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Marine manufacturers take action against COVID-19

By Adam Quandt

Throughout the ever-evolving novel coronavirus outbreak, many marine industry manufacturers are making the decision to temporarily halt production, in an effort to keep employees safe.

Last week, Brunswick Corporation announced it was suspending production at certain of its propulsion and boat operations over the next few weeks in response to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

A press release said this is being done in the best interest of the safety and health of employees as well as to better balance production levels with some projected near-term global market weakness.

They added that due to current inventory position, in-transit stock and good planning with suppliers, they remain confident in the ability to meet market needs and continue distribution capabilities during this period.

“The outbreak and rapid proliferation of the coronavirus has disrupted the global marine market and our business. The prudent and necessary response to the spread and threat of the virus by national, state and local authorities across the globe has included measures that we believe will influence near-term marine demand and consumer access, said David Foulkes, Brunswick Corporation chief executive officer. “We have and plan to continue diligently following the CDC and other health agency guidelines to protect our organization and we believe that temporarily suspending our production at the major propulsion and boat facilities is consistent with the spirit of these measures and supports the priority we place on the safety and health of our employees and their families. In addition, this action enables us to proactively rebalance supply and demand.”

Similarly, all of Yamaha Motor Corporation's U.S.-based manufacturing subsidiaries have decided to pause production in response to COVID-19 infection nationwide.

“The wellbeing of employees is of utmost importance,” said Bob Starr, Corporate Communications Manager for Yamaha Motor Corp, U.S.A. “This step is being taken with the factories to protect the health and safety of all team members, their families and our local communities.”

Affected manufacturing plants include Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America based in Newnan, Ga.; Yamaha Jet Boat Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc. based in Vonore, Tenn.; Skeeter Products, Inc., based in Kilgore, Texas; G3 Boats, based in Lebanon Mo.; Yamaha Marine Precision Propellers, Inc. based in Indianapolis, Indiana.; Bennett Marine, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla. and Kracor Rotational Molders, based in Milwaukee, Wis.

Yamaha said the pause will be evaluated weekly and last "for as long as deemed necessary."

Malibu Boats, Inc. announced new actions in response to COVID-19, including a temporary suspension of operations at its manufacturing facilities.

“We are all navigating uncharted waters, as uncertainty in the broader macro-economic environment has reached unprecedented levels. In this moment, the health and safety of our employees, dealers and customers remain our top priority.” commented Malibu Boats’ chief executive officer, Jack Springer.

Springer also noted that despite the volatility in global markets, Malibu "remains in an excellent financial position."

Winnebago Industries, Inc. — parent company of Chris-Craft — also announced that it will temporarily suspend production at its facilities through at least April 12, 2020.

The company said it has also witnessed a dramatic shift in retail demand in recent weeks coinciding with virus containment efforts nationwide and the decision to suspend production should help balance retail inventory levels for the time being.

Other manufacturers implementing some form of a pause in production include Dometic Marine (formerly known as SeaStar Solutions) and Ritchie Navigation.

"We're deeply aware of how this may affect our customers," said Roby Holland, VP of sales and marketing, "That's why we spent the last few weeks ramping-up production. When we resume normal operations, we'll be ready to provide the same dedicated service Ritchie has given its customers for 160 years."

In a different approach, Regal Boats announced the consolidation of its three product lines at its Valdosta, Ga. facility to its headquarters in Orlando, Fla.

According to Regal CEO Duane Kuck, consolidation and closure of the company’s Valdosta plant was prompted and deemed prudent due to the projected economic impact associated with the COVID19/Coronavirus. The company’s leadership team thoroughly reviewed all options but determined that consolidation to one city was necessary.

“We concluded that consolidating manufacturing operations will lower costs while providing a sharper focus, more streamlined operation and an accelerated emphasis on continual improvement,” said Kuck.  

Team members impacted will be provided financial assistance through the Kuck family’s philanthropic “Regal Cares” program, which is supported through Helping Hands, Inc., a 501(c)(3) national charity providing financial assistance to individuals in need. Besides continued employment and benefits through closure, Valdosta team members will also have direct and ongoing access to optional HR and outsourcing support along with family counseling services.

“We sincerely hope some of our Valdosta team members will consider relocating to our Orlando facility,” said COO Tim Kuck. “We truly have been immeasurably blessed over many years working with the highly talented people of Valdosta. The commitment of our managers and team members here, combined with their strong work ethic, performance and loyalty, makes this decision and move especially difficult.”

On the other side, Polaris Industries, Inc. — parent company of Boat Holdings (Bennington, Godfrey, Hurricane and Rinker) and Larson Boat Group — announced that it will be temporarily closing certain manufacturing facilities as of March 24.

However, the company said its boat manufacturing will be continuing operations at this time.

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