Rejecting digital tools, he works with his hands and finds satisfaction

Lee Harrison
AGE: 26
JOB TITLE: Lead assembler
EDUCATION: High school, some college / PBN PHOTO/BRIAN MCDONALD

Lee Harrison | Age: 26 | Company: VIBCO Vibrators | Job title: Lead assembler | Education: High school, some college

At age 26, Lee Harrison thinks of himself as the last generation that escaped having its attention hijacked by cellphones, computers and other digital devices. Instead, he chose to work with steel tools, engines and machinery.

“To be able to look at something mechanical, to take it apart and understand it and fix it, is just as important as the computerized stuff,” Harrison said. “My grandfather always said, ‘Before you throw something away, try to fix it.’ ”

Harrison started working at manufacturing firms right out of high school. He didn’t see himself inhabiting an office cubicle or amassing college debt without knowing where college was taking him. And he liked working with his hands.

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He is now five years into his third post-high-school job, doing assembly and repairs for VIBCO Vibrators, a Richmond company that manufactures pneumatic, hydraulic and electric vibrators for use in asphalt, concrete and other industries.

Harrison landed at VIBCO at age 22 and learned to do his job through personal instruction from an industry veteran. He took classes in CPR, OSHA rules, and a college-credit class at New England Institute of Technology in lean manufacturing. He got to see lean principles in action by touring a Toyota plant in Japan with VIBCO colleagues.

I feel like a vital asset to the company. A lot of people are relying on me.’

He and others manage their own work stations at VIBCO and take responsibility for creating a product from start to finish.

How about satisfaction? Once, a man drove his dump truck onto the property and Harrison spotted his own initials on the vibrator mechanism underneath. “It was working great, too,” he recalled.