It’s funny how things come about. Greg Pickren first launched SBT, Inc (Short Block Technologies, incorporated) in 1997, building the company in to the largest supplier of aftermarket jet ski parts in the world. To facilitate a large base of product, accessories and customer’s needs, Pickren launched Watercraft Superstore (WCSS) to accompany SBT in providing everything a PWC enthusiast could need to keep their ski and themselves on the water as much as possible. Shortly after the launch of WCSS, it became apparent that they would need to create their own brand of high quality traction mats and seat covers, birthing Blacktip Jetsports. These proceedings all helped to rise the tide and elevate the other companies, but something was still left on the table.
Blacktip Jetsports began reaching further into the realm of top-of-the-line quality CNC-cut mats, researching superior materials and processes to develop their traction mats. Soon, the brand found itself exploring into various applications and uses of their Elite Series of mats. Pickren and John Salvatore, the then General Manager for Watercraft Superstore came upon a larger idea: What if we offered traction mat kits for larger, recreational boats? The idea had merit, as BlackTip Jetsports’ unique soft, closed cell EVA decking provided a logical replacement to most brands’ carpeted decking. Salvatore explained to The Watercraft Journal, “We saw the opportunity and need in the marine market for another decking supplier.” Yet, it wouldn’t be until the idea was hatched for a proprietary snap-in traction mat kits.
Above: Between two ends of manufacturing is the warehouse stocked with both bare, unlaminated sheets of EVA foam, and finished and ready-to-ship decking kits.
Above: Although its Snap It Series mats are what put Marine Mat on the map, they also offer traditional adhesive-backed kits for swim platforms.
Immediately, a new company was formed, Marine Mat, and went to work creating a whole new product for the boating and marine industry. “We’ll be two-years-old in January,” Salvatore continued. Within that short time frame, the newly launched company secured contracts with several manufacturers’ products (including Yamaha jet boats, Orion coolers, Cobalt Boats, Crownline Boats, Hurricane deck boats, Rinker, Scarab, Wellcraft, Fourwinns, Glastron, Seafox, SeaPro, Statement Marine, Midnight Express and quite a few more. “I think we’re over 30 OEMs in total,” he laughed. Currently, Marine Mat is working closely with brands’ art directors and designers to craft stellar, and artfully designed patterns for their latest products. So while your new jet boat might not say “Marine Mat” on it, if its wearing snap-in traction mats you’ll know where they came from.
What makes Marine Mat a superior choice for OEMs is hinged on two key components. As Salvatore explains, its pretty simple: “MarineMat has built our business by introducing our patent-pending Snap It Series removable mats – along with traditional stick down mats. In addition, we have prided ourselves on having the absolutely best customer service and shortest lead times of anyone in our industry.” Turnaround and wait times are nearly non-existent with Marine Mat’s new state-of-the-art facility dedicated specifically to the brand’s development, manufacture and distribution of their Snap It Series mats. Housed within a modest 20,000 square foot building, Marine Mat is staffed by an ever-increasing team that has more than quadrupled in size in its 2 years, from 5 to over 40 and growing.
Above left: Two of the five CNC machines are known as “long deck” machines which can “pendulum” between processes; allowing a worker to set up material on one end while the computer cuts a pattern at the other. Above right: Three other traditional CNCs work non-stop from 7am-to-11pm between two swing shifts of workers 5 days a week.
Above left: “We’re essentially killing this boat on purpose,” John Salvatore joked. “We leave it outside, uncovered all the time just to see what kind of beating our kits can take.” Above center: Other more scientific methods are also being used to stress test Marine Mat’s materials, such as this Xenon Test Chamber, which can recreate a myriad of conditions, from extreme to zero humidity, extreme heat to bitter cold, and anywhere in between. Above right: Marine Mat’s conference center.
“We maintain production two shifts (running from 7am-to-11pm) 5 days a week. This keeps our seven CNC machines in constant operation,” Salvatore explained. “Two of the five CNC machines in the front of the building are double the size – what we call ‘long deck’ machines – that work in ‘pendulum processing’, meaning a worker can set up material to be cut at one end of the table, while the other side is cutting. This means no down time.”
What struck us during our tour was how many Marine Mat employees (and the rest of the SBT, Inc. companies, for that matter) are married, related, or longtime personal friends to each other. When asked regarding this unusual business tactic, Salvatore beamed, stating, “We encourage our employees to refer friends and family. We have many long term employees that have even had their kids and even grandkids come to work for our group of companies. Even though Marine Mat is a new company, we handpicked our core management team from a group of proven long term employees from the Pickren family of companies.”
This familiarity among employees mirrors the family of companies, as they’re all strongly tied one to another, a policy that only adds to the company’s trajectory. “We plan to continue to introduce our innovative products to the marine market both at an OEM level as well as aftermarket,” Salvatore concluded. A plan which we no doubt believe is already in action.
“We maintain production two shifts (running from 7am-to-11pm) 5 days a week. This keeps our seven CNC machines in constant operation,”
What are the machines doing from 11pm to 7am and what are they doing the other two days of the week? Yoga?