|One Year Later|
3: Restarting Manufacturing Operations
By Diane M. Byrne — January 2002
Lambert says that during the acquisition process, Bombardier learned of a handful of the above-mentioned occurrences and that as time went on it learned of more. That’s why in April 2001 it joined forces with the Coast Guard to recall the outboards. It informed dealers that it would absorb the cost of repairing any faulty engines and distribute upgrade kits to correct the problem on models currently in their stock. Bombardier also sent letters to registered owners of the affected models on April 18, urging them to stop using the engines immediately and explaining how to obtain upgrade kits from servicing dealers. Recognizing that some boaters may have purchased used boats and therefore their names would not be in its database, Bombardier additionally allied itself with BoatU.S.’s online National Recall Alert Registry. This system lets owners register their boats securely, and companies like Bombardier receive passwords allowing them to further reach the appropriate consumers.
Meanwhile, Bombardier was also focusing on restarting manufacturing operations. When OMC declared bankruptcy, all of its facilities shut down. Bombardier had installed small staffs at each site–including ones in North Carolina, Florida, Mexico, and China–since it acquired some of the assets, but it wanted to consolidate operations to increase productivity and quality. Lambert says that since engineering research and development was headquartered in Waukeegan, Illinois, Bombardier wanted manufacturing to be within an hour’s drive of there. After looking at a few sites, in late May the company announced the acquisition of a building in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, to serve as the hub for engine assembly and machining operations, production-line emissions testing, and final engine testing. The building provides 408,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 60,000 square feet of office space–all told, accommodating about 1,000 employees.
Some difficulty in moving in ensued, due partially to bankruptcy proceedings involving the building’s former owner. Lambert says that this delay kept Bombardier from communicating with consumers for a while; nevertheless, the quiet period was unavoidable. "We didn’t want to be vague…or make a commitment we can’t fill," he explains.
Bombardier finally began transforming the building into a manufacturing plant in July. The industry was skeptical the following month when the company announced that the first Bombardier-built Evinrude and Johnson model-year 2002 outboards would be shipped on October 16–and that they’d all incorporate product improvements. But the first outboards rolled off the production line in late September and were shipped on target, making their European debut at the Genoa International Boat Show and their American debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, both of which were held in October. (For details on the product improvements, see "Annual Engine Roundup," this issue.)
With all that it’s accomplished in the seven months since it acquired OMC’s assets, Bombardier is not resting on its laurels. Lambert points to Bombardier’s reputation for innovation in saying that work continues on outboards that will incorporate new features. When pressed for details on when we’ll see these, all Lambert will say is "real soon."
Chapter 2, anyone?
Evinrude Phone: (847) 689-7090. www.evinrudeoutboards.com.
Johnson Outboards Phone: (847) 689-7090. www.johnsonoutboards.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.