Close Attention to Detail
It would be easy to say that the last line drawn in the sand is quality control, but in reality, good builders employ quality control techniques at every step of the boatbuilding process.
Regal’s David Burroughs says it starts when a boat is still “in the barrel.” Checks are made of materials and consistency, followed by audits of weight and gelcoat thickness once hulls and decks are released from the mold. Random checks follow throughout the assembly process. At every step of the build, a paper trail follows the boat. Regal even employs an in-house lab to test both its own and third-party parts.
However, Burroughs is not afraid to take the ultimate responsibility. “I’m not the only guy in quality in this building,” he says. “I’m just the enforcer.”
Burroughs notes that frequent quality checks allow problems to be caught early, while they’re still small. Still, some issues often aren’t apparent until the inspector can view the boat on a grander scale. That’s why Burroughs always views the boats as they exit the factory doors, and immediately sends back any potential problems. Any mistake, from a stripped screw head to upholstery stripes that don’t match from cushion to cushion, are flagged for repair.
Once a week, quality control teams meet with engineering and customer service to go over warranty claims. Even a onetime complaint is put on their radar screen. “To me it’s a very personal job,” Burroughs says. “I try to make it as perfect as I can for the customer.”
Part of the quest for perfection includes putting boats in the water. Both Regal and Cobalt water-test every larger model. Regal also water-tests one in five runabouts; Cobalt puts smaller boats in a test tank. First-year products get an even more thorough once-over, as techs try to dial in which prop to use and proper gear ratios to achieve optimum speed and acceleration and minimum bow rise.
“Everything is pretested and recorded,” says Cobalt product technician Rick Shadduck, who estimates he’s water-tested one boat a day since 1989. “It’s kind of like a pre-break-in period. We make sure everything is all right on the boat, make sure things are hooked up right, that it shifts right, steers well, and that there are no fluid, water or fuel leaks.”