Al Wurz, widely considered as a pioneer in the barcode scanning industry, passed away at his home on Marco Island, FL, surrounded by his family on April 26, 2022.
Wurz is a former MHI Board Member and was chair of MHIA in 1992-1993 and executive chair in 1994-1995. He was also a lifetime director of the Material Handling Educations Foundation, Inc.
Wurz was born in 1931 in Dettingen an der Erms in southern Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1952 at the age of 20. Within six months, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After the Army, he enrolled at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY under the GI Bill and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
He moved to Pennsylvania in 1960 where he had his first engineering job at Philco. In 1967 he changed jobs and began working for General Atronics. General Atronics had a small division that developed the early (pre-laser) barcode scanners, which used fluorescent light. When General Atronics didn’t see a future in barcode scanning, he bet his entire savings on a fledgling business because he had a vision of what it might become.
His vision became reality in 1971 when long-time MHI member Accu-Sort Systems, Inc. was born. Accu-Sort’s initial customers were companies such as Kellogg’s and Campbell Soup Co. Accu-Sort, with Wurz at the helm, was at the forefront in the development of the laser barcode scanner. The innovation of the laser scanner opened up new opportunities. Over the next 30 years, Accu-Sort was the dominant supplier of industrial laser scanners to USPS, FedEx, UPS, Walmart, Target and many more companies.
In the 1990s, Accu-Sort was again at the forefront in the development of industrial camera-based barcode scanners; this technology is still in use today. Accu-Sort also designed and implemented significant systems for USPS and won the prestigious USPS Quality Supplier of the Year (Manufacturing) Award in both 1992 and 2001.
Wurz was a mentor and inspiration to countless people who went on to become successful in the industry. His many patents and new product ideas facilitated the expansion of an industry into the large market it is today.