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VIBCO Meets the Sons of Liberty

by [user not found] | Aug 19, 2014

When you think of Rhode Island, you probably think of lobster, beaches, Buddy Cianci, squid, Water Fire, Brown University, and the Rhode Island School of Art and Design.

Probably not craft whiskey.  But you should.

sons-of-liberty-spirits logoThe Sons of Liberty Spirits Co., is making a splash in the whiskey business. The company was started in 2009 by Mike Reppucci and manufactures in the Peacedale Mill Complex in beautiful (and quiet) Peacedale, RI.

If the notion of craft whiskey in a small town in the smallest state in the union didn't capture your attention, try reading their website. Sons of Liberty hits hard with a company message that speaks strongly towards their mission of innovation in whiskey and spirits:

"We started with a couple questions: "Why is no one distilling single malt whiskies from the beers we love?" and "Why are there so many seasonal beers, but no seasonal whiskies?" With a spirit for innovation, we set out to create a line of whiskies the world had never seen."

Quite a mission!

Now, if that didn't grab you, check out the long list of accolades that Sons of Liberty has racked up in a very short time. The team has been featured in countless news publications all over Rhode Island and New England and taken home prestigious awards including a "World's Best" award this past March for their pumpkin flavored whiskey, presented by Whiskey Magazine.

With a great product and excellent recognition, Sons of Liberty is on a rapid upswing. Managing growth is a "great problem to have", but it also means that processes and systems that  worked when the company was starting out aren't sufficient to meet today and tomorrow's production demands.

"The Big Order" was in, and Sons of Liberty was in a jam to fulfill it on deadline.

So what did they do? The whiskey guys called the VIBCO Vibrator Guys.

Did they need vibrators? Nope.

Did they have a big budget to bring in consultants? Nope.

They needed a favor.  Fast.

Mike Reppucci and his team heard that VIBCO is a leader in manufacturing and process excellence and that we regularly open our doors to help others learn.

The challenge - Sons of Liberty needed(s) to operationalize many of the companies' day to day functions so they can shorten lead times while increasing capacity.

Could VIBCO help Sons of Liberty? Would we?

Of course we would. That's what good neighbors do… they help each other.  (And the whiskey is a pretty good incentive!)

Just a couple of days after an initial conversation, a team of VIBCO workers including VIBCO President, Karl Wadensten, traveled a few miles down the road to the Sons of Liberty factory for a Gemba walk and fact finding tour. Bruce Hamilton from GBMP (and host of the famous Toast Kaizen lean training video) accompanied the team on the walk.

vibco at sons of liberty spirits coThe VIBCO Team and Bruce Hamilton made it a priority to contextualize Lean concepts and tools to create a more complete picture of what it means to implement and maintain Lean. We emphasized that Lean is not just a set of tools but a mindset and a culture and that the tools shouldn't be used for the sake of using another tool to fix a problem. Lean is about active problem solving and developing a culture that exercises continuous, rational problem solving… and that many of these changes start from the ground up and are culturally rooted. If the culture of the organization doesn't allow for these kinds of continuous improvements, then the company cannot successfully use Lean to its full potential.

Last week, Sons of Liberty hosted the Rhode Island gubernatorial town hall debate for this past week. They were kind enough to extend an invitation to the VIBCO team. When we arrived, Mike and Bruce and the whole Sons of Liberty Team excitedly shared that they had made huge gains based on the ideas generated during our visit there… and that fulfilling "The Big Order" was achievable - thanks to our help.

Neighbors helping neighbors to create opportunity for all… we love that.

A Bit of Rhode Island Politics for You

The topic of the Gubernatorial Town Hall was the food and beverage industry in Rhode Island. Each of the candidates running for governor of the state of Rhode Island, Mr. Angel Taveras (D), Mr. Clay Pell (D), Mr. Todd Giroux (D), Ms. Gina Riamondo (D), Mr. Ken Block (R) and Mr. Allan Fung (R) participated.

Here are the candidates moments before the town hall began:

rhode island gubernatorial candidates town hall sons of liberty 2014

The room was packed full of Rhode Island food and beverage business owners - from catering companies to bistros, sandwich shops to local small farm owners and local produce growers. All eager to hear from candidates on the topic of food and commerce in Rhode Island.

As we sat and listened to each candidate's plans and ideas, we looked around and couldn’t imagine a better place to hold a town hall debate about food and drink than at the Sons of Liberty distillery. With the flood of press and achievements surrounding Sons of Liberty lately, the distillery is quickly becoming a major player in the Rhode Island food and beverage industry. Big things are happening with this small team of people through ingenuity, creativity and hard work.

The Sons of Liberty story - from humble but dream-filled beginnings, through a challenging start-up, through early success and now the challenges of managing growth - is indicative of the path traveled by many food and beverage companies. It's one that candidates and elected officials should understand and follow.

Rhode Island is uniquely positioned to leverage its strengths in this industry - a cultural culinary tradition, incredible talent, education partners like JWU, unique growing conditions, ample seafood resources, etc. - and creating job growth and opportunity via food and beverage is a key economic development opportunity.

The whole VIBCO "Vibration Nation" looks forward to doing more work with Sons of Liberty, and will continue our commitment to sharing and learning with our neighbors to make Rhode Island Number One.