Millions of people watched the sleek, radiant California Chrome gracefully race to two wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and nearly a third at Belmont.
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Given today’s populous and connected world, when companies break ground on a municipal project, whether it occurs in a large, populated urban area, or in a rural town of 5,000 individuals, a desire for precision, efficiency of time and space, and leaving behind a minimal footprint is becoming uniform across the board. Needed to achieve this, amongst other factors, is the presence of reliable, utility vehicles with the capabilities to handle a myriad of excavation applications and demands within tense, and sometimes quite raw, environments. Enter Vac-Con.
Vac-Con, a 100 percent employee-owned company based out of Green Cove Springs, Fla., is a company that has been designing, manufacturing, supplying, and servicing heavy-duty, truck-mounted combination machines, industrial vacuums, and hydro excavators for the public and private environmental markets. With nearly 7,000 of their machines operating across North America and beyond, the company’s reputation today is as much about the quality of its products, as it is about its ability to effectively and efficiently service its customers no matter the issue or need.
A Philosophy of Versatility
“At our company, we apply a two-pronged approach to how we do business,” says Tom Jody, vice president of marketing for Vac-Con, adding, “We design and manufacture these heavy-duty machines with the utmost quality of components and care, but also take an extremely focused approach toward ensuring excellent customer service.” Jody says that his company’s initial market they launched themselves in was that of combination sewer cleaners, and is one that still represents a strong source of business for them to this day.
Yet, within the last few years, underscored by California Chrome’s recent imprinted message, the beginning of a gradual shift towards underground wiring and an increased awareness of the critical nature that comes along with digging, has demand for two of their other products—hydro-excavators and industrial vacuums—surging through the roof as industrial and utility companies scramble to find partners that can supply quality, versatile trucks with the critical responsive servicing to back it up.
Jody says that many of these requests have come from the oil and gas markets, as Vac-Con’s hydro-excavators and industrial vacuum trucks can provide solutions for a number of different jobs, including the “recovery and collection of materials, such as the chemicals produced from fracking, or excess drill cuttings stemming from lateral drilling.”
Perhaps even more significant to the company’s future success, is the general movement to bury utility cables, breaking from the established overhead wire system currently in place across most of North America today. “With this, comes the responsibility of knowing where these cables are, so that when you need to excavate in a given area, you’re not in danger of damaging these crucial connections, Jody says, adding, “with mechanical excavation, in the hands of an inexperienced or careless operator, and the use of a steel bucket, you can easily cut through fiber optics, or rupture an oil transmissions or gas line, with consequences that range from individuals without power or internet, to potentially even death.”
The idea with vacuum and hydro- excavation, is to pull the surrounding dirt or materials away from these lines without causing any damage to them. “These capabilities are becoming better known to the broader population, and we have received requests for our trucks to serve a wide range of applications, from operating in massive oil fields up in Canada, to little mom and pop shops in middle America who need to excavate a single water line along a person’s house without creating major upheaval,” he says.
Finger On The Pulse
Vac-Con relies on its customers, big and small, for feedback on where to improve their trucks next. “The saying goes that the guy who is at the end of the hose, running the machine, is the guy who best know what he needs to get the job done, what needs to be improved, and we take their input quite seriously” he says, adding, “from the top of our organization down, we are always coming up with ways to better engage our customers because we truly value their opinion.”
In fact, the company recently acquired a Milwaukee-based business called Vector Manufacturing in response to expressed needs from their customers. “Our customers and, by extension, many additional individuals in the oil and gas industries, had long requested equipment that could be mounted onto trailers and towed to specific locations and run for either ongoing operations or a singular job, it was a void for us, so we went out and acquired them, and now we have been able to take their product capabilities—powerful, trailer mounted vacuum equipment—and incorporate it into our arsenal to meet the needs of our current customers, while extending our reach to an even wider population of businesses and individuals that we couldn’t provide to before.”
Vac-Con’s valuing of their partnerships with their end users extends to their servicing branch as well, an aspect of the company that is a significant differentiator compared to others. “These machines are sophisticated in makeup, and are subjected to some fairly intense applications, and materials are moving through these components at extremely high speeds, so servicing becomes an important issue, and is an area we excel at.”
Jody says that one of the main themes of Vac-Con is embodied through the phrase, “We get the ox out of the ditch first, and get the mud off it later,” referencing the company’s proficiency in responding to the needs of its customers in a rapid and effective manner. “There is no issue more important than a customer with a unit down,” he says, adding, “We will stop everything and respond to any need, even if it means taking components from our assembly line to ship to the end user, because at the end of the day all the customer wants is for his or her machine to run.”
A key part of this ability to respond to the needs of the individual stems from what Jody calls an “exceptional dealer network.” “Our dealers are our partners and customers at the same time, and they have been truly critical to our servicing success over these last 28 years, given our intimate relationship with them, they have a comprehensive understanding of our trucks and components, and can keep our mutual customers up and running at all times.”
Innovation into their products and ensuring quality of Vac-Con’s components are critical to their success, but above all reigns the customer. “Our current customers know it, but, as hydro-excavators and industrial vacuum trucks become more broad-based in use, I want future partners with us to know that you’re getting a durable truck with cutting-edge applications, and a servicing branch that will go above and beyond in responding to and ensuring your needs are met quickly and proficiently, because we’ve found if we take care of our customers, they take care of us.”