Vermeer Corporation is a manufacturer of industrial and agricultural equipment. The privately held company distributes more than 120 products globally from seven production facilities and offices in Pella, Iowa, USA and multiple locations worldwide. Founded in 1948 by Gary Vermeer, as Vermeer Manufacturing Company, the company is in its second generation of family management under Chief Executive Officer Mary Vermeer Andringa and Chairman of the Board Robert L. Vermeer, as well as members of the third generation. Vermeer serves the construction, landscaping, environmental, excavation, and forage markets domestically and internationally from locations in the Netherlands, Germany, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, and Brazil, as well as various wholly and partially owned subsidiaries in several of the United States. Serving customers in more than 60 nations, Vermeer equipment and solutions are backed by a worldwide sales and support network of independent Vermeer equipment dealers.
Vermeer history and product expansion
In 1948, Gary Vermeer created a mechanical hoist to ease the process of unloading his grain wagon during harvest. Farm neighbors observed his wagon hoist in operation and were soon asking for the implement. At his request, a local machine shop fabricated a number of these hoists to meet the demand. In the spring of 1948, it was evident that the unit could be produced and marketed on a larger scale. Consequently, as word spread, Gary (along with his cousin and local banker Ralph Vermeer) started Vermeer Manufacturing Co. Shortly thereafter, they began manufacturing the mechanical hoist in their newly built factory. However, the introduction of competitive hydraulic wagon hoists made it obvious that new products must be developed for the young company to survive.
By the 1950s, Vermeer introduced two new products, a portable PTO-powered hammermill designed to eliminate flat belts and pulleys and a self-propelled irrigation system that distributes water in large circles over crops. The Vermeer Pow-R Drive met with almost immediate success...thousands were sold. Through these early years, other small farm equipment items, such as a wagon end-gate seeder and wheel cleaner for row-crop tractors were designed and manufactured.
In 1955, the original boom-type agricultural sprinkler, designed for use with high-clearance crops such as corn, was developed and marketed. Widespread acceptance was because the Vermeer sprinkler covers a large area with a low precipitation rate, substantially reducing labor cost. In 1967, automation was introduced with the launching of the Vermeer traveling sprinkler system.
In 1956, Vermeer Manufacturing Company became one of two organizations to introduce the hay conditioner to the agricultural market. By 1960, nearly 5,000 units had been sold to the farm industry. A major breakthrough in the agriculture industry was the development of the round baler.
Shortly after, the first Pow-R-Stump Cutter was introduced. While testing a new stump cutter prototype in 1957, a Vermeer employee accidentally hit the wrong lever which caused the cutting wheel to move horizontally across the stump. This mistake led to the production of a stump cutter design that is still being used today. Although other devices had been used in removing stumps, they were generally expensive, cumbersome, and not practical for widespread use. The patented Vermeer stump cutter was the first practical, low-cost answer to stump removal.
In 1963, experimentation began on the development of a mechanical tree-moving machine. A few months later, the Vermeer TM-700 was introduced. This was the first machine designed to dig, transport, and replant large trees. About four years later, the Vermeer tree spade was introduced. The first machine, model TS-44, had immediate acceptance and more than 400 units were sold the first year.
In 1971, a personal friend confessed to Gary Vermeer that he intended to sell his cow-calf business due to the hassles of baling hay and finding dependable hired hands to help put it up. The next morning, with help from product engineers, Vermeer chalked the initial design of the original Vermeer baler on the factory floor. The first prototype rolled out the door and the “One-Man Hay System” was ready 45 days later.
Vermeer prepared for another expansion in 1991 with the introduction of the first Vermeer horizontal directional drill. By the end of the decade, the NAVIGATOR horizontal directional drilling machine line-up, which has been used in installing fiber optics communications cables, became market-share leaders worldwide. Vermeer trenching equipment has also been used on road construction, mining projects, and within the equipment rental industry.
In 2011, Vermeer experienced success in Australia with the largest sale in the history of the company. The sale included multiple terrain levelers for surface mining, including seven Vermeer T1655s, the largest machine that had ever been manufactured in Iowa.
