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Agrimarketing : October 2008
COVER STORY/continued from page 19 one whose headquarters, and major manufacturing facilities, are located in a close-knit town like Pella (popu- lation of just over 10,000). “The happy ending to that chapter is we have hired many of them back,” Vermeer says. He also credits the fact that the company is completely family-owned, whose members stood by it in the lean times. “We don’t have the pressure that publicly traded companies do, whose shareholders and others judge its results on a quarterly basis. “Another factor was we had no long-term debt that had to be con- tended with,” he says. It also gave the company the impetuous to ramp up its implemen- tation of the “Lean” program into all of its processes, including manufac- turing, engineering, IT and sales. Mary Vermeer-Andringa, Presi- dent and co-CEO, Bob’s sister, who has been with the company for 20 years, says, “We began to adopt ‘Lean’ in 1997. ‘Lean’ is all about what my dad would say is ‘finding a better way.’ It aggressively reduces waste, in time, energy, inventory and cost. “It starts with getting a group of employees together who are assigned to improve the efficiency of a specific activity. An example of what ‘Lean’ has meant to Vermeer Corporation is the manufacture of our brush chipper line. In 2000, it took 52 days to build a chipper from raw steel. It now takes only three days.” She continues, “That not only saves money that had been tied up in material, but it has also benefited our dealers and customer with more timely delivery of the machine. “Over the past decade,” Andringa says, “We have conducted over 1,600 different ‘Lean’ events and have ben- efited from them all.” LOOKING AHEAD To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Vermeer held a week long event at its headquarters this summer. Over that period, dealers and customers from around the world participated in train- ing, plant tours, and received the latest update on where the company is headed. Aspecial day was also held for the media. In her opening remarks, Andringa announced one of the the company’s new themes “Vermeer: Making Green 20 AgriMarketing ¦ October 2008 Possible” which will set the tone for the company’s future activities. During the event, company exec- utives and staff provided a specific overview of the opportunities they plan to pursue over the coming years. Their five primary initiatives — and their accompanying product line(s) include: • Wood waste recycling — grinders and compost turners. • Oil and pipline — horizontal directional drills. • Surface mining — terrain leveler surface excavation machines. • Water management and sewer— new technologies to be introduced next year. • Biomass — harvesting, grinding and material sizing. Of course, the latter has direct benefit to its forage product seg- ment. Although the company’s bio- mass task force was formed just last year, it already has pilot machines and projects in the field testing the harvesting and transporting of corn plant residue in anticipation of it becoming a feedstock for bioenergy refiners, such as ethanol plants. GENERATIONS Although fully retired from the corpo- ration, Gary Vermeer, 89, still expresses a lot of interest in the business, Bob reports. “He especially enjoys seeing the new equipment we’re developing. He is still involved in farming, though, and in fact, purchased some additional land just a few years ago.” Now the third generation of the Vermeer family is being brought into the business. Jason Andringa is currently liv- ing in the Netherlands as Managing Director of the Vermeer EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). He is a graduate of Calvin College, has a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and an MBA from the University of Southern California. Before joining Vermeer Corp., he was a staff engineer for the Jet Propulsion Labatory, a federally funded research and development facility managed by the California Institute of Technology. Allison (Vermeer) Van Wyngarden joined the company last summer as Industrial Distribution Manager. She, too, graduated from VERMEER CORP. TIMELINE 1943: Gary Vermeer invents a mechanical hoist to unload his grain wagon. Word spreads and other area farmers begin placing orders for it. 1948: Vermeer Manufacturing Company’s doors open for business. 1950: Develops a PTO-driven trencher for use in field tiling. 1959: First Vermeer dealership established, located in Findlay, OH. 1971: Introduces large, round baler. 1973: Introduces twin rake for hay. 1978: The Vermeer Environmental group introduces its first brush chipper . 1980 to the Present: Introduces several lines of equipment for contractors, foresters, landscapers, miners and other material handling/land shaping industries. 1989: Company founder Gary Vermeer retires. Son, Bob, and daughter, Mary Andringa become new man- agement team. 1991: Vermeer introduced its first horizontal directional drill for trenchless installations. 1999: 100,000th baler is sold. 2008: Forms venture with Lely and jointly acquires German ag baler and bale–wrapper man- ufacturer Maschinenfabrik GmbH. Changes its name to Vermeer Corporation. AM Calvin College, has an MBAfrom Drake University and before joining Vermeer was with Principal Financial. “With the help of an outside con- sultant,” Bob reports, “we developed a plan for those family members who want to become involved in the com- pany. We now have a formal employ- ment policy for family members — which includes the requirements of having a college degree and having worked for another organization for at least three years before joining the company — and a family creed.” So, the table is set and the bar is being raised for the company to achieve its goal of helping humankind “find a better way.” AM
November December 2008