Repair yards indispensable for value retention of ships
The recipe for success of German repair yards is based on “quality, customer proximity and timeliness.” In its annual report 2016, German Shipbuilding and Ocean Industries Association (VSM) has come to this assessment. “I can endorse that” says Dirk Harms, Managing Director of Bremerhaven Dockgesellschaft Bredo and, together with Guido Försterling, head of the shipyards alliance German Dry Docks Group (GDD Group) happily. Only the official statistics term “repair shipyard” bothers him: „This sounds as if we eliminate dents and breakdown problems. But we can do so much more“. Also the order volume in the past year is indicative of a wider range of services than mere repairs. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the German repair and conversion specialists generated a total turnover of EUR 886 million despite difficult market conditions.
The term “repair yard” dates back to times when shipping companies such as Norddeutsche Lloyd in Bremerhaven set up a workshop for their own fleet. Modern companies such as the members of the GDD Group, however, do much more, according to the latest annual report of the VSM: “Permanent, secure, environmentally friendly and efficient shipping is therefore only possible if water vehicles are regularly serviced, repaired and adapted to the current state of the art through retrofitting.”
Specialists from more than 100 trades
No other vehicle is designed for such a long service life as a commercial ship, which as a newbuilding usually costs a double-digit million amount. “To maintain the value of such a complex system permanently is significantly more than a repair,” emphasized Harms. For him, this is also reflected in the diversity of qualifications that the employees in the shipyard alliance have. Within the network of partners, the GDD Group can draw on specialists from more than 100 trades.
In order to retain the expertise within the company, the companies of the GDD Group are working intensively on recruiting a new generation. “We leave nothing to chance, and we put emphasis on a good in-house training,” emphasizes Harms. The shipyard boss takes it easy, if the trainees, despite a job offer, want to switch to another company after the end of the apprenticeship: “Fortunately for us, that is quite rare.”
Repair 4.0 as a concrete program for the future
The requirements on the shipyards and thus also on their employees will grow steadily in the coming years. For Guido Försterling there is no question that the shipyards alliance will intensify its efforts to attend to their customers and be even more active internationally. An important keyword for him is the digitization of shipping and shipbuilding onshore along the lines of “Industry 4.0”. “For us at German Dry Docks, Repair 4.0 is already a specific program to organize our processes and internal procedures so that we can improve our services to the customer at short notice,” says Försterling.
Extended service for customers
In the foreseeable future, strategy 4.0 will also involve the customer directly. “We want to create a digital platform on which we work together with our customers and partners,” Försterling describes the goal. In just a few years, the shipyard will be able to relieve the owners of the entire process involving the value retention of a ship. The aim is to control the maintenance, repair and retrofitting of a vehicle directly from the shipyard and to organize this in such a way that travel interruptions are reduced to a minimum. GDD has already implemented one of the most important principles: “We don’t wait for the ships to come to us. Instead, we go where the ships are. ”
A similar service concept has been successfully practiced in aviation for some time. The engine manufacturer Rolls Royce takes care of the airlines’ entire maintenance, repair and overhaul of engines for a cost lump sum per flight hour. Within a few years, this branch of business has overtaken the importance of a newbuilding: the aviation division of British engine specialists now accounts for 52 percent of its total turnover, which in shipping is simply called “repair”. Within a few years this branch has overtaken the importance of the new build: The aviation division of British engine specialists now generates 52 percent of its total turnover with what is simply called “repair” in the shipping industry.