Conversation with Nautor Swan’s people

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Navigating tradition and innovation

Benny Brännbacka, COO and General Affairs di Nautor OY (in Finland)

Benny, you have been part of Nautor since 2003, belonging to the 3rd generation of boatbuilders at Nautor Swan. How did your career start within the company?

Starting as a summer worker during engineering studies, I gained insight into yacht building and teamwork across departments. My interest in Swan began with family stories, inspiring my career. I learned that yacht building requires meticulous planning and teamwork for perfection.

You’ve rotated through different departments at Nautor. What are the most important changes in boatbuilding over the years?

Technology has revolutionized processes, from computer-aided design to pre-manufacturing components like furniture and systems. This saves time, improves quality, and enhances worker safety, especially in composite material lamination.

What has changed and remained consistent in the building of a Swan today?

Touch points like quality, elegance, reliability, and performance remain fundamental, with increased control and quality checks at each production stage. Adapting to technology and market demands while preserving Swan’s DNA is key.

With your family’s extensive experience, how do you discuss Nautor’s changes?

We often discuss Nautor, blending work and personal life. For instance, my father contributes to production tasks when needed. Attention to detail is emphasized across all aspects of life.

How do young and old generations cooperate at Nautor? How does age affect their way of working?

Age doesn’t determine success in collaboration; experienced team members like Mats Snellman provide invaluable mentorship. Listening, assisting, and fostering pride in learning are key, bridging any age gap with positivity and teamwork.

Deep knowledge, experience, craftsmanship and technological innovation

At the time of the interview, important changes in boatbuilding and operational challenges were discussed with Michelangelo Casadei, who was the Group Chief Technical and Operations Officer [N.B. he doesn’t work for the company anymore]. He elaborated on the stages of operational excellence and more during our conversation.

Michelangelo Casadei, Group Chief Technical and Operations Officer: the stages of operational excellence.

Michelangelo, your experience and knowledge in the yachting industry, spanning both power and sailing yachts, are impressive. What are the challenges ahead in achieving operational excellence?

Many of the challenges we face today in our industry are shared across various yards, offering potential synergies, although market requirements and customer orientation remain specific between power and sailing.

Adding features and contents to yachts to enhance guest comfort without compromising performance and seaworthiness is a primary challenge. Another challenge is improving quality and customer satisfaction compared to products from more industrialized sectors like luxury cars or technology gadgets. Additionally, there is a focus on introducing green and sustainable solutions in both building and usage of yachts while ensuring long-term business sustainability in terms of costs and investments.

How do you and your team work with the stages and tools of the industrialization process to achieve operational excellence with every model?

To address these challenges, we combine deep knowledge, experience, and craftsmanship with technological innovation in design, materials, systems, and components. Adopting a stage-and-gate product development process and lean industrialization is crucial, including rigorous measurement and validation throughout conception to sea trials.

Can you explain the process from naval architecture and exterior/interior design to the seaworthiness of every Swan yacht? What are the touch points of building a Swan?

The process begins with identifying product targets like elegance, reliability, and performance to form the concept. Collaboration between architects, designers, and engineers ensures a robust concept validated for style, weight, feasibility, and costs. Suppliers play a vital role with specific contributions, fostering proven partnerships and a modular approach across the range. Innovation is key to accommodate new features or stretch targets. Close coordination between Engineering and Production ensures efficient tooling and assembly, with strict quality control gates and extensive testing before launch.

What defines a Swan?

People are fundamental, with a focus on skills, organization, and communication. Continuous improvement of tools and methods leverages company know-how, timely information access, attention to detail, and a sustainable approach, ensuring Swan’s distinct quality and appeal.

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