Aqua Bound: A “Build to Order” Company

In the manufacturing world, there are two types of companies: Build to inventory and build to order. 20 years into our history, Aqua Bound switched from the build to inventory model to become a build to order company.

kayakers enjoying the water with Aqua Bound paddles

We build to order for each customer (photo courtesy of @adam_constantine)

We believed doing that would help us make the most efficient use of our time, our space and our budget. And it would ensure we continue to make paddles with precision and care, sticking to our high-quality standard with every order.

How is Build to Order Different?

The key difference between build to inventory and build to order is exactly what it sounds like: we don’t make our paddles in big batches that then sit on shelves waiting for customer orders.

Instead we get a customer order, then craft the paddle(s) for that order.

What are the Advantages of the Build to Order Model?

There are several advantages of being a build to order company:

  • We can take more care with each paddle we build. This is especially important with our high-end performance paddles that require a hands-on, detailed process.
  • There’s less waste in the production process when we only build what our customers order. We don’t have paddles sitting around that never get ordered.
  • There’s less waste in raw materials and components because we keep a close eye on customer demand.
  • It enables us to be extremely flexible in our manufacturing, which means we can pass on that savings to our customers.
  • Since we don’t have to focus on getting current inventory off the shelves, we can lean forward in continual product improvement and innovation.

Aqua Bound Tango kayak blade in production

A hand-crafted Tango kayak blade in production, in our Northern Lights design

As with any process, there are challenges as well. Ours came during the 2020/21 pandemic when orders went through the roof! People everywhere were getting outside in record numbers and looking for more ways to do that—including by kayaking, canoeing, packrafting and paddle boarding.

We leaned in fully to that challenge by hiring more employees, by adding more shifts, and by innovating and streamlining our processes where we could. When global supply chains were interrupted and stalled, we brought some processes in-house.

All in all, we believe this has made us a stronger company. We’re grateful that our customers have remained understanding and supportive through this season!

preparing kayak blades for the shaft

Prepping a pair of kayak blades for the shaft

What Build to Order Looks Like at Aqua Bound

Aqua Bound’s kayak, paddle board and canoe paddles are crafted at our Osceola, Wisconsin headquarters.

For our economy and mid-range paddles, we receive some of our components from outside the company and assemble them by hand for every order that comes in.

For our performance paddles like Whiskey and Tango, we dedicate sections of our Composite Line area for specific processes. For example, we have an area where we work with sheets of carbon fiber for our paddles with carbon shafts. We hand-roll them, using several layers of the fiber for each shaft.

We have an area where each Whiskey and Tango fiberglass blade is hand-made one by one. These blades start with two layers of silk fabric, then layers of fiberglass, then into our compression mold for shaping. It’s an intensive process that requires a high degree of care and detail to produce the right result with every blade.

In other areas of our Composite Line, each piece of each shaft gets the appropriate ferrule system. We assemble the blades to the shafts according to which paddle a customer has ordered. We put the finishing touches on each paddle, then get it out to the Shipping area to be sent to the customer.

kayak paddle shafts

Kayak paddle shafts waiting on the next step

Thanks for stepping inside our factory with us for a few minutes! We’re dedicated to continue to make a great paddle for each customer, and we’re dedicated to continue to improve our build to order processes to help us do that.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Content them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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