VIBCO Shakin’ Things Up

VIBCO Vibrators has been manufacturing industrial and construction vibrators for almost 50 years, delivering the most reliable, most complete line of vibration products available on the market today. Since 1962, VIBCO has been providing customers around the world with electric, pneumatic, and hydraulic vibrators for industrial and construction use. As the originators of the Silent Pneumatic Turbine Vibrator, VIBCO holds more than 25 U.S. Patents for their vibrator designs and is committed to being 100% USA made.

This privately held company, led by President Karl Wadensten, employs 75 people at its 50,000 square-foot plant and office facility in Wyoming, RI and manufactures over 1,300 products with more than 8,400 component parts. VIBCO also has a distribution center in Toronto, plus sales and service offices in Pennsylvania and Florida. VIBCO vibrators are used by companies in over 600 SIC codes for a wide variety of applications, including one that is on the moon as a component of an Apollo lunar module. Some of the most common uses are for material flow, concrete production and placement and work truck applications.

  • VIBCO vibrators and vibrating tables help with material flow, by improving the loading and unloading of bulk materials into or out of containers and trucks, eliminating hang-ups and bottlenecks
  • VIBCO Vibrators aid in concrete production and placement by helping it to reach its rated strength by removing entrapped air. VIBCO vibrators are used in both the production and placement of concrete to improve the flow of aggregate, sand and cement as well as improve the flow of mixed concrete through pump grates and down chutes.
  • VIBCO Vibrators also manufactures a complete line of vibrators for use on a variety of work truck applications including dump trucks, dump trailers, sand and salt spreaders, agricultural spreaders, and mobile screen to empty sticky or stubborn materials from dump beds and dump trailers without tailgate banging or over-hoisting
  • VIBCO Vibrators manufactures plate compactors and vibratory rollers for use in pothole and asphalt repair, landscaping and pool installations.

Building on the original foundation of quality, trust, and reliability, VIBCO continues to evolve its mission and philosophy to adapt to today’s competitive marketplace. Embracing a True North (Same Day, Next Day; Throughput; Innovation; Quality), VIBCO has developed a culture of change – one where continuous improvement and the elimination of muda (waste) are embraced wholly; where employees are inspired, encouraged, and empowered to act on their ideas and where they are collectively focused on the voice of the customer. “Same day, next day is the voice of our customers. When they call to order, they want our products shipped the same day they call or — at the bare minimum — the very next day of the business work week”, said Wadensten.

To stay true to their mission and maintain their True North, VIBCO has focused on an overall dedication to a Lean transformation. Based on the Toyota Production System, Lean is a term that describes an improvement system in which every employee strives for an ideal condition where 100% of their efforts can be devoted to providing a perfect product or service. Documented results over many industries and occupations show that a consistent application of Lean practice and philosophy can produce year on year productivity gains of 25% or more while providing shortened lead-times and flexible, problem-free service to customers. The system is comprised of three parts which are all critical to creating a Lean system and culture.

The first is Lean Philosophy with a few simple but powerful ideas. Together these ideas articulate an ideal condition:

  • Provide the customer’s exact order immediately with perfect quality
  • Employees are the most important resource
  • All improvement and problem-solving must be based upon direct observation (scientific method)
  • Improvement and problem-solving is part of everyone’s job, every minute of every day

The second part of a Lean system is the Lean Management System: the strategy, organization, policy and measures by which an organization is managed. Conventional management systems are not supportive of Lean philosophy and therefore undermine implementation. A Lean management system provides policies and an organizational structure that encourage Lean improvement.

The third aspect of a Lean system is Lean Tools. Also referred to as “best practices” or “countermeasures,” these Lean tools provide employees with reliable methodologies to close the gap between the current and ideal condition, and to constantly make small improvements to their jobs every day.

Put simply, Lean is based on a sincere respect for people and a commitment to unlock the genius in each employee. It engages their minds to innovate solutions to eliminate waste. It is about continuous improvement and working smarter – always to the pull of the customer.

“One of the biggest challenges was to get everybody rallied around continuous improvement and to encourage people not to be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zones” said Wadensten. “We tried to take everybody’s uniqueness and differences into account, so we didn’t just get rid of people because they weren’t falling in line with the continuous improvement effort.”

VIBCO Vibrators has embraced Lean and realized unbelievable gains as a result. Dramatic inventory reductions, shortened lead times, and a focus on the whole end-to-end customer experience are just a few of these.

Key achievements of the two-year-old lean conversion include:

  • Cutting setup time on CNC equipment from 2.5 hours to 10 minutes
  • Improving on-time delivery rate to 99%, measured as same day or next day shipping
  • Improving OEE (a total productive maintenance (TPM) measure of how effectively equipment is being used) from 20% to 52%
  • Increasing productivity in selected Work cells as much as 300%
  • Reducing Inventory by 40% (over $2,000,000) in two years
  • Turning Work-in-progress Inventory 88 times annually with many SKUs turning once-per-day

In addition to the recent Lean transformation, Karl’s leadership has helped VIBCO win numerous awards including Best Places to Work in Rhode Island by the Providence Business News and Best Companies, the Progressive Manufacturing PM100 Award, and a Providence Business News Business Excellence Award. VIBCO has also been featured in the lean training video, “Vibration Nation: Learning to See” produced and marketed by Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership.

Replacement Text: As a commitment to the community, VIBCO Vibrators regularly hosts free plant tours and produces The Lean Nation – a radio and web TV talk show featuring engaging discussions of Lean concepts, real-life implementations, leadership and improvement strategies. Guests include line workers, Lean practitioners, government officials, noted authors and thought leaders.

As VIBCO approaches their fiftieth year, they continue to grow, gain global market share, and enhance their position as the industrial vibrator brand of choice. Their responsiveness and operational efficiency enables them to remain cost competitive while providing an unsurpassed level of product quality and service to their customers. From same-day shipping, to rapid fulfillment of custom orders, to the development of innovative strategic partnerships throughout their value stream, VIBCO is — and will continue to be — the home of “The Expert Vibrator Guys”.


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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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