Divide and Conquer?


Brunswick Corp.’s recent announcement that it had formed an Aluminum Boat Group for seven brands sounded similar to what the Brunswick Boat Group had done in the past to put its boat companies under separate corporate umbrellas.

According to Jeff Behan, president of the newly formed Aluminum Commercial Operations division, the ABG will be more than a collection of different brands.

“There have been aluminum groups in the past, but this will be run very differently,” Behan told Trade Only Today. “In the past, the head of the aluminum group was the overall manager of individual brands, and they had their own sales force and individual operations. Here, we’ll be leveraging many functions and operations across the brands. That didn’t occur in those prior groups.”

ABG comprises Lund, Harris, Lowe, Crestliner, Princecraft, Cypress Cay and Thunder Jet. Behan will oversee ABG’s commercial operations from Brunswick’s Mettawa, Ill., headquarters.

Brunswick’s recent formation of the Venture Group, which includes Bayliner, Heyday, Quicksilver and Uttern, is a similar exercise in merging functions for dissimilar brands. The Venture Group has consolidated sales, marketing and supply chains for the four brands to improve efficiencies. The design for all four will be handled by one team.

ABG will centralize designs for the seven brands in two locations. Behan said that new-product development and design for all aluminum fishing boats will take place at the Lund facility in New York Mills, Minn., while design for pontoons will occur at the Harris facility in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Rather than the brands operating individually, the new group splits the functions into two areas. “We’ve created a Shared Services operating group that includes a vice president of operations who will have responsibility for all the brands and plant managers, as well as finance, HR and other support functions,” Behan said. “They will be 100 percent focused on each plant to assure quality of production. The idea is to take what we’ve developed operationally and leverage that expertise across all the facilities.”

The other side is a more specialized “commercial” focus. “We’ll have presidents and general managers focused on product development, and they’ll have a clear strategy of each brand’s competitive positioning to make sure our products are completely aligned with consumers,” Behan said.

Behan will oversee Lowe, Harris, Crestliner, Cypress Cay and Thunder Jet, and will continue in his role as vice president of corporate strategy. Lund president Dirk Hyde will maintain commercial responsibility for that brand and assume responsibility for Princecraft, as well as oversee the centralized Shared Services group.

The company’s “approach to dealers” will not change, Behan said. “We’ll have a sales force for pontoons and salespeople dedicated to our other brands,” he said. “These folks on the commercial side of the organization will support our existing dealers, but they’ll also be working to find good fits for our brands in markets where we see opportunity and open space. Fundamentally, the dealers won’t be materially impacted by our organizational changes.”

Dividing the functions, Behan said, will allow the separate teams to give more attention to the individual brands and models, while operations will work to develop best practices across the production floors.

There were several reasons for basing the commercial operations in Brunswick’s headquarters. “We think it will create a critical mass where people can share ideas and concepts,” Behan said. “Also, Chicago is central to the aluminum markets we serve, so it is a good base.”

Princecraft is the only brand that will continue to operate on a standalone basis. “A lot of it is because it’s in Canada,” Behan said. “Much of their business is done up there. It will be the one exception in this new group.”


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