Marine News from the Great Lakes

Harris Pontoons: Leading the Industry in Environmentally Friendly Boat Production

Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Harris has long been recognized as an industry leader in the marine market, not just for quality pontoons, but also for the builder’s commitment to innovation. Now, the company that has long set standards for the marine industry to follow is setting their sights on a new goal: to lead the industry in environmentally friendly boat production.

The initiative is off to an impressive start by reducing landfill waste of wood, paper, plastic, and foam by as much as 25% in the first year. To achieve this goal, Harris brought together a multi-departmental team representing all aspects of production.

"The Harris sustainability committee has taken the initiative to identify waste streams, quantify the opportunity within each stream, and deploy sustainable processes to drive out waste," explains Harris President Steve Langlais.

Aaron Martin, EHS Manager and team lead on the project, adds, "We’re not only pioneering sustainability within Brunswick Boat Group but we have aspirations of becoming the industry leader for sustainability in the pontoon market."

Using principles based in lean manufacturing methodology, team members looked at every step of the boat building process. The goal was to change company culture by educating employees on the process, offering positive reinforcement, and encouraging employees to make note not only of areas of waste, but also offer suggestions for improvement.

Examples are numerous. Rather than dispose of wooden pallets, part suppliers were asked to take them back for reuse. When a Harris automation engineer reviewed aluminum waste, new cutting patterns were designed to yield more usable material and less scrap from each sheet, reducing CNC engineered scrap per sheet by 80% on some components and allowing more parts to be produced in less time.

Major capital improvements also paid dividends. A new air compressor system to power the factory’s equipment and tools replaced an older water-cooled system, saving nearly 10 million gallons of water — the equivalent of nearly 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools — per year.

 As a boat owner, you may be wondering what you can do to lessen your own environmental impact. A first step could be as simple as keeping a trash can aboard your boat — and urge all passengers to use it. In addition to preventing litter, a trash receptacle will also protect wildlife by keeping items like fishing line, plastic bags, or six-pack drink rings out of the water. Next, try and recycle everything possible. Plastic and aluminum bottles and cans are obvious, but don’t forget to recycle used motor oil, batteries at the end of their lifespan, even used shrink-wrap.

When it comes time to fuel up, avoid spills. Cloths that absorb fuel and oil — but not water — can be purchased at marine supply stores. Keeping your engine in tune will also ensure top performance, save fuel, and lessen potential emissions.

You may also want to consider the cleaning products you use. Numerous environmentally friendly commercial cleaning products are now on the market. You can also make your own... and save money in the process. Equal parts vinegar and water make an excellent all-purpose cleaning spray. Baking soda, vinegar, and a small amount of dish soap can be combined to form a non-toxic paste for stubborn stains.

To prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species, properly clean your vessel and engine before you leave the boat ramp. Check your boat and trailer for invasive plants and animals, noting common catching points like the license plate, trailer bunks, and prop. Feel pontoon or hull surfaces for the sandpapery feel of zebra mussels, which must be killed with hot water before being removed by a brush or pressure washer. Clean away plant species from all surfaces, including anchors and gear that went in the water. Drain all water compartments, including live wells and bilge. Finally, try to allow enough time for your boat, trailer, and equipment to dry completely before entering a new body of water.

If everyone does their part, we can all make a difference… and allow future generations to enjoy boating for years to come.



This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Environmental Impact, History


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