Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Factory Improvements: Thinking Ahead

The Marion, SC Beneteau plant undergoes its transformation

Beneteau USA is in the process of revamping its 250,000 square foot facility into the most modern big sailboat factory in America. The way boats used to be built has changed. Market demands have allowed Beneteau to reach the conclusion that to succeed in this new market, you have to be able to react faster. So the factory is being improved - from the original layout that included eight independent production lines - into a new, single line continuous flow production facility that will feature 20 operation positions. The end result of this new way of building will be a reduction in lead time for a boat that is ordered, less work in process during the manufacturing, and a greater flexibility in the model mix.

The Marion plant will be the only American sailboat plant able to build anything from 30 footers up to 50 footers, all in the same quick-flow process. While this may not seem like a big change to the majority, this is a big improvement for us because it will allow for a model to be built without having to wait for more orders of the same model to come in, which will not only speed up the process but will also prevent Beneteau from building too much/not enough of individual models and they will instead be able to react to the immediate and near-future demand.

Finally, it has been talked about but not really ‘announced’ by Beneteau, but they have also agreed to build two models for jeanneau (which the Beneteau Groupe has owned since 1996 after purchasing them out of bankruptcy) out of the USA plant in Marion, SC. While we were a bit surprised to hear this news, the new realities Beneteau faces in manufacturing makes this a smart move and actually will help the viability of the Beneteau brand while it will also keep the factory operating at a higher rate of efficiency. Beneteau models are still going to comprise 95% of the factory’s output, but the ability to keep the factory flowing and the skilled workers working is a smart, cost-effective move for Beneteau. It also makes sense for all of us: dealers, clients, and the Beneteau factory and their employees.

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