Today, Vermeer holds several product and design patents within its line of utility and track trenchers, directional boring systems, tub grinders, tree equipment, excavation machines, and hay-harvesting products. The company markets 100 agricultural and industrial products worldwide, and operates 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2) of plant space for manufacturing.
The Vermeer family
Gary Vermeer continued to be a part of the organization throughout his life. He was named the Iowa Inventor of the Year in 1984 and was inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1989, Gary retired as CEO of Vermeer Corporation at age 71. He continued to act as Chairman Emeritus of the Board and run his private farming operation.
In addition to Gary and Ralph Vermeer, the rest of the family has been involved in varying degrees within Vermeer Corporation. Gary and Ralph’s brother, Harry, left college to work at Vermeer in 1950. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951 and returned to Vermeer two years later. He held positions as Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. In 1976, Harry left the company but continues as a Vermeer stockholder.
In 1974, Robert (Bob) L. Vermeer, Gary’s son, joined Vermeer beginning in the areas of accounting and finance. Bob was appointed to Vice President of Finance in 1982 and later Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer. He became Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board in 1989. Bob was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998, and continues in his role as Chairman of the Board.
Stanley J. Vermeer joined Vermeer in the agriculture experimental department in 1975. From 1982 to 1986, Stan served as President, responsible for hydraulics and bringing trained engineers to the company. In 1986, Stan left Vermeer and founded Pella Engineering and Research.
Mary Vermeer Andringa joined Vermeer in 1982 to focus on market research. In 1989, Mary became President and Chief Operating Officer, with a special focus on manufacturing, continuous improvement and engineering. Like Bob, Mary was also named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998. In 2003, Mary was named co-CEO and became CEO and President of Vermeer Corporation in 2009.
The third generation of the family began at Vermeer in 2005 with Jason Andringa joining as Environmental Segment Manager. Allison Vermeer Van Wyngarden joined Vermeer in 2007 as Industrial Dealership Distribution Manager and Mindi Andringa Vanden Bosch joined the following year as Market Assessment Manager. In 2013, Jason was named President of Forage and Environmental Solutions.
The first Vermeer exclusive industrial dealership was established in Findlay, Ohio, in 1960. In 1967, having expanded the original factory several times and with 541 employees, the company purchased land east of Pella and moved into its first new factory building on that site. By the end of the decade, Vermeer quadrupled in size and had dealerships open in Iowa, Wisconsin, California, Kansas, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Maryland. Vermeer International was incorporated in Goes, the Netherlands, as a subsidiary of Vermeer Manufacturing Co. in 1970. In 2008, the name was changed to Vermeer EMEA to represent the Vermeer office for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Vermeer opened its first Chinese dealership in Shanghai in 2002. In 2003, Lely and Vermeer form an alliance that allows Vermeer to market and service Lely hay and forage equipment in the U.S. under the Vermeer brand.
The years 2008 and 2009 brought about more expansion. Lely and Vermeer signed a joint-acquisition agreement to acquire Welger Maschinenfabrik GmbH in Wolfenbuettel, Germany, to increase global presence in grassland machinery and baling equipment. Vermeer also purchased Wildcat Manufacturing in Freeman, South Dakota, a manufacturer of trommel screens and compost turners. In addition, the company opened an office in Singapore to provide additional sales, marketing, equipment, and parts support to the Asia-Pacific region. The following year, a new facility in Valinhos, Brazil, was opened to serve the needs of the Latin American market. Meanwhile, at the corporate headquarters in Pella, Vermeer constructed the premiere Global Pavilion training center and museum in the mid-1990s, and introduced a Vermeer Health Services Center in 2002 – providing employees with health services at no cost to them. And in 2013, Vermeer unveiled plans for a Vermeer Early Learning Center to be constructed near the factory, at the home place of Gary and Matilda Vermeer. The center is to provide childcare services.
Vermeer operates under a 4P philosophy which focuses on people, product, profit and ethical principles. Vermeer began its Lean journey in 1997, applying innovative thinking to the operation by pursuing waste and streamlining manufacturing.
Media related to Vermeer Corporation at Wikimedia Commons