SWANTON — “We don't make toothbrushes here,” said Julie King (jokingly), a seven and half year veteran of Vermont Precision Tools in Swanton.
“The medical tools we make are used by surgeons all over the world; they help save people’s lives. We make them, inspect them. We want the best product that can be manufactured in the industry. It’s that important to us. And I speak for everyone who works here.”
Julie is part of what Monica Greene, VPT’s CEO, calls the Medical Value Stream Team, which is separated into four color production lines; green, purple, blue and red. The lines are organized according to the product types and necessary tasks. Together, the medical product team makes up a full third of the 200-plus people who work at VPT.
How did Vermont Precision Tools find its way into the medical field?
Norm Leduc, one of the two founders of VPT and Ms. Greene’s father, walked into a trade show in the mid-80s, met a surgeon in need of surgical tools, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“The medical bur blank sales represent a third of our business. Our products are sold through large medical device manufacturers, many of them reputable Fortune 500 companies. They are used throughout the world in a variety of surgeries including hip, back and cranial as well as ear, nose and throat. Essentially our products become surgical drills that either improve or save lives,” Ms. Greene said.
It’s that sense of mission — a focus on the highest quality output — that VPT employees find attractive in their jobs.
“I use my brain constantly,” Morgan Ede, a nine year employee of VPT said. “One of the things I love about this company is it offers us ways to grow, to learn things we didn’t learn in school, and to improve our skill sets. For me, it’s been life-changing. I wouldn't think of working anywhere else.”
The precision that is required to produce the highly technical surgical tools is also a precision that applies to how management interacts with its employees. Employees are supported in all facets of their lives. They are taught the skills necessary to be productive and successful.
“That’s the biggest thing for me,” 25-year employee Joe Chevalier said. “I came here as a 22-year-old and knew nothing. Today, I am the quality manager for this division of the company. The company teaches you and it makes you feel included. It’s also about promoting good work ethics. If you care about what you do, then you will become better at what you do. That’s what this company is about.”
Ian Bumgardner, a seven-year VPT employee, said it’s humbling, producing highly technical tools for the world’s Fortune 500 companies.
“When you produce equipment — like cranial surgical tools — you learn that each process affects the next one down the line. You assume that level of responsibility, which means this isn’t just an ordinary manufacturing job where you do the same thing day after day, week after week,” he said. “This sort of supportive environment is what helps me grow as a person, which is what keeps me interested and involved. Other places just don't offer this sort of support and potential.”
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