Issue Mar Apr 16
In the world of manufacturing, as it is in most other things, it’s typically true that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That’s the lesson that led to the creation of GapVax. The company has grown into a leading manufacturer of advanced vacuum equipment because of its concentration on durable and reliable equipment backed up with exemplary customer service.
As owner Gary Poborsky explains, GapVax has become a trusted partner for industrial and municipal customers over the years because its equipment is designed and built with the end-user in mind. “It was designed for the users of the equipment,” he says.
Poborsky founded GAP Pollution and Environment Control in 1977. The service company got its start with one septic truck helping to clean up after a major flood that struck Johnstown, Pa that year. Over the years, Poborsky says he became dissatisfied with the performance, maintenance demands, and quality of the existing vacuum equipment on the market. In 1989 he created GapVax, as a sister company to GAP P.E.C., to manufacture his own equipment after having used all of the brands the marketplace had to offer.
Today, GapVax is one of the leading manufacturers of industrial and municipal vacuum equipment, and the company’s customer base is varied and always growing. Poborsky says GapVax’s customers include major industrial contractors as well as municipal customers including the cities of Los Angeles and Johnstown, Pa. Vice President of Organizational Development Ken Salem says GapVax is becoming an ever bigger player in the industry as word spreads about its equipment. “Our product is seeing expanded use across the country,” he says.
By and For Users
The most obvious factor in the success of GapVax is the high quality of its equipment, which Salem says has developed a strong reputation in the industry for being the most durable trucks on the market. Durability is important, but few other manufacturers can offer customers the ease of use that is built into each and every GapVax truck. Poborsky says this is because GapVax brought over many the mechanics and technicians from GAP Pollution and Environment Control in its earliest days.
With a solid base of technical knowledge at the company’s core from its inception, GapVax has been able to design and manufacture its equipment from the perspective of those who use the equipment every day. Poborsky says that deep understanding of the equipment and its applications means GapVax equipment is created “by the operator, for the operator,” and he says the company has a number of exceptional craftspeople.
The quality and the ease of use its equipment brings to customers’ operations are crucial for GapVax’s success, but Salem says the service that the company provides for customers after the sale is just as vital. “We aren’t the biggest, but we focus on customer service and quality,” Salem says.
GapVax provides 24-hour on-call service for its customers on all of its equipment. Salem says the company’s mechanics can provide service on-site as well as at the company’s service facility in Texas. GapVax also is working on building up its dealer network across the country to provide customers with greater access to service.
Poborsky says the popularity of its industrial vacuum equipment overflowed into the municipal sector, thus increasing municipal vacuum equipment sales drastically. The increased demand for municipal equipment lead to expanding the company’s network of dealers across the country.
Salem says that although industrial customers are more comfortable working with a manufacturer’s sales representatives, the municipal market prefers regional sales and local support. This means strengthening GapVax’s network of dealers across the country will be critical for its continued success in serving that segment of the marketplace. Salem says the company’s careful growth over the years has made it possible to scale its dealer network accordingly. “Our growth has been measured and cultivated, and that has gotten us to this point,” he says.
GapVax will continue to grow in this measured and cultivated fashion in the near future, Poborsky says. The company recently purchased 10 acres and 160,000 square feet of property adjacent to its main facility in Johnstown, primarily to meet the customer demands for shorter lead times. The new space will provide additional benefits including the opportunity to introduce new products. Poborsky says the company will have the capacity to triple its annual production.
The expansion is also exciting for GapVax because it invigorates a property in Johnstown with a long history of manufacturing. GapVax’s main facility is part of a larger parcel that has been utilized for industry for more than 120 years, including a U.S. Steel facility. Salem says that company is proud to be part of bringing new economic life to the region. “It’s an exciting time for Johnstown, as well,” he says.