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The Winds of November at Arctic Cat


(11/21/2016)

Arctic Cat manufacturing plant in Thief River Falls. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I had the great privilege to spend a day at Arctic Cat in TRF earlier this week, where people were fired up about an impending snow storm coming to Minnesota and a winter that was about to begin in earnest.

One day is woefully short for trying to accomplish a few work projects AND see as many as the people I'd hoped, but there was still a lot to see and do despite the limited time.

 

ArcticInsider.com at Arctic Cat in TRF Nov. 2017.

Wednesday was a special day for Jane Schwab. Not only did she turn 50 years young, she also got a nicely decorated office when she arrived at work, complete with ample bubble-wrap on and around everything.

 

Arctic Cat engineers Ryan Hayes, Donn Eide and Greg Spaulding. Photo: ArcticInsider.com

Getting to spend an hour with engineers (L-to-R) Ryan Hayes, Donn Eide and Greg Spaulding talking about engines was a highlight of the trip. These guys are so crankin' smart that it makes me dizzy and grateful that they're here.

Lots of talk this session about the St. Cloud engine facility, the success of the Arctic Cat 6000 Series engine as well as plans for the future. All great stuff!

 

2017 Arctic Cat HCR models on the assembly line. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I jammed down to the manufacturing area after meeting with the engine guys. Beautiful, new 2017 M 8000 HCR models were flowing down the snowmobile production line. Going to be an awesome Christmas for some people!

 

Arctic Cat manufacturing plant in Thief River Falls under construction. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

As I walked towards what is normally the side-by-side production line, I came upon a scene that stopped me in my tracks with an audible "Whoa!"

All of the production line apparatus was gone!

The reason: a new production line is being built that utilizes computer-driven carts to carry inventory to each workstation. The line teardown began in October and is expected to take about three months to complete.

It's part of the significant capital improvements that are (and have been) occurring here, and that will make Arctic Cat an even better company in the future.

 

Arctic Cat Wildcat on the assembly line in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

With the normal side-by-side assembly line down, Arctic Cat has shifted production of those machines to the line that typically produces ATVs. There, Wildcat Trail models were coming together and rolling off the line.

 

New paint line at Arctic Cat in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

No extra time to shoot more cool stuff from the factory floor, other than this quick shot of snowmobile tunnels drying after they came out of the all-new paint line. Look for a story on the paint line here in the not-too-distant future.

 

Lunch at Dee's, er, Biff's in TRF with Wes Selby and Roger Skime.

Needing the outstanding nourishment that only Dee's (now called Biff's) can provide, I joined engineers Wes Selby (L) and Roger Skime for lunch, where I devoured a roast beef sandwich and mashed potatoes in record time.

Topics for this meal included cool stuff that Wes is going to do to his Open class cross-country sled to defend his USXC high point title from last year; the upcoming snow bike class of racing in ISOC and at the X Games; a new church that's being built in TRF; the low price that ranchers are getting for their cattle; possible options for riding the snow that was being forecasted for Minnesota on Friday; and the price of tea in China.

 

Arctic Cat's Roger Skime and Wes Selby. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After lunch, Roger told the story of why the bumper on his truck has a few dings. Might have had something to do with a trailer that wasn't properly attached...

 

Arctic Cat's Roger Skime studding a track. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

...back inside, Roger was studding a track. I've probably seen Roger a thousand times in my life, usually at snowmobile races, riding sleds or in the Engineering shop.

I'm sure he's studded 1000 tracks or more during his career, but (amazingly) this was the first time I've ever seen him doing it.

Wes Selby is dang lucky that his track was given Roger's magic touch, which radar guns have proven to show a 2-3 mph increase in top speed.

 

Arctic Cat ZR on the test track in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

I quick trip over to the Arctic Cat test track revealed a production 2017 ZR 9000 being put through its paces as part of regular validation process for their sleds. Whisper quiet, but moving along nicely, it was great to see.

 

Arctic Cat Wildcat X on the test track in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Arctic Cat Wildcat X on the test track in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Elsewhere on the track, a couple production Wildcat X models with the RG Pro suspension were also being tested.

 

Arctic Cat SVX 450 on the test track in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Arctic Cat SVX 450 on the test track in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Likewise, Wes Selby was putting laps on a SVX 450 as part of the ongoing development/testing of Arctic Cat's snow bike. Without snow, the ski needed to be replaced by a wheel, of course. What struck me was how smooth and controlled the machine rode on the dirt, around the corners and through the air.

 

Arctic Cat engineers Wes Selby, Roger Skime and Andy Beavis. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

After running his laps, Wes (left) went back into Engineering, where he gave feedback to Arctic Cat Mountain Product Team Manager Andy Beavis (R) and Roger Skime.

After listening to the smart, thoughtful dialogue that occurs between engineers who know product inside-and-out, it was time to grab a couple more pix before beginning my trip home.

 

Arctic Cat's "Duke" Johnson. photo by ArcticInsider.com

One pic I needed to get was of Gary "Duke" Johnson, an Arctic Cat field test engineer since 1970 and someone who likely has ridden more miles than pretty much anyone, anywhere.

I'm going to do a story on Duke in the next month or so, which should be pretty cool.

 

Arctic Cat Gift Shop in TRF. Photo by ArcticInsider.com

Time to head for home, but not without a quick stop in the Arctic Cat gift shop/company store. Christmas is coming!

Thanks for reading.



Comments (6):

Todd Ulschmid says:
11/21/2016 10:33:00 AM

Great way to start my Monday! Thanks John!
Steven F says:
11/21/2016 10:53:00 AM

Now that you spent so much time on your sled lineups and perfected them and let me tell you they look great and are great when are we going to see some changes to the ATV side of things (Mud pro)
Thanks
Scott Watters says:
11/21/2016 11:22:00 AM

We must have just missed you John, we went up Thursday for the day and seen all of the sights inside and out. Yes that new powder coat line was amazing to see and all of the capital improvements that they are making inside compliments of BRP........I don't think people realize how fatal the Shark could still bite!
gbarchives 67-73 says:
11/21/2016 2:38:00 PM

I really like the shot of the HCR's on the line. Wow. Thanks.
Mike F says:
11/21/2016 5:21:00 PM

All I have to do is look at Wes and I start laughing....and don't fib John, you did your Christmas shopping at salvage....Lol!
Auggie says:
11/22/2016 10:51:00 AM

Yah, when we were racing Sno-X with my Grandson (Tom Rambow 611) Wes used to hang out in our trailer. Great guy. Hi Wes !

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