Recently I took a trip to Minnesota to try out snowshoeing for the first time as part of my ACK Go Play Day, an initiative that encourages employees to experience the outdoors. Well, shortly after landing, it hit me that I would be nearby one of our biggest suppliers of kayak and canoe paddles, Bending Branches & Aqua-Bound! I have been working with Bending Branches quite a bit recently since they joined our Kayak Angler Tournament Series as a Patron Sponsor and knew that I couldn’t miss an opportunity to stop by. I made some last minute arrangements and found myself at their facilities the next day.
For those of you not familiar with the company, Bending Branches got their start in Minnesota in 1982 from a pair of canoeists who recognized a need for durable, high quality paddles. Their very first innovation, composite tip canoe paddles revolutionized the industry. Today, they’re found in nearby Osceola, Wisconsin just across the St. Croix River from where they got their start. All of their paddles are made on-site (with some molding work for shafts outsourced to a company just down the street) and they continue to be innovators of the industry with products like their popular Angler Kayak Paddles and their latest creation, the Aqua-Bound Posi-Lok ferrule.
I was very privileged to get a walk through the entire facilities from company president Ed Vater himself. We started in the offices where I was quickly reminded that as a retailer we are considered their customer and learned that there is a lot of effort put in to ensure our needs are met. It starts in the office, where retailers like ACK put in orders for specific paddles, and culminates on the shipping floor where we stopped next. Sure enough, we came across a stack of boxed paddles headed to the ACK warehouse!
What amazed me was how efficient they were at making just the right amount of paddles. To avoid having paddles sit in their warehouse, taking up space and potentially going un-purchased, their paddles are made to order. For example, when we decide at ACK that we need more Angler Ace paddles to offer at our stores and website, Bending Branches will take our order and have the paddles made – usually in the time frame of a single day!
To meet these deadlines, they have greatly streamlined the process of paddle manufacturing and it was hard not to be in awe as we walked through the attached factory where the magic happens. We learned about the intense quality control both of raw materials (like wood) and of products at various stages of manufacturing, laminate process for carbon shafts, ferrule & shaft assembly and even got to see some new, soon to be released products. Throughout the entire tour, their dedication to providing quality products while still keeping costs down for end-user was proven time and time again. Enjoy the photos below and be sure to check out our full line-up of Bending Branches and Aqua-Bound products at ACK.com!