Princess Yachts displays its craftsmanship at boat shows

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes
Metalworker Paul Stanbury is shown cutting tubing for a Princess Yachts installation. Stanbury spends time at British high schools mentoring future workers during four-year apprenticeships and educates boat show visitors about the amount of handcrafted work the British builder does.

Metalworker Paul Stanbury is shown cutting tubing for a Princess Yachts installation. Stanbury spends time at British high schools mentoring future workers during four-year apprenticeships and educates boat show visitors about the amount of handcrafted work the British builder does.

Princess Yachts is showcasing its handcrafted furniture, metalwork and other materials at boat shows by bringing some of the artisans to explain what goes into each painstakingly made piece.

The company is renewing its emphasis on its Plymouth, U.K.-based workers, who craft the boats’ cabinets, plates, linens and more.

More than 80 percent of Princess Yachts are constructed and crafted in Plymouth, prompting the company to launch an “Inside Princess” video and social media campaign to help get the word out to customers. The series focuses on the mould shop, the loom shop, the metal shop and the woodworking shop.

At Yachts Miami Beach in February a metalworking artisan and a woodworking artisan stood inside a massive booth with samples of their work, as well as brochures — ready to answer questions about the handcrafted pieces on each boat.

“This is the third show we’ve ever done with this process,” metalworker Paul Stanbury told Trade Only Today.

“The customers are really impressed to see how the components are made on our boats in the U.K. We have over 2,050 staff and a 64-man team in the metal shop, and any one of them could make a handrail or grab handle,” Stanbury said, gesturing to a table of stainless steel items.

As a piece of that renewed effort, the company opted to create “pop-up workshops” replicating the factory areas of the shipyard; visitors were able to watch and interact with Princess artisans from the furniture shop and the metal shop.

Several milled around, admiring Stanbury’s work and that of his colleague, Martyn Hamley, a craftsman in the wood shop. Hamley has been with Princess Yachts for 22 years, and he is one of 80 people who work in the wood shop. The company was founded in 1965.

More than 80 percent of Princess Yachts are built in the shipyard in Plymouth, England.

More than 80 percent of Princess Yachts are built in the shipyard in Plymouth, England.

Though Princess Yachts has had some of the same challenges as U.S. manufacturers in attracting skilled labor, retention has been less of an issue, said Hamley.

A shift to a four-day workweek has been “well received on so many levels. People ask how we retain people so long,” he said. “We’re well paid. We work in good conditions, and Princess is always updating products, so there’s always something new. We’re not just doing the same thing every day.”

Princess also is offering four-year apprenticeships for some of the craft work that occurs at the plant. Stanbury and Hamley train two a year after students spend a year at Plymouth City College.

Read more about Princess Yachts, the craftsmen and women at the plant and how they tackle the issue of attracting and retaining a skilled workforce in the May issue of Soundings Trade Only.

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