials to in-process to finished goods, resulting in JIT ("just-in-time") deliveries to production lines, the company said.

Back to the Future — with Rail

Murphy attributes its success and longevity to its commitment to continually innovate. Long focused on truck transportation, in the early 1990s Murphy made the strategic decision to offer rail services to clients and equip several of its warehouses with indoor rail yards — an unusual move for a warehousing and logistics company at the time.

But rail has since become an increasingly attractive option for shippers because it can be more economical than truck-based shipping for several industries. Recent U.S. Department of Transportation hours of service rule changes, a shortage of qualified drivers and increasing costs to operate trucks are contributing to the growth of rail business.

In fact, Murphy landed one of its largest beverage clients after walking them through one of its indoor rail facilities. The representatives from St. Louis were impressed (a little help from Mother Nature didn't hurt — it was 20 below zero that day), and Murphy won the business over national organizations.

Murphy is today the second largest rail user in the Twin Cities, with more than 10,000 cars handled annually. Only the local power company, Xcel Energy, surpasses Murphy's rail volume since it relies on rail to move coal to its power plants. Murphy currently runs rail-to-truck, rail-to-rail and truck-to-rail transload operations on the BNSF, UP CN, CP, Progressive Rail and Minnesota Commercial Railroad sites. Most of this activity is handled within Murphy's specially designed indoor rail sidings in six of its eight warehouses.

The Rigging Legacy

The other Murphy company, Murphy Rigging and Erecting, is a millwright/rigging contractor that specializes in machinery moving and erecting, millwright services, plant set-ups and relocations, maintenance, heavy lifts, specialized transportation and delicate art and medical pieces. Clients range from industrial and food manufacturers, to printers, to medical and high tech, to artists and classified military.

As Murphy sees it, rigging is a mixture of science, art and experience. A rigging handbook of weights and measures is available, but most of the men working for Murphy Rigging today have learned the business from their fathers, brothers or uncles. A "vo-tech" program offers the rigging basics, but mostly it's still on-the-job training.

Murphy Rigging has been moving large and heavy, yet delicate objects for 100 years. Large textile equipment and boilers are seen less frequently now, but industrial presses have grown larger over this time period, and today's client may be a sophisticated, high tech, medical company needing help installing multi-million dollar scanning devices, a top-secret government supplier or a manufacturer of specialized products.

Recently, Murphy Rigging gave a two-ton bronze Eagle sculpture a little assist in flight with transportation and crane lift into its new home in Lookout Park, St. Paul. The eagle dates back to 1880, when it was commissioned by New York Life Insurance to crown its artistic new 10-story building until its razing in 1967. Until its rescue by Public Arts St. Paul in 1999, the eagle sat on a lowly perch outside a parking ramp. Murphy Rigging also donated its services to place the statue of St. Paul within the St. Paul Cathedral, which the Murphy family had commissioned.

This fall, the Ramsey County Historical Society is publishing the Murphy story in a book, Bought Two Horses and a Wagon. The story begins with the Irish immigrants who started Murphy, but goes on to cover how the family endured early St. Paul politics, the Great Depression, a violent labor movement uprising in Minneapolis during the 1930s, the post-war years boom, changing technologies and business practices, the trauma of post-deregulation of the transportation industry in the 1980s and the many generational handoffs.