Cheap Inflatable Boat Manufacturing
- Your Own Factory -
- Contract A Factory -
- Private Label -

Cheap inflatable boat manufacturing follows three basic approaches - set up your own factory - contract another factory to make your own boat design - or - order a boat designed and manufactured at a third party factory.

Setting up your own manufacturing plant

Many companies that are not cheap inflatable boat manufacturing companies design their own boats (and sometimes their own fabrics) and then manufacture their boats in their own manufacturing plant. Most of the high quality brands have traditionally done this.

This approach is used by many smaller manufacturers and most higher quality brands. By keeping their manufacturing "in-house" they are able to make changes to their product to meet customer feedback. Jack's Plastic Welding is a good example of this. They make high quality products all in their own factory.

With the low cost of labor in China, even these companies are now moving their manufacturing to China.

Sotar, an American whitewater raft company claims to make their boats "in-house", but there is evidence that they now use a factory in China as well.

Achilles, formerly made in Japan are made in China as of 2010. Possibly by the Weihai Noahyacht Company Ltd.

Some of these companies pack up their machinery, ship it to China and set up a new manufacturing plant there. I have been told one New Zealand brand (Aquapro) has done this with no reported decrease in quality of their product.

Of course once you have gone to all the trouble of setting up a manufacturing plant, you no doubt are open to making boats for other companies as well. I have been told that Titan, a Canadian brand is made in the Aquapro plant in China.

Contract Manufacturing (OEM)

A number of companies today, both large and small are having some or all of their cheap inflatable boat manufacturing done in China, but they are not setting up their own cheap inflatable boat manufacturing plant.

They are using contract manufacturing where they specify aspects of the final product. The boat design, the fabric, the glue and the accessories can all be specified by the company ordering the boats. The manufacturing plant essentially just assembles all the components.

As of 2009 Zodiac is offering a "Made in China" cheap inflatable boat. The Zodiac Zoom line of boats are hand glued PVC boats made in China. Their price is similar to the price of all the other entry level boat brands. I am guessing they are using a contract manufacturing arrangement for this line of boats.

Honda is probably using this model to create the Honwave boats. They tell me they have the fabric cut by a contractor in Germany, and then ship the cut pieces to "their factory" in China for assembly. I am trying to find out if "their factory" means they set it up and run it or if they contract that part too, they have not responded to my questions about this information yet.

Seabright Marine is using this approach with one or more manufacturers, Heifei of China, and Lankhorst-Taselaar of Holland, makers of Lodestar. I know they are customizing the fabric and accessories, but not the actual hull design.

Sotar, an American company specializing in white water rafts and catamarans is most likely using a contract manufacturing approach using Hwa Nan Plastics Mfgr Ind Ltd.. They have not answered my emails asking for more details about this arrangement.

Hwa Nan Plastics is a Taiwanese company with its manufacturing arm located guess where..... China!

Hwa Nan Plastics also manufactures Zebec boats, probably under a contract manufacturing arrangement, and Alaskan Outfitters boats, which could be either a contract manufacturing arrangement or simply an original design manufacturing arrangement.

We further confuse the story when a company contracts with one company for the design and production of their cheap inflatable boats, and then that company contracts out the cheap inflatable boat manufacturing. The middle man I would call a production company, not a manufacturer.

The Woosung IB Co. Ltd of Korea is the parent company of the Zebec brand and they produce Star, Tango, Flash, Sea Eagle, Aqua Dutch, and Walker Bay boats, and I am sure many others!

Further confusion arises from the fact that the cheap inflatable boat manufacturing plants may produce cheap inflatable boats of their own design sold under their own brand name.

As well, other brands may use this same factory without specifying anything about the final product. They simply use an original design manufacturing model, the cheapest fabrics, the cheapest glues and the minimum of extra features.

So beware, even if two brands you find are made in the same factory, they may be dramatically different boats with very different prices too.

Are you confused yet?...... Me too!

Original Design Manufacturing (white label or private label)

Companies that sell boats where they have little or no input into the cheap inflatable boat design or assembly are using an original design manufacturing approach, also called white label or private label products.

Some cheap inflatable boat manufacturing companies will offer their clients a list of choices so the client can choose what features or fabrics they want on the boat. I have noticed this is often called OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) - I wouldn't call it OEM when you simply choose from a selection of options. But alas, what do I know..... this is a common practice and it is often called OEM.

So the distinction between what is called contract manufacturing (OEM) and original design manufacturing (private label or white label) is very blurred!

These are the companies to be most careful of. They sell a cheap inflatable boat made in a factory where they have little input or control over the construction of the boat.

Sure they may select from a list of features and fabrics.

Sure they may visit the factory in China once or twice.

Do you think visiting a factory in China is the same as having constant day to day control over the quality of a manufactured product. I don't.

This is the fastest growing group of cheap inflatable boat "brands".

Some of these white label brands are small internet based companies. Some are large marine chandlerys and some set up distributorships through boating stores.

This is the group of brands you really want to be sure of the reputation of the distributor for handling warranty issues and customer concerns.

If you can, find out what manufacturing plant the cheap inflatable boat comes from, - if it is a factory that makes other reputable brands you will probably have a better boat, but if two different boats are made in the same factory and have very different prices, you may want to take a closer look at why.... there is probably a reason.

You can guarantee that other boats made in the Noahyacht factory will be much cheaper than the Achilles boats..... but will they be as good?...... there are many factors to consider!

If you are interested in a list of inflatable boat factories in China click here.

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