Boatbuilders have always had to innovate to keep up with consumer trends, but for decades this did not come with a rapidly changing learning curve. Now, with the digital revolution, change is constant — 3-D printing, Bluetooth connectivity, new composites. In sound systems alone, the market evolves so quickly it can be dizzying.
Anne Dunbar, director of the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference, which will take place at the Tampa (Fla.) Convention Center Sept. 30-Oct. 2, says that’s what makes the show indispensable. “Technology’s changing, and that’s what IBEX is there for. That’s why it exists,” Dunbar says. “We revise it to meet the needs of the new marine industry, and we bring in experiences from outside the industry. We’re showcasing new technology, new innovations, new materials. It’s all about the show being so valuable that people can’t afford not to attend.”
Some of the features this year are collaborative — for example, a boat wired from helm to stern, with every piece and component controlled by an iPad, Dunbar says. Participants include Mastervolt and Simrad, as well as the National Marine Electronics Association.
There will be an engine diagnostics seminar using scan tools and engine data, says John Adey, president of the American Boat and Yacht Council. That facet of repair is becoming increasingly prevalent as technology crosses over from the auto industry, in part because of environmental regulations.
“It’s a really neat environment to see what is coming to market,” says Jack Springer, CEO of Malibu Boats.
Another opportunity that has Adey excited is “The Legal Cs,” an open seminar that gives confereees an opportunity to ask legal questions of Carrie Plater, of Reed Smith, and Christina Paul, of K&L Gates. He got the idea from the London Boat Show, where he noticed scores of people standing in line to speak with lawyers. “I don’t think there’s ever been a session like this at IBEX,” Adey says. “It’s more of a private setting [than a roomful of people], and at no charge you can go ask anything you like. That will be going on throughout the show. It’s in a private room, you’ve got 20 or 30 minutes to ask whatever you want, and it’s free.”
Louisville to Tampa
The show is being held for the first time in Tampa, kicking off a plan to rotate venues every other year between Florida and Louisville, Ky. Next year’s event will be in Kentucky, and in 2016 the show returns to Tampa. For those traveling from overseas, the more direct location is a relief. It also helps Florida’s large marine contingent.
Although Louisville is more convenient for Sweetwater, Tenn.-based Bryant Boats employees, CEO John Dorton says IBEX can’t be missed. “We’ll always go to IBEX, regardless of where it is,” Dorton says. “Location may have some impact on the number of people we bring, but I suspect that happens the other way, as well, where Florida builders bring fewer people to Louisville. I’ll go along quietly wherever it is.”
Dorton says he’s happy with the organizers’ decision to rotate the show rather than make a permanent move. Tampa is exciting to him because it will feature for the first time in-water demos. “I think the in-water component is going to be good so we can get a better firsthand experience of how products and components, or featured items, will perform in a real-world environment.”
In addition to new-product demos, the in-water portion will feature seminars on topics such as electrical diagnostics and corrosion, Adey says. A class limit of 20 people will be on board to meter and diagnose corrosion. “That’s one of the nice parts about that venue,” Adey says.
Kevin Ritz, an ABYC instructor who lost a son to electrical shock drowning in 1992, will conduct that session. Ritz has made it his life’s mission to prevent such tragedies in the future through his safeelectricity.org. “He’s letting marina owners know this diagnostic tool is out there for them to use,” Adey says. “He tells the story with every class he teaches.”
Overall, IBEX 2014 seems to be unfolding with a different feel, Adey says. “The IBEX team has rethought some things this year. Anne [Dunbar] and her team are doing a phenomenal job, and there are some new things that are really exciting,” he says. “They’re doing things a little differently and giving us more control. Hopefully we don’t let them down. We’re enjoying working with them.”
Bobby Knight, one of the winningest coaches in the history of college basketball, will be the keynote speaker. Knight will deliver a motivational speech on “Winning” at the annual industry breakfast Sept. 30 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.
