Vermeer Working Hard to Recover From Tornado Strike

Company expects to be at prestorm production levels within 30 days

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Vermeer’s founder Gary Vermeer had foresight. He wanted the company’s Pella, Iowa, production facilities to be set up with redundancy in mind so that if disaster ever struck, the company could bounce back quickly.

That very thing occurred last week Thursday, as an EF3 tornado tore through the Vermeer campus, causing significant damage to some of the buildings on site. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries. And in another case of good fortune, Gary Vermeer’s foresight paid off. Despite the damage suffered, the company expects to be back to prestorm production levels within 30 days.

“Rather than one large complex, we have individual plants. We’re set up for redundancy,” Doug Hundt, Vermeer’s president of industrial solutions, said in a conference call with media members on Tuesday.

Hundt says Vermeer has already made good progress in its recovery efforts since the storm hit and that the impact on its dealers and customers should be minimal.

“A large teamwork effort is making all the difference,” Hundt says.

Most of the company’s facilities are already back to full operations. A building that houses production lines for tree care, landscaping and small pedestrian trenching products as well as the facility for large horizontal directional drills and reclaimers are expected to be fully operational within the next couple of weeks.

The heaviest damage occurred to two facilities that handle Vermeer’s small- and medium-sized horizontal directional drills, utility tractors, and large grinders. Hundt says it is not yet known if those buildings are a complete loss, but the production lines for that equipment will be able to transition to the other five manufacturing facilities on the campus. Hundt also noted that the damage to those buildings was largely structural and that much of the capital equipment inside is recoverable.

The production redundancies along with Vermeer’s strong dealer network are what will allow the impact on customers to be minimal, Hundt says. Dealers maintain ample inventory, and the day after the tornado hit, he says he saw a group email of dealers coordinating how they could get parts and equipment from one another if they couldn’t get something directly from Vermeer. Also, much of Vermeer’s finished product was unaffected by the tornado, and shipping of those items will resume this week.

“I think we’ll surprise people how quickly we come out of this,” Hundt says.

Vermeer is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018, and the day of the tornado strike happened to coincide with a celebration of that milestone that included more than 400 of the company’s dealers and customers. Hundt says there was plenty of warning — about 25 minutes — that the tornado was coming, though, and all employees, dealers and customers were able to get to safety in time. Seven minor injuries were reported in the end.

“It was quite a scary event, but like many companies, we practice for emergencies over and over. That was one of the positive notes of this. The training took over. I’m proud of how our employees reacted,” Hundt says. “I give our customers and dealers credit too because they remained calm and did a good job following instructions.”


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