By Margaret Jackson | Dec 01, 2014
Employees: Over 500
Executive Chairman Tom Dickson’s innovative, U.S.-made blenders have taken off in a big way with savvy marketing - and YouTube.
When Dickson debuted his Will It Blend? series on YouTube in 2006 to demonstrate the power and durability of Blendtec blenders, it quickly went viral and earned him appearances on The Today Show, The Tonight Show, The View and CBS Sunday Morning.
In the series, which began with a $50 budget, Dickson blends everything from rakes and marbles to Super Glue and skeletons. He attributes skyrocketing sales -- he says they increased 1,000 percent -- to the entertaining videos shot in the company's corporate offices in Orem, Utah.
"People love destruction," says Dickson, the engineer and inventor who founded the company. "The last thing I blended was the iPhone 6. Within two weeks, we had 2.5 million views."
Blendtec's origins date to 1975, when Dickson invented a wheat mill that revolutionized the home milling industry -- he sold more than 40,000 mills in just a few years. He continued to innovate, ultimately creating a multi-function machine that made 12 pounds of bread dough and included a blender used by many restaurants.
That led to Dickson developing a commercial blender that is found in Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Ben and Jerry's, and Baskin-Robbins -- any operation that serves blended beverages.
"It used to take 38 seconds to blend a Frappuccino," Dickson says. "Now they can do it in 13 seconds."
The machines also can make hot soup. By pressing the soup button, ingredients can reach temperatures of more than 110 degrees.
In 2006, Blendtec introduced its retail line in stores such as Costco, Sam's Club, and Bed, Bath & Beyond, taking on competitors such as KitchenAid and Vitamix.
Blendtec's pitchers are square so their contents don't swirl like they do in a traditional round blender. Instead, ingredients hit the sides of the pitcher and fall back into the blade. The blunt safety blades on Blendtec machines are 80 percent thicker and 10 times stronger than competitors' blades, and the company continues to innovate, making the blender stronger and the blade tougher. "We make indestructible devices," touts Dickson.
And rather than outsourcing manufacturing overseas, those devices are mainly manufactured in the United States. "We're 85 percent made in the U.S.A.," Dickson said. "We're the most American-made kitchen appliance in the country."
Challenges: Blendtec's biggest challenge is keeping up with overwhelming demand for its products. "We have had to implement so many Lean manufacturing practices and perform detailed forecasting to deliver our products," says Tim Provost, the company's public relations director. "Our sales have doubled this year compared to 2013."
Opportunities: By the same token, that's also where the opportunities lie. "Our biggest opportunity is improving our manufacturing process and making it more efficient," Provost says.
Blendtec hired an expert in Lean Process Improvement to put systems in place that will make production of its machines more efficient. The core idea of Lean is to maximize customer value by minimizing waste.
"We've seen very good benefits very quickly," Provost explains. "We've gone through several phases and can already see the fruits of our labor, so we're all committed to it. Now we're able to keep up with demand because of the Lean practices we're putting in place. We're constantly improving the process."
Needs: The company is striving to better understand who its customers are and how best to communicate with consumers to create brand awareness. As part of that effort, it has increased the staff in its marketing department from four people four years ago to 40 employees today.
"We've always been an engineering company -- 10 percent of our workforce are engineers," Provost says. "The need is better understanding our customer and how to communicate with them."