In the Fall of 2014, when it was announced that Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT) had purchased the Vermont Castings Group, everyone knew that changes – improvements – would be made. After all, HHT is generally recognized as the most efficient manufacturer in the industry, and that knowledge certainly would be transferred to those running its new acquisition.
The first – and perhaps most obvious – change is about to occur.
With the purchase of the Vermont Castings Group came a cast-iron foundry, the only one in the hearth industry. Company founders Murray Howell and Duncan Syme had put it in place in 1979 in the town of Randolph, Vermont.
Unfortunately, and for financial reasons, the assembly plant was located in a rented building eight miles away, in Bethel, Vermont. All castings, for all of those 36 years, had to be loaded, then trucked, then unloaded eight miles away. As ownership of the company changed hands over and over again, no one was willing to invest the funds to change that cumbersome, costly, aggravating situation.
Now that is being changed. The assembly of stoves will be moved from Vermont to Pennsylvania.
|523 Signature Series Grill from Vermont Castings.
According to Ricardo Leon, president of the Vermont Castings Group, “The plan for Bethel is to move the assembly of stoves from Bethel to Halifax, Pennsylvania, to the Harman plant. There, for 10 years they have been down the path of improvements in product quality and delivery. We are not going to try to recreate that in Bethel.”
Approximately half of the 80 employees in Bethel will be terminated; the other half will be relocated to the Randolph facility.
“The second change,” said Leon, “is with our Vermont Castings barbecue grill line. Those products are not core to HHT, and they were not core to me. The reason I kept them was that there was close to $2 million in barbecue inventory when I took over. Now I want to outsource (license) the grill so customers can still get a VC grill. They just won’t be made in our factory.”
The next major change concerns the enameling facility. An investment of $1 million has been made to upgrade major components in the Randolph facility. Additionally, the enamel line at QuadraFire in Colville, Washington, will be moved to Randolph for use by all the companies: Vermont Castings Group, Harman and QuadraFire.
Starting at the end of March, cast-iron patterns are being brought over from Europe to the Vermont foundry where all cast-iron parts will be made for Harman, QuadraFire and Vermont Castings Group products.
Ricardo Leon has committed to remain in his position as president of the Vermont Castings Group until the end of 2015, and he is likely to stay through 2016.
“If we deliver results to HHT,” says Leon, “the way we need to, then the faster we will get to better benefits for our employees. Next month we’re giving raises for the first time in five years. By the end of this year we’re going to have the HHT health plan, which is a lot better and cheaper than what we have now. We have to be profitable in order to pay for those things; I’m excited to be a part of driving that faster.”
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