April 3, 2017
Collaboration in Manufacturing Award

Vibram collaboration led to U.S. manufacturing

Vibram USA acquired its longtime manufacturing partner Quabaug Corp. in 2015 and makes product at the North Brookfield facility.

What started more than 50 years ago as a licensing agreement between an international apparel company and a North Brookfield production company developed into a longstanding collaboration and eventual acquisition.

In 2015, Vibram, a manufacturer of high-performance soles, acquired its longtime partner Quabaug Corp. of North Brookfield, giving the Italian apparel company its first manufacturing location in North America. After the acquisition, Vibram announced a multimillion dollar campaign aimed at improving workflow through lean manufacturing, equipment replacement, process upgrades, and automating.

"2016 was the first full year after the acquisition, and a lot of significant investments were made," said Michael Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Vibram USA. "We anticipate we're going to continue that trend in 2017."

As of right now, the focus is making the North Brookfield plant as state-of-the-art as possible, said Gionfriddo. Efforts are being made to hire young engineering talent from places like Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and UMass Lowell.

"Vibram is showing how strong community partnerships can create good jobs and continue the proud tradition of high-quality products made in America," said U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester), who attended an event last fall at Vibram, celebrating 100 years of manufacturing in North Brookfield for Quabaug. "A manufacturer of essential products used by our military and men and women in uniform, Vibram is also helping to keep our country safe."

The relationship with Quabaug has been a crucial part of Vibram's success in the U.S., said Gionfriddo. Oftentimes, it's important for companies to combine their expertise, because they can be more successful that way, he said.

"You always have to remember that people make up the company," said Gionfriddo. "When you bring [people] together, the whole is greater than what you might achieve on your own because of the expertise that different people bring to the party."

Read about the other 2017 Manufacturing Excellence Award winners

Manufacturing Excellence Award, small company

Manufacturing Excellence Award, midsize company

Manufacturing Excellence Award, large company

Product Design & Innovation Award

Green Manufacturing Award

Workforce Development & Productivity Award

Emerging Manufacturer Award

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