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Barton Marine - Manufacturing Mission imPossible

by Chris Jones 30 Jul 2019 01:40 PDT
Barton Stanchion Block © Barton Marine

Any manufacturer will tell you that product launches are always a complex endeavour, reliant on strong teamwork and collaboration across all business departments. It is an immense challenge to take one new product to market, so, imagine launching nearly 500 new products in just one year. It would take an ambitious, organised and dedicated group to undertake such a task.

The goal: Revamp the entire 492 piece block range before a launch party set in stone for Metstrade - November 2017. One world-renowned manufacturer of high-quality deck hardware strategised the plan for their seemingly ‘Mission Impossible’. Could they plan, produce, promote and launch an entire new block range in a single year? Barton Marine accepted the challenge.

So just how successful has the mission been? What obstacles surfaced and how does a 70 year old marine company overcome many variables to maintain their long standing reputation for committed customer service, solid engineering and on water performance? Failure was not an option.

18 months on from the launch, we can now look back at an impressive British manufacturing success story.

Why change the range in such a big way?

As manufacturers of deck hardware since 1948, Barton Marine know acting upon customer feedback is integral to innovation. Customer feedback from boat owners and distributors revealed that the existing block range was starting to be seen as “tired” and “a bit dusty”, despite its track record of excellent reliability. It was this market insight along with a vision to create the next generation of Barton Block, which transformed inspiration into reality.

Distributors and chandlers told Barton they did not want to carry two lines of equipment. They don’t have the space or finance to order and maintain two Barton lines. With such a large and varied, but complementary range of blocks, the only option was to make a sweeping change. The Barton team know that many boat owners upgrading their deck hardware desire a fully matching aesthetically pleasing deck, so a slow introduction of the new range was not desirable. However, dealer stock turn rates were also an important factor as the new range blocks had to take the shelf space of the traditional range as inventories were exhausted.

So the challenge was accepted, one company, one year, 492 new products.

How was the change managed?

492 new products require 492 new product designs and the manufacturing of thousands of individual new bespoke components. The sheer size of this task posed an immense challenge. Detailed product management and rigorous development processes had to be created and followed to keep the huge project under control.

Quality is at the heart of Barton’s business culture and it is the responsibility of everyone within the company to uphold this. To maintain high quality standards every component and prototype product underwent stringent break testing and analysis following the extensive design process. Production processes were set up to remove variation and at the end of the line each product was inspected thoroughly before being shipped to distributors.

The Barton team are incredibly modest about their achievement. Nevertheless, Barton now have over 50,000 individual components on their system, to create 1900 finished products. This is not to mention new plastic mouldings, metal stamping tools and from a human perspective, skills acquired in production.

What was the outcome?

The hard work paid off and the new range has been out on retailer's shelves for a full year. The new products benefit from being lighter, stronger and more compact than their predecessors. Initial feedback on the styling and rigging operation has been very positive with increasing numbers of retailers taking on the range. Alongside the engineering upgrades, the sleek style and feel has been updated with a minimalist dark slate appearance, which is very much on trend.

Dermot Bealey, Operations Director said,

“When setting out to update the range, we did not fully appreciate the challenge ahead. The sheer number of variants in the range created a huge design challenge, but it was actually the seemingly smaller details which often posed the most complex to deliver. Manufacturing a consistent grey coloured sheave across the range proved quite a learning curve. No one wants a marbled effect block! However, the whole team pulled together and every obstacle was overcome for a very successful result.”

Working in close partnership with the global distribution network, the New Barton Block Range is available across the world. Since launch, the training of distributors and retailers has been a key focus to ensure confidence when assisting boat owners in choosing the most appropriate product for their needs.

With such a large and complex development project successfully accomplished, the Barton team have a fresh taste for change and the range has already expanded along with other new equipment ideas in development. The new Ratchet Block and QuickCleat have just been launched and a continued desire to improve and transform exists across the business. One thing is certain, further innovation is just around the corner.

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