Manitou Expands – Moving forward by moving in (Complete article can be read by scrolling to the bottom of the page)
Moving forward by moving in
By Brady L. Kay
Work smarter, not harder was the general idea behind the decision to relocate Triton Industries and the pontoon manufacturing plant to a larger building after years of working in a tight 50,000-square-foot building while still producing beautiful boats. In 2011, demand was growing for its high-end Manitou pontoons and the Delta Township facility in Michigan could no longer keep the secret quiet, relocating was unavoidable.
President Scott VanWagenen was hesitant to break the team into two shifts and knew it was just a matter of time until they would be forced to move if they wanted the company to continue to grow.
“We couldn’t stay where we were,” recalls the Triton Industries president, stressing the difficult choice for the company that was founded in Lansing in 1985 and then relocated to the Delta Township building ten years later. There was also pressure to move near suppliers in Indiana and the sad reality was the innovative designs its R&D team was coming up with couldn’t be easily produced in their current facility at that time.
But then a building went on the market in nearby Watertown Township in the spring of 2014 and new hope was discovered. With the help of Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Lansing Economic Area Partnership and grants that brought sewer lines to the building, the $6 million, 144,000-square-foot facility became Manitou’s home.
Triton Industries now owned the building and the 10 acres of land that came with it, but it wasn’t exactly turn key ready. The building previously owned by Wolverton Industries needed to be converted from a pet food distributor warehouse to an updated pontoon manufacturing plant and that wasn’t going to be easy.
“The biggest steps were electrical, like running the power we needed for all of the machinery and a fire suppression system, along with an access road all the way around the building for the fire department,” says Greg VanWagenen, the director of marketing and communications at Triton Industries. “Then air hoses, power lines, as well as a heavy modification to the offices that were in really bad shape. There hadn’t been a lot of upkeep over the years so we had problems with the roof, painting outside, plus adding offices inside the actual plant. It really looks like a new building now and some people might think that if they didn’t know the history of it.”
Today with a building that is over two-and-a-half times larger than the former location, the workforce has continued to expand and now includes a total of 118 employees. Manitou’s growth has not only earned it recognition from the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, but now quality pontoon boats are being built at a pace of around 40 a week.
“We’re doing on average two more boats in an eight hour day,” says Greg. “In our old building if we were averaging six boats a day we’d be occasionally staying late or working Saturdays and almost all of that was due to the space and the constraints the old building gave us. One of the biggest advantages is our finishing and quality control with the lighting and being able to see any issues with the boats and being able to check them off at the end. If something is wrong we’re able to push the boat aside and wait until we can fix it and get it out the door, where before if one boat stopped it stopped all the boats in the production line because we didn’t have the room to juggle things around.”
Part of the demand to have more pontoons built each week is credited to Russ Hafner, the company’s sales manager who according to Greg has done a great job getting reps in place and building its dealer network, “Russ has done a great job, especially in the Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas markets where we didn’t have a lot of representation before.”
Room For Innovation
Besides the overall expanded number of boats rolling off the assembly line each day, the new facility now makes it possible to further explore those innovative designs and features Manitou is best known for. In fact, according to Greg, the new X-Plode XT and Legacy LT models that were released last year with the fiberglass walls wouldn’t have been possible without their new building.
“The XT and LT models couldn’t have been developed and we could never offer something like a twin engine boat that we’ve started working on,” says the marketing director. “The R&D department now has the proper area to test and build new models and workout any kinks those models might have and we didn’t have that in our other building. There was no where to work on a single boat and bring it out and in to tweak things. It was a lot of work before and a lot of juggling.”
Intentional or not, news of the twin engine Manitou Legacy was now out, which had the PDB staff that was on hand for the facility tour asking the obvious question, “can we see this twin engine Manitou?”
As we walked into the R&D section of the building we were met by Dave Curtis, the vice president of operations and inventor of the V-Toon who had a big grin on his face. He was beyond excited to show us what he had been working on. Since joining the company back in the late 80s as a welder right out of high school, Dave has been the mastermind behind a lot of other key developments that help distinguish Manitou pontoon from its competitors.
