Nine new products were recognized for innovation at this year's industry breakfast, held on the last day of the International BoatBuilders' Exhibition & Conference.
In addition, the Mel Barr Award was presented to Joe Charles, founder of Charles Industries, by the National Marine Representatives Association and Boating Industry magazine. And 70 boat and engine manufacturers received awards for customer service as part of the NMMA's Customer Satisfaction Index program.
The Innovation Awards, organized by the NMMA and judged by a panel from Boating Writers International, were handed out in six categories, including an environmental award. A total of 43 products were entered.
Judging is based on how well products meet the following criteria: distinction from other products currently manufactured, benefits to the marine industry and/or consumer, practicality and cost-effectiveness. To be eligible, a product must be available to the consumer within 60 days of receiving the award.
"Now, more than ever, it's encouraging to see companies focus their efforts on creative solutions to help their customers and further the industry," says NMMA president Thom Dammrich.
IBEX Innovation Awards were presented to the following:
- Boatbuilding Methods and Materials: Prisma "TA" System from Structural Composites/Compsys Inc. (honorable mention to N2K Builder from Maretron)
- Electrical Systems: Mastervolt's lithium-ion battery (honorable mention to Safety Hub from Blue Sea Systems)
- Hardware Fittings: Intelli-Hinge from Taco Metals (honorable mention to RIB Ladder from Armstrong Nautical Products)
- Inboard Engines: Ocean-X from Volvo Penta
- Mechanical Systems: SSA Series raw water systems monitor from Groco
- Environmental Award: Boreal from Morbern
"Given the state of the economy, it is remarkable that we [had] more than 40 quality entrants," says Roger Marshall, awards chair and past president of BWI. "I think that when the market comes back there will be some truly innovative boats out on the water using many of the products we see here today."
Other BWI members on the judging committee were Jim Barron, senior technical editor of Trailer Boats; Glen Justice, editor of Mad Mariner; Frank Kehr, technical writer for Soundings; Marilyn Mower, editor of Southern Boating and Marine Business Journal; Bill Pike, senior editor of Power & Motoryacht; and Alan Wendt, editor of Marine CEO.
The Mel Barr Award honors an individual who has contributed to the improvement of the marine industry through personal involvement. Established in 1967 in memory of Barr - an NMRA founder and its first president - the award is voted on by NMRA members and presented by Boating Industry magazine.
In presenting the award, Boating Industry editor in chief Matt Gruhn described Charles as "constantly giving back to the marine industry community" through his company and the various philanthropic activities in which he is involved.
Charles founded Charles Industries in 1968 when he developed the single-entry load coil in the basement of his Illinois home. It went on to become the best-selling load coil in the world, in service with every Bell operating company, as well as a majority of independent companies.
Charles later added marine and industrial business units, and his company has grown into a $120 million international manufacturer of telecommunications and electronics equipment. It is based in Rolling Meadows, Ill.
Also recognized at the breakfast were the boat and engine manufacturers who received excellent marks for customer service through the NMMA's Customer Satisfaction Index program. Recipients achieved and maintained an independently measured standard of excellence of 90 percent or higher in customer satisfaction during the last year. The award is based on information provided by customers who purchased new boats or engines between April 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009.
"As we continue to look to the future of our industry, customer satisfaction and retention are the cornerstones for growth," says Dammrich. "These marine industry CSI award recipients have made a commitment to improve the customer experience in order to ensure their customers' enjoyment of the boating lifestyle."
This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.