Things are pretty Intense at the Polaris Plant In Roseau
By Scott A. Sumner
If you are an avid snowmobiler a dream many have is to see their favourite brand of sled being manufactors. We were fortunate to have a great tour of the Polaris manufacturing plant at Roseau MN recently and were very impressed with what we saw.
Your trip to the plant can incluide the route of travelling from Thunder Bay to Rainy River. Youy cross the border to Baudette and take Hwy 11 through Warroad an on to Roseau. It's a trip that can be made in under 6 hours.
Our tour guide was Clayton Brandt , a retired Polaris employee who has worked in masny areas of the huge plant beginning in 1965. The Polaris company was foundeerd in 1954 and has grown a tremendous amount to its current position of sales of 1.4 billion dollars and staff of 3000 including 1900 at the Roseau plant.
The Roseau plant has four lines +incvludin ATVs, snowmoblies and specialty products like th 6 wheel Ranger which was being built on one of the lines. Personal watercraft are built in and the executiove head quarters are in Minnapolis.
A very high pwercentage of the components are built by Polaris asa well as there are 70 mt0 80 suppliers who ship partsa ongoing to the assembly plabnt. Polaris recently began production of its own engines and has a new 15 million dollar plastics plant that produce hoods and other parts on the sleds.
The first thing you notice about the plant is it is very high tech. There are over 40 robotic welding systems in the plant which can d o the work of 6 people. The four lines are being reworked and two new set up will be continuos lines of over 500 feet in length which will asllow for more evffeiceincy This in in a neww addition of 68,000 square feet to the huge plant. One line will be for ATVs and the other snowmobiles. The 1900 employees seemed to be on a mission to make a great product and ther were fork lifts everywhere deliveing part to thje proper station. The emplyees earn about 32,000 ,per year on average with a bonus and share options making up bout 6000 of that.
Thger production tour started with the paint area which includes washing at high pressure and painting using several different methods. The goal is quality in the production ogf 800 t0 900 units including ATVs and snowmolbniles.
The production process has two levels with each snowmobile having a computerizes station following it with the correct parts needed to complete the sled. The parts can be forwarde by computer conterol to the correct lin and position.
The frame/tunnel is bent and then attachesd tto the bulk head to begin the process. The welding assembly runs three 8 hour shifts aas does the plasticl palnt while the asembly lines run one 8 hour shift. Snowmobile go through many stations of two people who each install varioyus compnent parts to the frame buiding the sled. We sa w2002 xc 600 on the line as well as Polaris Rangers.
There are some sub assembly lines such as tyhe suspension system. The engines are installed, seatrs skiss decals and every small detail of your Polaris snowmobile.
Through out the palnt are readoutas of how the line is progreesing and whwter you are behind or not. The sled comes off the line is tested and then created for shipment .
The plastics plant is the most high tech modern area of Polris. It is a 15 million plant which makes all types of plastic parts such as the snowmobile hood. Usig specially built molds that are made in Windsor Ontario the plastic material in a precise quantity is injected int ot the mold. The moldsa retake 3 to 4 monthers to make and cost about 300,000 each letting us know why changing hood designsa re frequent. Th eelaborate system includea a 2000 ton press with 1700 gallons of hydrualic fluid. The coloura of the material; are made with 95% white and 5% colour such as red to form a brilleint colour. The white plastic material is pumped in from a silo while red is brought out of large drums. The plant can make large quantities of the cplastic components on ATVs and snowmoboles for inventory before they re deliverd to the adjacent manufacturoinf facuilty for installatuion.
The polaris plant is very impressive. It is very computeruizes and organized to prioduce effeciencies of production. "the name of the game is to build a great product and to find ways of becoming more effecient" stares Claytion Brandt.
The palnt has seen tremendous growth in its product demand and looks forward to the future with exciting technologicasl advances to serve the recreational market.