Skeeter Boats’s new trailer factory in Kilgore, Texas, is helping Yamaha hone its vertical integration strategy.
Construction of the facility was completed last December. The first trailer prototypes came off of the line early this year, said Jeff Stone, senior vice president, Skeeter Boats, Inc.
Kilgore Economic Development Corporation deeded two tracts of land to Skeeter Boats through an agreement with the company. “They were really great to work with,” Stone said. “They provided a lot of support the entire way.”
Trailers, Inc., worked very closely with Skeeter Boats during the transition. “As a vendor, they had been with us since the late 1970s,” Stone said. “We had a great relationship with them.”
Skeeter-built trailers will provide 100 percent of Skeeter boat production starting in the third quarter of this year.
As a part of the expansion, Skeeter will add up to 35 new employees at the new, 43,000-square foot trailer factory.
“It’s part of our overall vertical integration focus with our boat components, trailers, wiring harnesses, and other various components of our boats that we are looking at bringing in house," Stone said.
The Kilgore trailer facility has a separate plant manager and engineering staff. The boat side of the company will provide some support with overall design concepts going forward, Stone said.
“We started building our bass boat trailers the first of the year,” Stone said. “We’ll have overall phase-in other models through the end of the third quarter.”
All 2018 Skeeter Bass and DV models will have a Skeeter Built trailer manufactured in the new Skeeter facility; all Bay boat aluminum trailers will be transitioned within the next 12 months.
“For the first six months of the year, we produced about half of our trailer needs,” Stone said. “It brings a lot of value to our dealers to have more and more of the boat components produced here at Skeeter,” Stone said. “The response from dealers has been very positive.”
The phase-in over 12 months was critical to getting the trailer facility project right, Stone said. The first trailers that rolled off for the ZX225 and ZX250 boat models represented a high-volume but very standard trailer with some feature content added. “We didn’t want to go to one dealer or region first,” Stone added. “The initial production was dispersed all over the country.”
A fiberglass fender design was one of the new trailer components. That change was introduced with Skeeter’s 2018 product line during a dealer meeting two weeks ago. “We have a great staff of engineers who do a lot of design work, not only on our boats, but upholstery and other components on the boat side,” Stone said.
Skeeter is leverage in-house designers for customization techniques, and the Skeeter Built factory is also incorporating digital wheel and axle alignment technology. Trailers have 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Eagle tires.
“The first trailers that we built were the 20-foot and 21-foot bass trailers, “ Stone said. “Those are our ZX225 and ZX250 were the boat models. That’s a high volume but a very standard trailer with some feature content added to it. We wanted to really disperse the trailers over the country, we didn’t want to go to one dealer or one region first. We dispersed them across the country with the initial production.”
Stone said there’s a lot of excitement among Skeeter employees regarding the trailer product being elevated.
“In the past, the boat was produced and the trailer would arrive about a day or two after the boat came off the line,” he said. “Our employees get to see the trailer being designed and manufactured for a specific order. That brings another level of pride to the process with our employees. We’ve been able to take a big step in the vertical integration process and see it succeed. It’s really been rewarding."
Overall, business for Skeeter Boats has been very good this year, Stone said. “We recently had one of the best dealer meetings we’ve had in many, many years. Our current backlog is at a 20-to 25-year high as far as orders. It’s very strong right now. We are seeing a very pro-marine market all over the country.”