• A Factory Tour of The Iconic Bob's Machine Shop

    Scream And Fly Tours Bob's Machine Shop

    In every sport, there are icons. These icons will always epitomize the very essence of what makes every sport great, and the excitement its fans and participants feel universally. These icons represent both the people and the machines; and when it comes to performance boating, the boats themselves are nearly as unique as the people that pilot them.

    Almost everybody that shares a passion for outboard performance boats knows Bobís Machine Shop; a company with products so ubiquitous among performance boats of all types, that the association of Bobís Machine Shop and fast outboards is nearly universal.

    Last month I had the chance to meet with the Pelini family, owners of Bobís Machine Shop, for a tour of their facility in Tampa, Florida. This was an especially exciting experience for me, since I am quite familiar with the history of this legendary company.

    The moment I stepped into the 25,000 sq.ft. facility, I had to stop to take everything in; Itís massive in every sense of the word, with giant CNC machines lined up, one after the other, actively milling products. It was almost reminiscent of that scene in The Terminator; suddenly, I stepped into another world, surrounded by robotic machines in motion, all hard at work with elegant precision. BMS makes use of ten CNC mills of varying types, as well as a multitude of hydraulic presses, welding stations, and lathes. There is no outsourcing - it all happens right here; from raw billet aluminum to final assembly and finishing.

    Rob Pelini performs final assembly and inspection of jack plate components

    Bobís Machine Shop was founded in 1978 by Bob Icenogle as a relatively small performance shop offering performance accessories for outboard-powered runabouts. 1978 was a pivotal time for performance outboarders; the V6 engines from both Mercury and OMC were just introduced, and boat manufacturers were quickly developing models to take advantage of the dramatic power increases these new engines afforded.

    One of several CNC machines running concurrently in the manufacture of many different products

    It was a great time for performance boaters, and Mercury and OMC were locking horns in the horsepower race to see how much power could be squeezed out of a V6 outboard reliably. Bobís Machine Shop came in at the right time to ride this wave of new performance engines, and the two products offered by BMS that most influenced the performance potential of these fast, lightweight boats was the jack plate and lower-water pickup nosecone. Few can argue that these two items are absolute prerequisites in almost all high-performance applications, which holds true to this day. There are currently 57 models of jack plates offered by BMS, and development of new models is always underway to meet the demands of the latest and most powerful engines.

    BMS' catalog of products continued to expand into more accessories that brought higher levels of performance and safety to the growing segment of high-speed outboard-powered runabouts. Crucial components such as solid engine mounts and performance-enhancing upgrades including stabilizer plates, reed valves, and exhaust products. And now with the explosion of bass boating popularity and bass tournaments, Bob's Machine is offering products to fit the needs of this very important market segment.

    Newly-machined jack plate components await assembly

    In 2003, Bob sold BMS to the Pelini family, with Greg Pelini president and his sons Steven, Rob, and Mark running all key positions of the business ranging from project manager, senior engineer, marketing, and customer service. The business saw a rapid and comprehensive expansion under the stewardship of the Pelinis, with manufacturing capabilities dramatically enhanced with the addition of computer-controlled multi-pallet and live-axis lathes, as well as numerous types of CNC machines. And while BMS manufactures their products in Florida, international orders are reaching 20% of total sales, with dealers in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America.

    The legendary Bob's Machine nosecones, factory-installed and ready for action

    BMS manufactures over three-hundred products, and over fifty models of jack plates alone. Bobís Machine practically invented the jack plate, and most of us are very familiar with their classic manual-series and hydraulic jack plates. And while these proven designs are still in production, BMS has a rigorous and comprehensive development program, working to design products to suit the needs of Barker, Seven Marine, Nor-Tech, and many other boats for every conceivable application. With the highly-specialized and super-powerful engines available now, the products to support these applications must be engineered specifically for them. The incredible Seven Marine 557-horsepower outboard engine - the largest and most powerful in the world - cannot be mounted to a standard BIA-pattern jack plate. The 557 uses a much wider engine bracket, and BMS is the only company in the world that manufactures a jack plate to handle this engineís size and incredible power.

    Nearly all aspects of production are performed right here, and the workmanship is stellar

    Among the new jack plates are the Action-Series hydraulic units, which are the fastest-traversing jack plate in the industry. The Action-Series units feature a pump assembly that is completely enclosed within the jack plate, eliminating outside rigging or electronic equipment. The Action-Series can handle up to an impressive 300-horsepower, and is one of the latest and most popular jack plates, since this design takes up no space inside the boat, and is nearly as discrete as a manual unit.

    I walked past the CNC machines busily milling parts to the assembly area, where I was able to closely observe BMS technicians working through all phases of the assembly and finishing of jack plates and other products. In a time where it is all too common to assume that nearly all companies outsource at least some facets of their manufacturing, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that American manufacturing and quality are very important to BMS, and the Pelini family is very proud of that. In fact, nearly every single product in the BMS catalog is designed, engineered, and manufactured in their Tampa facility. If ĎAmerican-madeí is an important prerequisite for you in the products you buy (as it is for me), then BMS should stand at the top of your buying list when it comes time to rig or upgrade your boat.

    BMS offers the most incredible custom finishes imaginable, from carbon fiber to heavy metal girls!

    And while most of us will always associate Bobís Machine Shop with performance boating products, Steven Pelini conceptualized and implemented a new division to the company - Bobís Auto Sports. Bobís Auto Sports is a new development, but itís growing rapidly. BAS develops and manufactures suspension upgrades for Chevrolet, Ford, and Mopar applications. I had the chance to check out some of the new products from BAS, fresh off the mills and they are billet aluminum works of art. Iím most excited to see this part of the company grow, because having witnessed their manufacturing prowess, I can see great things forthcoming with this new venture.

    As I made my way through the finishing areas, I was able to see some of the custom finishes that are on order from customers. You can have a Bobís Machine jack plate finished in nearly any color or style you want - even carbon fiber. If you want your jack plate to match the color of your boat, no problem. The finishes I saw ranged from bright colors to insane styles carbon fiber and even concept art. As far as I am aware, BMS is the only facility offering this level of customization to their products.

    BMS employs ten CNC mills of varying types -If they can think it, they can build it

    I had a lot to think about during my tour of BMS, and in addition to learning so much about all facets of the composition of this legendary company, what impressed me the most was the hands-on approach that the Pelinis take to all aspects of manufacturing. This is not a situation where the owners sit in their offices, far removed from the manufacturing floor - at any time of the day you will find them working alongside their employees, in all departments. Itís impressive to see this level of hands-on devotion to the quality of their products.

    The new Action-Series jack plates offers a completely integrated pump assembly

    Going in, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to experience, but the reality was far more gratifying. Bobís Machine Shop is proudly American, and that sure does make me feel good to see. Itís also very important to me, not just because I am a strong supporter of buying American-made goods whenever possible, but because of the accessibility of this company to its customers - even right here on Scream And Fly. BMSí strong relationship with their customers and aggressive and constant research and development into new and innovative boating products places this company within a scope that few other companies occupy.

    Additional Photos - Click to enlarge

    Related Information:

    Bob's Machine Shop
    4314 Raleigh Street
    Tampa, FL 33619

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. MeCapnDave's Avatar
      MeCapnDave -
      Thanks for the great article on an iconic marine company. Bob's isn't the only company that makes a jack plate for the Seven Marine Power System. Scott Porta (Porta Products Inc ) builds a bracket for the Seven Marine Outboard as well, for Single, Dual and Multiple Outboards. Thanks again for the Great artcile
    1. Jimboat's Avatar
      Jimboat -
      Great article, great pictures, Greg!
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