Vermont American Corporation is the world’s largest manufacturer of power tool accessories, and a leading manufacturer of lawn and garden tools. Gloria P. Cahill drills into a success story that began with a saw blade.
The first thing to know about Vermont American Corporation is that it isn’t in Vermont. Vermont American’s headquarters are in Louisville, Ky. The company also has facilities in Alabama, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia. But not Vermont.According to Clement Feng, vice president of marketing, the name “Vermont American” comes from the merger, many years ago, of American Saw and Tool Company and Vermont Saw Company. Feng adds, “Now, we’re part of Bosch, a German conglomerate. Until about a year ago, we were a joint venture for 10 years between Bosch and Emerson Electric Company.”
When Lee B. Thomas Sr. founded American Saw and Tool in 1948, the company’s first order was for 12,000 circular saw blades from Sears, Roebuck & Company, which is still a major customer. Innovation soon followed and the company introduced the first high-quality, economical circular saw blade. Today, Vermont American offers customers hundreds of products and has about $300 million in sales annually. Its employees number more than 2,700, 1,200 in manufacturing alone.
The Next Bit
The second thing to know about Vermont American is that it has two divisions: the Tool Group, which manufactures power tool accessories; and the Gilmour Group, which manufactures lawn and garden products.
The world leader in power tool accessories, the Tool Group has three product lines: do-it-yourself, professional grade and heavy industrial. As the No. 1 manufacturer in the $2.7 billion power tool accessory industry, Vermont American manufactures products in six categories: screwdrivers, linear edges, saws, drilling routers and hand tools. Its proprietary brands are Vermont American®, Bosch, Skil, Credo®, Magna®, DML™, Forest City® and Hawera. Additionally, the manufacturer makes quality products for private labels: Craftsman, Ace Hardware®, Do it Best®, Master Mechanic® and Popular Mechanics.
Feng says, “Tool manufacturers need to purchase accessories from someone, and we have the economies of scale and expertise to offer a wide range of products at competitive costs, plus custom sizes and shapes. We also supply the OEM market, including saw blades to most of the major furniture manufacturers.”
The Gilmour Group, formed in 1984 through a series of acquisitions, is a leader in the do-it-yourself gardening market — a fertile field in which nearly 65 percent of more than 100 million American households maintain gardens. Gilmour’s line of hose-end sprinkling and spraying products and accessories, pressurized tank sprayers, trimming and pruning tools, and garden hoses carries the names Gilmour®, Flexogen®, Snap-Cut® and Spray Doc®.
In With the New
While most basic tools have been around for a long time, Vermont American has improved on them with innovative accessories that enhance performance and durability.
The company introduced the first mass-produced carbide-tipped saw blades, Dyanite Carbide™, to increase the life of cemented tungsten carbide up to 10 times. Vermont American also pioneered the use of titanium carbide to make the company’s Titanium 10x™ saw blades last up to 10 times longer, and developed Dimple Technology™ to reduce blade warp.
In screwdriver bits, Vermont American developed screwdriver gripping ribs, which reduce slippage on the screw head. The company also introduced cryogenically hardened screwdriver bits, which are highly resistant as the result of a deep-freezing process that locks in the precise molecular structure.
In the routing-products category, Vermont American debuted the first aluminum-top router table to round out its full line of bits, tables and accessories. The company’s program of hand tools has debuted proprietary products such as the Woodeater® Gold Kote™ saw with proprietary anti-friction coating.
Feng says, “We are very focused on what the market needs. One example is our line of Xtend® accessories for cordless tools — drill bits, circular saw blades and reciprocating saw blades. And, under the Bosch brand, we’ll be marketing titanium-coated drill bits that last six times longer than normal bits.”
Quality at Every Turn
Vermont American’s first product, the saw blade, remains its flagship and continues to receive the same attention as its newer products. Feng emphasizes that the company’s core competencies support each product through production and distribution.
The company’s advanced engineering and technology areas use teams of specialists and the latest laser equipment and computer systems. Also, Vermont American is vertically integrated, which includes producing its own carbide to ensure consistently high quality. The company’s overall manufacturing excellence has earned ISO 9000 certification. Plus, it maintains its focus on quality and excellence through stringent testing and retesting on all products.
Vermont American also ensures that it provides customers with the right product at the right time through its logistics and distribution capabilities. Shipping more than 10,000 orders a day, the company has achieved a near-perfect shipping accuracy record and a 98 percent fill rate. It also aids customers with marketing support efforts that includes consumer-friendly packaging and merchandising.
Edge on the Future
Looking down the road, Feng discusses Vermont American’s prospects in terms of established capabilities and the manufacturer’s relationship with its parent company. “Our expertise is broad and we have longevity in our markets,” he says. “Now, we will leverage the resources of the Bosch organization, so that rather than be in all areas of power tool accessories, we will identify our centers of product competency and focus on those areas.”
He also describes future opportunities in terms of the markets the company serves, stating, “To grow our competencies even more, we will continue to rely on good market research that tells us the end users’ needs and requirements. Vermont American has technical expertise that is second to none. We are vertically integrated and have a commitment to R&D in our labs to continue making our products the best.”
Vermont American proudly places the “Made in America” label on its products. As the head marketer, Feng continually adds “The Best” to that designation.