Vibram is now 100 years old in the U.S.
To celebrate its milestone, the renowned sole-making brand — and creator of the FiveFingers toe shoe — the company invited locals on a tour of its Quabaug Vibram Innovation manufacturing facility in North Brookfield, Mass., on Sept. 16.
Aside from locals, Vibram employees — both current and retired — also gathered outside the facility to hear speeches from notable attendees including Rep. Jim McGovern, State Sen. Anne Gobi and State Rep. Donnie Berthiaume. Serving as a testament to Vibram’s longevity in North Brookfield, company president Mike Gionfrido called out the dozens of employees in attendance who are currently working beyond 25 years and those that eclipsed that milestone and since retired.
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Vibram wrapped up its acquisition of the Quabaug Corporation in 2015 (a partnership that began in 1964), and began a five-year campaign that will have it spending millions over that period of time. According to Chris Favreau, VP of innovation and operations at Vibram USA, the company spent $6 million in 2016 on new machinery and machine upgrades (including a water-jet cutting machine that was installed last week). Favreau continued to say that Vibram intends on matching that number each year until the 270,000 sq.-ft. factory — which he described as a NASCAR race track that wasn’t well laid out — has an improved efficiency.
“We’re trying to see what is the most efficient method of moving our materials, from incoming raw materials to outgoing finished goods. That’s what we’re looking at for the five-year plan: how could we re-create the internal organization of the factory to create more efficiency,” he said.
Further investments will help bolster its staff and machinery, upgrade the Quabaug Vibram Innovation facility’s manufacturing machines, launch a two-year workforce education program, grow its domestic supply chain, and strengthen its product development and innovation processes. Vibram also plans to use investment to improve its materials testing and validation center so it can better understand the chemistry of its materials.
During the event, Vibram also praised to its veteran workforce, a number that Kevin Donahue, a Quabaug chairman, said accounted for 10 percent of Vibram’s workforce. He also said to honor the 21 military veterans that currently work in the North Brookfield factory, the company collected pairs of shoes that will be donated to Veterans Inc. of Worcester to help support vets in need.