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Online Edition — March 2004

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In the Spotlight
Bombardier Recreational Products
Moving the Elephant
Empowerment—Seeing the Elephant


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In the Spotlight

Bombardier Recreational Products

This is the kind of story we rarely see these days. It’s a story where the phoenix rises out of the ashes, and quality and hard work prevail. It’s the story of how Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) since 2001 has revived Johnson® and Evinrude® outboard engines, applying fundamental quality principles it uses with its SkiDoo® and Lynx® snowmobiles, SeaDoo® watercraft and sport boats, as well as its direct injection technologies, all-terrain vehicles, engines and karts, and utility vehicles.

In 1937, Joseph-Armand Bombardier founded the company when he introduced the first “snowmobile.” Not only did this invention create an entire new sport/pastime, but it also launched more than 60 years of innovation in the recreational products arena.

Some experts wondered if the company had overstepped its capabilities when it acquired the bankrupt engine assets of Outboard Marine Corp. (OMC), the maker of Evinrude and Johnson outboard engines, for $55 million in 2001. OMC’s market share had dropped from 55% to near nothing as manufacturing ceased operations.

The powerful direct injection technology that OMC had hoped would differentiate it from competitors had tolerances that were too demanding for production to meet, and production was mired in a process that involved nine plants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For example, transmission housings for engines were die cast in Waukegan, IL; machined and subassembled in Andrews, NC; and then finally assembled in Calhoun, GA. Just moving parts and subassemblies back and forth wasted valuable time and increased costs.

After taking over, BRP took immediate action to restart the business. A seasoned manufacturing executive, Roch Lambert, was named vice president and general manager for boats and outboard engines, and he quickly created a team of internal experts in manufacturing, plant maintenance, finance, marketing, and quality control. Lambert personally began writing dealers every few days to keep them updated on steps being taken toward again providing them with reliable supplies of Johnson and Evinrude outboard engines.

The team rebuilt manufacturing, developing and implementing a highly detailed plan that addressed every aspect of the business. Many former OMC operations were consolidated into a newly obtained facility in Sturtevant, WI. As the team studied the situation and made changes, they learned just how serious things can get. For instance, only 15,000 of the 120,000 crankshafts and just 20% of the thousands of connecting rods in OMC’s inventory could be used!

On the morning of June 21, 2001, some trucks carried out printing presses that belonged to the Sturtevant plant’s previous owners, and others delivered production equipment for an advanced outboard engine production facility. Over the next 78 days, the Sturtevant manufacturing operation took shape, and 6,000 resumes were screened to select the 500 employees who were needed for operations. Problem-solving and team interaction skills were prioritized over previous work experience in engine assembly during the hiring process.

The team recognized from the onset that it had to be back in operation, shipping products to customers, by the fall of 2001. Team members also understood that success depended on delivering the highest quality engines to customers from the day the doors of the new plant opened.

Supplier certification and receiving inspection systems were developed. Procedures for assembly inspections, where each assembler spends as much as 20% of his/her time making sure that output from the prior step met quality standards, were put into place. Several operations that were previously performed by outside suppliers were brought In-House/On-Site to ensure quality and improve workflow. Finally, an exhaustive battery of final product tests/inspections, including “hot testing” every engine in water with a propeller attached and monitored by computer, was implemented.

The plant completed its first engine on September 26, 2001. Bombardier Recreational Products has restored consumer and dealer confidence in outboard quality. Dealers are impressed with the company’s increased capabilities, including keeping the supply lines filled, so most of them have re-enrolled in the company’s programs.

Evinrude outboard engines received the “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with 2-Stroke Engines” in the J.D. Power and Associates’ 2003 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study.SM The excellence of the company’s products has been noted in other ways, including the National Marine Manufacturers’ Association 2003 Innovation Award, the 2004 Editor’s Choice Award from Motorboating Magazine, and three consecutive B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year awards.

Today, Bombardier Recreational Products offers the industry’s best protection program for outboard engines—five years of total protection on Johnson and seven years on Evinrude purchased before April 15, 2004. Clearly, the company is sending a strong message to the industry that it intends to stand by its commitment to excellence.

"Receiving the J.D. Power award is a real triumph,” says Roch Lambert, who now serves as BRP executive vice president of design, engineering, sales and marketing, and after-sales service. “It’s a testament to the steps we took to perfect direct injection technology through BRP management discipline and innovation.

“This means that consumers have experienced the durability, quality, and reliability of our outboard engines, and they clearly appreciate the impact we’ve made in the outboard engine market since the Evinrude and Johnson brands became part of the Bombardier Recreational Products family,” added Lambert.

“We’re very confident that this is only the beginning for us. Our ability to innovate, achieve the highest quality, and keep cycle times short and costs down is carrying us into the future.”

SM J.D. Power and Associates 2003 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study. Study based on responses from a total of 10,734 owners of 2002 and early 2003 model-year boats.

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