DAMEN MARINE COMPONENTS FURTHER INCREASES PROPELLER NOZZLE OUTPUT
01 April 2010
Director Steef Staal of Damen Marine Components in Hardinxveld-Giessendam would be the last to deny that his company too is affected by the economic recession. 'It would be foolish to say otherwise'. But it could be worse. A new course was set out in time. In the good times, a buffer was created for less favourable times.
'In a cyclic market such as the shipping trade you can see the meagre years come', Staal explains. The necessary funds have been reserved for investments in product innovation, further improving efficiency and developing new applications and production methods. The customer benefits from this in terms of price-quality ratio. In addition, new niche markets have been successfully explored and accessed, with the nozzles, known in the various shipping sectors across the globe , as driving force.
Annual sales of around 700 nozzles - with inner diameters ranging from 500 mm to more than seven metres - and other shipbuilding equipment in the field of propulsion and manoeuvring have led to an order intake for the first three months of this year that exceeds expectations. Orders include those generated through a further deepening and expansion of the international market, on which DMC operates as part of Damen Shipyards Group.
'Our operations become more and more intercontinental', concludes director Staal from behind his desk in the modest Damen Marine Components head office, which can be found in Hardinxveld-Giessendam. It is home to the marketing and sales departments, as well as the design and engineering units. In addition, the location at Nijverheidsstraat also accommodates the necessary production facilities. But most DMC construction work is carried out at ultramodern production locations in Poland (Gdansk) and China (Suzhou), under Dutch supervision. Staal: 'In addition to personal supervision, modern means of communication make remote management a practical reality. Sound and vision are used in the daily contact that is maintained.'
Both plants were recently expanded with new industrial units. In addition, substantial investments have been made in a further upgrading of the production methods (welding robots, etcetera). All this has been prompted by the current trend of rising wage costs, also in the traditionally 'low-wage countries'. This can be compensated by further improving efficiency. A further expansion of the location in China is (once again) in the pipeline, with machinery in Suzhou now having reached state of the art status.
That latter qualification applies to all products supplied by Damen Marine Components. The engineering unit is continuously engaged with the further development of products that have already been tried and tested in practice, such as the Optima nozzles. Marketed under the name of Van de Giesen Optima, this product is a household name across the globe and in shipping sectors varying from inland navigation to short sea shipping and from the (push) towing industry to ultramodern dredgers and anything in-between.
The latest developments in the field of nozzles are the Optima 0,4 D, developed especially for short sea shipping, which links speed to a further improvement in performance - and the Optima 0,6D, aimed at e.g. the push towing industry. This nozzle links an increase in power to improved performance. Both nozzles have been developed in-house. Tests carried out by the world famous hydraulic laboratory Marin in Wageningen and a large number of trial runs have produced reliable data as well as a wealth of practical experience. In this case, the combination of theory and practice has led to a successful product which has meanwhile proved to be selling worldwide.
In addition, elaborating on the success, a new variant to the Optima nozzle has been developed: the Optispec. This involves a rotating nozzle with attached rudder blade which can rotate around the fixed rudder, travelling a certain distance in port and starboard directions. The Optispec is particularly intended for ships not suited for normal rudder systems and propellers, for example self-navigating cutter suction dredgers. An important advantage of the Optispec is that the underwater ship hardly takes up any space, as a result of which the maximum potential of cubic metres loading capacity can be utilised. Furthermore, the Optispec is fully compatible with conventional rudders. This is not a revolutionary development in its own right, but the Optispec sets itself apart as it can be applied suspending freely, without pivot.
Patent to new construction method
During the past years, in addition to product innovation, DMC engineers have also been engaged in the innovation of production methods. This has produced a partnership with a European machine engineer, which has led to the design and construction of the prototype of a new machine, which makes the construction of a nozzle faster and less labour intensive, regardless of diameter, but also to a reduction in the number of welding operations and a lighter end product.
'This production method is at the same time highly competitive in price', says director Staal. 'Our customers can only do well because of this.' Next year, the innovating machinery including additional trimmings will be subjected to the toughest tests conceivable. The construction method has meanwhile been patented by DMC. The new machine, representing an investment worth millions, is planned to become operational at the DMC company in Poland in 2011.