Volkl Builds New Factory: Company plans for expanded snowboarding presence

With 75 years’ experience building skis, and almost ten building snowboards, the German manufacturer Volkl decided it was time for a new snowboard and ski factory. Based in Straubing, Barvaria, the company is expecting its new state-of-the-art facility to increase quality and speed up development of new snowboard products.

According to VolklMarketing Director Reto Furrer, the factory will have a board production capacity of 150,000 units and will produce models for Völkl, Rad Air, Santa Cruz, Marker, and Nitro.

The new plant will replace the current snowboard and ski production facilities, and combines these two within one building using one production process. “Much of the machinery is taken from the current factory because most of our machinery is state of the art. The new plant will also receive a completely new and modern production line for producing boards and skis that are synthetically laminated.”

Construction has started and should be finished by November. Production will be moved over from then until February of 1999, and the company plans on having it up, running, and ready to show off to media and VIPs by March or April.

The old plant will be converted to a distribution center and will handle shipments within Europe and to the world, decreasing delivery times.

According to Furrer, the new factory will give the company several advantages in building better boards. Quality issues will be improved by featuring a better, more modern layout and by utilizing new machinery, he says. But the overall process won’t drastically change.

“Our production methods, in principle, remain the same,” he says. “Those methods still rely on working by hand in areas that machinery would create too much deviation. Volklstandards, such as our woodcore, our various constructions, as well as our materials, will remain the same. In principle, the new factory mainly gives us a cleaner way to produce and develop our products.”

The new plant will also act as an R&D center with greatly improved capabilities for testing and will feature new prototyping machinery for boards, skis, and tennis rackets.

“We’re trying to improve our R&D potential by combining much of the board plant with the ski plant,” he says. “The know-how of our ski division in snow products is quite extensive, and we have people who have worked for us for decades.”

With the new factory, there will also be a continued emphasis on the snowboard brand. Furrer says the boards have created more image and earned more respect for the brand than they thought. “We have hit our sell-in goals and are now focusing on a good sell-out of the boards,” he says. “We will be continuing to penetrate the market with a strong product statement. It’s our commitment to produce boards that perform better than what’s on the market.”

He says Völkl’s skis and tennis rackets feature technologies that, while not necessarily visible to the customer, definitely improve the performance of the product. With this idea, the boards will be demoed extensively around the world. “Volklhas traditionally been a product that is successfully sold after being tested,” he says. “This applies to the skis, rackets, or boards.”

And with the new program, the snowboard company will not be afraid to admit it’s part of a 75-year-old ski maker, produced and engineered in Germany. “We feel that the German factor may not be cool and hip, yet it’s an important factor in the quality and performance of our products-and it’s the simple truth.”

For its first line of boards, the company drew on the old ski graphics to attempt to leverage this idea. “The Renntiger and Zebra boards with retro ski graphics are an expression of that statement. Yes, we build and have always built skis,” he says.

The company also plans on expanding its marketing through an expanded team. So far, Volklriders have won the overall ISF world championship, the overall FIS halfpipe title, and set a new world speed record oof 196 km/h on the Renntiger board.

With all these accomplishments, there’s a good chance that the company will be regarded not just as a crossover ski brand, but as a first-rate snowboard line in the very near future.