Others in this area who have been instrumental in the development of the twin engine Manitou included R&D engineer Jon Miller as well as Tim Peters who is best known for his driving abilities as the official boat tester.
“Again, part of it is the space,” explained Greg as we walked around the prototype model. “We didn’t have the space we needed before to do some of the things we wanted to do and this twin engine model is something we really wanted to do.”
With room to now grow, the sky is once again the limit for Triton Industries. Looking back on all that Manitou was able to accomplish out of its old building, it’s kind of exciting to imagine what this Michigan-based manufacturer will come out with next.
“This building marks the beginning of a lot of new and fun things for Manitou,” concluded the Triton Industries president. “We’ve done a great job so far but really the future is ahead of us.”
Our Facebook fan base has grown quite a bit over the past year, and we couldn’t be more thankful to have such a loyal and engaging audience. Likewise, we’ve amassed quite a few Manitou goodies over the past few months, and it’s time to do a little spring cleaning. Since we’re close to 5,000 likes, we’d like to celebrate reaching that milestone by giving some of this gear away.
Here’s how to enter, and it takes less than 5 minutes:
1. “Like” our Facebook page if you haven’t already.
2. Look for the contest post on our Facebook page – it will contain this photo:
2. Tag yourself anywhere in the photo, and consider yourself entered!
Today we shot our new SES floorplans at a studio in Auburn Hills, MI. The new floorplans were launched in late December, making it difficult to get outdoor pictures in Michigan. By using the studio, we avoided the weather and were able to shoot each floorplan by plugging components in and out of the boat as we shot them.
We’re excited to announce new dealers for the 2013 year. Below is the list of who we have signed so far, including our first ever dealers in Quebec and Manitoba.
|The Nautic Group||625 Hwy. 146||Kemah||TX||77565||U.S.A.||281-334-2628||www.nauticgroup.com|
|Country Corner Marine||1199 River Hwy.||Moorseville||NC||28117||U.S.A.||704-664-1134||www.countrycornermarine.com|
|Rockingham Marina||635 Rockingham Rd.||Johnson City||TN||37615||U.S.A.||423-408-3215||www.rockinghammarina.com|
|Koopers Cars and Marine||10538 E M-89||Richland||MI||49083||U.S.A.||269-629-4979||www.kooperscarsmarine.com|
|Tailwalker Marine||2903 Highmarket St.||Georgetown||SC||29440||U.S.A.||843-527-2495||www.tailwalkermarine.com|
|Breezy Boat City||2816 Gulf Breeze Pkwy.||Gulf Breeze||FL||32563||U.S.A.||850-934-6010||www.breezyboatcity.com|
|Kentuckiana Yacht Sales||5888 Hwy. 641 N.||Gilbertsville||KY||42044||U.S.A.||270-703-1461||www.kentuckianayacht.com/|
|Enns Brothers||925 Lagimodiere Blvd.||Winnipeg||MB||R2J 3K4||CANADA||204-475-3667||www.ennsbros.com|
|Elitech Sport Evasion||1200 De La Gabelle||St. Etienne Des Gres||QU||GOX 2PO||CANADA||819-691-1773||www.elitechsportevasion.com|
That’s right, folks. Keep your eyes open for a new Manitou Pontoon Boats brochure that will be emerging very soon.
So, what’s so great about it?
“This year we concentrated on providing the customers with all the information they need on the boats while at the same time maintaining an artistically creative, visually appealing brochure that makes you want to head out on the water in a Manitou during a warm summer day,” Greg VanWagenen, Manitou’s director of marketing and communications, said.
“High quality pictures, premium paper stock and expertly executed printing processes portray our boats as the high end premium brand that Manitou has become known for.”
In addition, he said they decided to go green with this brochure – it was printed with 100 percent wind power.
