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.”
Taking your pontoon boat out on the water is one of the best ways to spend your time during the summer. There is nothing better than relaxing with friends and family while beating the heat on your pontoon. However, it is also important to ensure that everyone aboard remains safe so that you can avoid accidents and injuries. Last year alone there were over 4,000 recreational boating accidents, with a total of 610 deaths, including 97 injuries aboard pontoons. These happened due to a number of reasons, including alcohol, speeding, and negligence.
In order to avoid accidents and injuries, be sure to compile a safety checklist that includes all of the equipment you need in case of emergency. Ensure your pontoon has a fire extinguisher, ring buoy, and first aid kit so that you are prepared. In addition, perform routine maintenance on your pontoon so that the engine, navigation lights, and other systems run smoothly. Before you next take out your boat, consider compiling a safety kit that includes items such as a pocket knife, radio, battery charger, and more.
Tis the season of stringing up lights, hanging your stockings by the fireplace, and illuminating the Christmas tree with beautiful ornaments. If you find that your tree is a little bare this year, or if you’re looking for a last minute Christmas gift to a pontoon boater that you know, we’ve assembled a few pontoon boat Christmas ornaments that we thought would make a great addition to your Christmas tree, and provided links to where you can purchase them. If you find any of these pontoon boat ornaments to be sold out, or if you have a few recommendations of your own, let me know. I’ll do my best to keep the list updated through the holiday season. Continue reading “A Few Pontoon Boat Christmas Ornaments”
Whether or not you’re a big time country fan, it’s hard to think of a song other than Pontoon by Little Big Town that more accurately describes a perfect summer – spending a lazy day out on the water on a pontoon boat without a care in the world. If you’re also a fan of Pontoon by Little Big Town, we’ve put together a few resources for anyone interested in learning how to play the song, sing it, or just listen to it. Continue reading “The Pontoon Song”
In a series of shocking events, a Towboat churning down the Tombigbee River collided into the Old Rooster Bridge near Demopolis, Alabama on April 28 of 1979. Surprisingly, the boat somehow managed to pass under the bridge with the help of the particularly strong currents during that time of the year and come up on the other side. Even more surprisingly, there was someone with a camera at the right place and at the right time to capture the event. Continue reading “The Little Boat that Could”
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.
As far back as Gavin Smith can remember, he used to sneak in his dad’s closet to borrow his professional camera. Putting his own film inside, he’d shoot a series of pictures and then carefully replace his dad’s roll of film. Eventually, he learned to use the camera better than his dad.
In high school, Gavin took art and photography classes. In college, he focused on video production and worked in that area for 12 to 15 years while still doing photography on the side.
Then, when digital cameras were introduced, he purchased all new equipment and started shooting more part-time weekend jobs, and people loved his photos.
“Within a year of digital being around I stopped doing video and started doing photography full time,” he said.
Ultimately, he calls it a hobby gone awry.
We recently came across this infographic about 2012 presidential campaign spending as well as the costs of other campaigns in history. Would you believe $2 billion was spent on both Obama and Romney? Few can even imagine what $2 billion could buy, and that got us thinking…
What if boaters were donors? What could $2 billion buy in boating-related supplies? Here are our rough estimates.
13.3 million fishing rods
You can’t mention pirates without bringing up one perhaps the most notorious and feared pirate of all time – Blackbeard. Little is known about his early life, or if Edward Teach was even his real name, but we know that he was born in 1680, likely in Bristol, England.
Blackbeard started his journey on ships when he served on a British privateer. Throughout the Queen Anne’s War, or the second series of the French and Indian Wars, privateers protected England by attacking mostly French vessels and stealing their goods. The honest civilian life wasn’t enough for Blackbeard and he decided to take his superb looting skills elsewhere. Continue reading “Blackbeard: Most Terrifying Pirate”
Whether your idol is the Dread Pirate Robers, Blackbeard, or Captain Jack Sparrow, you can’t call yourself a true pirate if you’re operating an ordinary vessel. Although there’s no such thing as a pirate pontoon (the name IS catchy), with a few transformations you’ll have a mimic pirate ship in no time.