4 Jan 2021

New generation at Damen Marine Components

In focus:

Ben Littler

Big shoes to fill

When Mark Visser became managing director of Damen Marine Components (DMC) in October 2019, he had big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Steef Staal, spent his entire career – 46 years – at Damen.

“Steef was an institution,” says Mark. “He had been at DMC for years and had lots of success. People asked me how I planned on ‘replacing’ Steef. The way I see it, I am not Steef’s replacement, but his successor.”

A suite of shipbuilding components all under one roof

“Over the past few years, DMC has undergone a series of mergers. Van der Velden Marine Services merged with DMC in 2018. At the end of 2019, we merged with WK Hydraulics. Add the different locations for Damen Marine Components and, although we are now under one roof, we still have multiple company cultures.

Improving ship services

Mark has been focusing on how to align those different marine components cultures. The first step has been to define DMC’s purpose.

“To begin with we said ‘it’s 2025, what’s happened over the past five years at DMC?’ With that it became clear what our priorities were. The findings of this exercise enabled us to define our purpose. We realised that everything we do is aimed at improving vessel service. So, our purpose is the delivery of advanced components and integrated systems improving vessel performance and our service.”

Innovative marine components with excellence

DMC selected three areas to concentrate on over the coming three years; operational excellence, innovation in products & systems integration and professional service.

“Operational excellence starts with first customer contact and never stops,” Mark states. “Our focus here is on continuous improvement. We have to make sure all parts of the company align, all using the same systems and communicating and working together.

“We have a solid track record in innovation. Two decades ago, nozzles were made of several parts welded together. Damen Marine Components came up with a way to make them in one piece with a spinning machine. This was a breakthrough in quality and efficiency for shipbuilding components. After this, it took considerably less time to produce a much stronger nozzle.

“Recently, we developed the Firewall Isolator. A layer of protection sitting between the Cloud and components on a connected vessel, preventing hacking. DMC is able to innovate such things because of the integrated nature of our operations – we are not just making components, doing electronics, we cover the whole process. We have multiple disciplines, in-house, working together on such things.

“And finally, I think it’s reasonable to say that service is one of the best arguments for choosing DMC. We don’t only cover the warranty period, we provide a vessel service for the entire lifecycle of the product.”

The values by which Damen components are defined

“We have five values, chief of which is ‘customer first’. Another is ‘ownership & accountability’. Linked to this is ‘transparency’ – crucial if we want to align the cultures of the companies that form DMC. We are ‘professional’ and ‘passionate’ about what we do.”

Tracking progress in the production & distribution of ship components

Mark explains that DMC came up with twelve initiatives and targets that would measure progress. These were divided amongst management. One involves looking at which products are doing well or have potential and then focusing on these. Another involves more product standardisation.

“We need to analyse the portfolio and streamline the products, make them more standard. By setting a standard that covers everything from order to delivery, and freezing a design until there is a chance to make a progressed version, we can work towards continual improvement.”

Another important initiative is sales and operations planning. “If we want to be more efficient we need to be able to make accurate forecasts of what product we are going to need, in what volumes, at what times. It doesn’t need to be 100% accurate – if we have 70% accuracy we are already gaining.”

Planning is a focus, key to successful distribution of Damen components. “We want to get everyone using the same software. So in China they can see production capacity in Poland, engineering capacity in Germany, so we know how to scale up or down, and if there is a delay we can communicate it ASAP – applying our values of client focus, accountability, professionalism and transparency.”

Working as a team for the delivery of quality marine components

Another vital part of the initiatives is the human aspect. “We will be taking a critical look, making sure the right people are in the right roles, equipped with the right tools and training to do their jobs. It’s the only way we are going to have continuous improvement.”

Mark is clear what his role is. “We are a team. I am the coach. If we work as a team we have a bright future. Look how people have pulled together in the coronavirus situation. It gives me confidence; we have the team in place! Our people are willing and they are able to cope with a challenge.”