The new plant at Scout Boats’ South Carolina campus is up and running, and has already cranked out a prototype of the new 530 LXF, which won’t officially debut until the Miami International Boat Show in February.
The new facility, Plant D, was designed to build the largest boats in the Scout fleet — the the 420 LXF, the new 530 and the future model that will be between 42 and 53 feet. But perhaps the most unique thing about the facility is that it’s designed to involve customers in the build process, showing them every single option at a venue where they can touch and see them in person.
“We actually designed that facility to be visited and toured regularly,” Scout Boats founder Steve Potts told Trade Only. “We have a design room, and have half-models with all the different color options we offer on painted hulls. We have one of the biggest spray booths outside of Boeing.”
The whole concept was to bridge the gap between what a production company does and a custom or semi-custom builder does, said Potts.
“Custom companies will build a boat the way you want it, and production companies are usually a little more rigid and don’t want to venture off the course,” said Potts. “There’s benefits to both. So we encourage customers to come to our facilities, so they can finalize their boat as they spec it out. We’ve developed a little bit of a following with people that we’ve built these 38s and 42s for.”
The information flows in both directions at the facility. The company also likes to ask long-term Scout owners their thoughts about boats in the early design phases — part of why the 530 LXF was announced in Miami two years before it would debut.
“We did that to say, this is our design, give us some feedback,” said Potts. “Yeah, if there are clever ideas, you can have that pirated, there’s no question. But the upside far outweighs that concern. The model we actually showed in February 2017 has been revised twice based on feedback.”
Potts says his son, also Steve Potts, has been the product development “brainchild,” and the goal is always to create something that doesn’t exist. Some of that is achieved through that collaboration.
“We’ve always felt, we will be a better company listening to the wants and wishes of customers,” said Potts. “It’s certainly not a democracy, but we do listen to people, and when we hear something frequently enough, we do it — and there’s some odd things.”
Longtime Scout owner Jerry Wardlaw said being in such close contact during the building of his 380, and later his 420, and now another new 420, is part of his draw to Scout Boats.
"I’ve seen their new factory that they’re going to build the 42s and 53s in — to see the capital outlay to see what it took to build that building, you see, those guys are committed,” said Wardlaw.
Wardlaw also has been active in the design process of the 530, visiting the facility regularly to see its progress — he has already test-driven the prototype.
“From my observation it takes a long time to take a boat from drawing board on the back of a napkin, to production, and the bigger the boat, the longer it takes,” said Wardlaw. “I think Scout realized when they got into that big of a boat that they had to have yacht quality, and I think that’s what they’ve got.”