I always look forward to the METSTRADE Breakfast Briefing keynote speaker. Each year, a leading name in the industry provides invaluable insight and much to think about on the eve of the show. This year Hervé Gastinel, Group CEO of the €1.28bn turnover international boatbuilder, Groupe Beneteau, chose as his central theme the need for companies to innovate not just in product development, but also in service and manufacturing efficiency.
There were many things about Hervé’s presentation that I made a note of. The concept, for example, that boatbuilders should adopt the common platform and localised production approach of the automotive industry to improve manufacturing industry.
However, the biggest point for me was just how far down the road Groupe Beneteau already appears to be with adopting autonomous technologies to make the boat safer, easier to operate and more reliable. I recently blogged about the drive toward autonomy – and I wrote that in future tense. It seems the future is today.
Like a number of manufacturers now, Groupe Beneteau has chosen in collaboration with several of its key suppliers to develop a centralised control platform, in its case called Ship Control. It works on multi-function displays, or wireless tablets and places all of the key functions of the boat in one place. Given the strong drive towards this kind of technology, it seems that something we would have called ‘smart’ a year ago is becoming ‘normal’.
Groupe Beneteau’s list of desired new norms, driven by customer expectation, also includes anti-collision functionality, self-docking and predicted maintenance.
The latter point is fascinating, through its potential for driving a more regular flow of business into the service network. Proactive maintenance is so much more easily dealt with than reactive fixing of things that break. It is much less emotional too if a precious holiday or short break would otherwise be at risk.
Hervé asserts that the industry has to move much faster in services. He also believes that, far from being scared of digital transformation, the industry should embrace it completely as a means of reaching new audiences and engaging with them.
Groupe Beneteau has recently launched a flurry of online services, including its Band of Brothers portal that offers everything from new and used boat sales and associated ownership services, to boat rental opportunities for the growing pay and play market. This website was recognised alongside Brunswick EMEA’s Quicksilver Rental Platform at last night’s Boat Builder Awards. Sites such as these could prove critical in months and years ahead as we seek to engage with the next generation of boat users.
These big changes of course are not exclusive to Groupe Beneteau. I met this morning with Kyle Davison, Riviera Australia’s Supply, Planning & Production Director. “I saw a photograph of a boat dashboard that we produced eight years ago,” he recalled. “Just like other builders at the time, it looked like something from the 1980s. Now we have fully integrated screens offering a lot of assistance to owners.”