Here’s a preview of some of the great photos:
In honor of “Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day,” a National Safe Boating Week initiative to demonstrate how easy it is to wear a life jacket, some of us here at Manitou Pontoons are wearing our personal flotation devices on the job.
We even took pictures and figured you might enjoy seeing them:
Don’t forget the National Safe Boating Council encourages participants to post their photos to the “Ready, Set, Wear it!” Facebook Wall or email the photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Show others that you “Wear It!”
Remember to stay tuned next week for more stories and safety tips! In the meantime, be safe on and off the water!
As part of our series of posts on safe boating, we will be presenting four real stories of people who have had dangerous or scary boating experiences. These individuals have shared these tales in hopes of helping others who may encounter the same situations. Regardless of whether or not an accident is unavoidable, the most important factor is what’s ultimately learned from it.
There’s one unsettling boating experience Nevada resident Ken Beckstead will never forget.
While waterskiing at Kings River, he said he suddenly saw a jet boat traveling toward a narrow part of the river. The boat was equipped with a jetovator, a device that sprays water out of a jet propulsion system. Because the spray is about 50 feet high and 200 feet back, it cannot be traveled through due to risk of bodily harm.
Although Beckstead was able to get to the side of the river and away from the jet boat, he said other boaters had no escape route. One of the trapped boats contained children.
“The jet boat actually went over the top of the boat with kids in a side on collision,” he said. “The kids were pressed down in their boat by the jet boat hull.”
Ambulances were called, and there were no serious injuries, Beckstead said. However, it remains an example of how some people get terrible results from showing off their fast boats at the worst times.
“Luckily the jet boat had no external propeller,” he said. “The kids would have been cut to pieces.”
He said he remembers another similar story of a man on a jet ski who left the shore and was suddenly side impacted by a boat traveling about 60 miles per hour. No one saw the man lying face down in the water except Beckstead’s friend on shore.
“It was too far to swim out to the guy,” he said. “He died before anyone in the water saw him.”
He said although he has owned different kinds of freshwater and ocean boats for the past thirty years, he never utilized fast speeds unless he was the only boat around for at least a mile. If the motor in any jet propelled vessel suddenly dies, the driver has no control over steering or braking.
He suggests never letting anyone without experience drive a boat because the wakes can sink a boater not familiar with crossing waves correctly. In addition, people should scan around their boat at least every minute for their own safety.
“The best advice I can give is to take a safe boating class,” Beckstead said. “Once you actually get on the water there is only one rule, never trust anyone.”
If you weren’t already aware, National Safe Boating Week is approaching quickly! Starting the 19th, those with a love of spending time on the water are encouraged to put on a properly-fitted life jacket and refresh their boating safety knowledge.
We have a series of goodies coming up next week in preparation for National Safe Boating Week, so stay tuned! In the meantime, take a few minutes and check out the FLW Boating Safety Challenge:
Entering is easy. Take the 10-question quiz until you pass with seven correct answers. Then, submit your information for a chance to win a trip for two to the FLW Forrest Wood Cup! Share your results on your social media pages for even more opportunities to win!
If you want to brush up on your boating knowledge, here’s our Boaters Safety Quiz:
The quiz can easily be shared or added to your website.
We, as well as everyone involved in National Safe Boating Week, always encourage responsible and safe boating practices. We look forward to the next couple weeks and hope you do, too!
Love that pontoon of yours?
We know many of you out there maintain a blog or website of your own and often times you like to share stories about your fishing or water sports adventures on your Manitou Pontoon. So if you fall into this category, we figured we’d give you a couple of cool badges you can share on your blog or website, or even on Facebook or Pinterest if you’re so inclined. Like what you see? Just copy and paste the code into your html editor to add it to your own site!
Copy this code to add this to your own site:
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There have been many changes to our pontoons, and pontoons in general since we first began building pontoons more than 25 years ago. The graphic below lays out some of the more significant changes to various Manitou models over the years. Feel free to share this with your friends or share your thoughts in the comments below.
Just copy and paste the code below into your html editor to add this to your site.