Each month we go behind the scenes at some of the biggest factories in the world. This issue, the biggest of them all: Burton. We ducked the laser beams to gain entry to their R&D department, where we spoke to head guy Chris Doyle.
How much R&D gets done on the hill – as opposed to the office?
I would have to say 50-50. A lot of R&D is hardcore engineering and science, requiring specialized equipment and analysis. We use the very latest CAD design equipment and rapid prototyping machines to try as many different ideas as time allows. The RP machine allow us to “Grow” on-snow rideable parts, like baseplates and hibacks, overnight. But the proof is in the pudding as they say, so on-snow time is vital. We have teams of testers all over the globe so we’re always able to get the latest designs on snow no matter what time of the year.
Where is the Office?
Burton’s World HQ is in Burlington, Vermont, which houses most R&D, Engineering and lab testing. Our Board Prototype shop is across town at our Premier factory in South Burlington.
What makes it special?
So many things. But most noticeably the energy and passion for snowboarding that the Burton crew embody. It’s a high energy place where a lot goes on every day. And you just never know when you might have morning coffee with one of the best snowboarders in the world who’s in town to work on product.
Where do most of the factory team come from?
They come from all over the globe and from many different backgrounds.
How many people work there?
Hmmm… I dunno. A bunch. But I can say there’s at least 40 or so dogs that come faithfully to work every day.
Do you all ride? Is there a certain standard you’re expected to be at?
Yes, everyone in the place rides. ‘Employee ride day’ in the springtime is the day when bragging rights are established with the employee Halfpipe comp and rail session. These events are pretty hotly contested and I’ve learned that it’s no fun being a judge. You’ll never hear the end of it.
What does it take to get a job in your team? For instance do you need certain skills to make the boards or are you just trained on the job?
Certain positions require specialized training and experience for sure. But even with specialized training, everyone who comes to Burton experiences “OJT” to a certain degree.
What are the perks?
Well, there’s a bunch. But the biggest one for me is seeing people all over the globe using and enjoying what we make. It’s very satisfying. Living in Vermont and riding Stowe with my Burton season’s pass sure doesn’t suck either…!
What do you all do to let your hair down?
Well, it’s not too uptight to begin with, but lunches at the new skate ramp out back are great – and Jake and Donna throw a Fall Bash at their house that’s been known to get a bit nuts.
What stands you apart from the rest of the industry?
We’re passionate, dedicated snowboarders led by a passionate dedicated snowboarder. We have the best team of pro riders who push us to make products better because they’re always pushing themselves to be better. Like I always say when waxing boards in the middle of the night in a cold garage at a contest somewhere… it’s damn good work if you can get it.