Knight won 902 NCAA Division I games, the most at the time of his retirement and third behind his former player, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. He led the Indiana Hoosiers to three NCAA championships, one National Invitational Tournament championship and 11 Big Ten Conference championships in his nearly 30 years at Indiana (1971-2000). He also coached at Texas Tech from 2001-2008 and at Army from 1965-71. He boasts a 98 percent graduation rate among players.
After Knight’s speech, National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich will deliver the state of the industry address, followed by the IBEX Innovation Awards, the NMMA Hall of Fame Award, the Exhibitor Video Awards and the Boating Industry Movers & Shakers Award. The NMMA helps produce IBEX.
It’s not just floating docks and basketball celebrities that are bringing a new dynamic. New attractions at this year’s event include:
The Super Sessions — More in-depth, full-day sessions are being offered by experts in their field.
“These sessions are an exceptional educational opportunity for all levels of the marine industry,” Dunbar says.
The sessions are:
• ABBRA Marine Equipment Operator Training and Certification Forklift and Straddlelift Safety Courses
• ABBRA Boatyard Study Tour
• Composites Consulting Group: Building VIP Boats — A Comprehensive Overview of Vacuum Infusion for Marine Applications
• Composites One: I’ve Made the Decision to Convert to Closed Molding, Now What?
• NMEA 2000: Saving Time, Money and Resources with a Connected Boat from the Factory
• SNAME Designing and Testing for Stability: Applying the Newest Standards to Powerboat Designs
• West System Inc.: Fiberglass Boat Repair.
The IBEX 3D Digital Workshop — Hands-on access to experts and machines is being offered on all three days of IBEX. Dunbar says the workshop is a must for boatbuilding design and engineering teams or anyone interested in learning about new technologies. “This is a new opportunity for manufacturers that the marine industry needs to understand,” she says.
For example, if a builder wants to modify a hull shape, by using small 3-D printers (the size of a typical office printer) the builder can create a precise prototype. “The precision is amazing, and it’s a desktop now. You used to have to go to China to get this, and go through a long supply chain. Now you can do it right in-house,” Dunbar says.
Robert McNeel & Associates, McNeel Miami and DRS Technologies are hosting the 3-D Digital Workshop. Advanced Marine Technology Center will offer a hands-on digital fabrication shop at the Tampa Convention Center. The shop will offer live demonstrations on an assortment of 3-D printing and scanning technologies applicable to the marine industry and will be open all three days of the show. Experts on these tools, who can consult with attendees about their specific needs and applications, will staff it.
Marine professionals are encouraged to bring parts or a computer model to share with the team of experts and let them help solve problems in design, manufacturing, repair and quality. In addition, Booth 2315 will display 3-D printers, 3-D scanners, laser scanners, CNC machines and more, Dunbar says.
The Connected Boat — This is a new interactive display demonstrating how vessel subsystems can be interconnected using existing network technologies. Supported technologies will include analog sensors, CAN bus, RS232, NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wireless 802.1 b/g/n, Wi-Fi, Mi-Fi, cellular, satellite and global Internet.
The Connected Boat display will demonstrate how all of these systems can work together to provide operator access to vessel information on board and from shore. Internet gateways can now link vessels for global remote access and monitoring, using consumer devices. The display will be ongoing in the exhibit hall during all three days of IBEX.
“It’s a showcase of live marine products and systems integrated from helm to stern, showcasing real-world systems using real-world solutions,” Dunbar says. “Think about how integrated our cars are becoming. Boats must keep up with consumer demand. Everyone wants more and more connectivity, and this includes on the water.”
Material Connexion — The world’s largest resource for advanced, innovative and sustainable materials, the exhibit’s aim is to introduce processes that can help companies source advanced materials to enhance the performance, aesthetics and sustainability of their projects.
“It’s the largest library of advanced materials in the world, and it’s going to be in the center of the room,” Dunbar says. Companies such as Nike and other huge enterprises go to this source to find out “what’s new and cool,” she says. “What that display does is give everyone an opportunity to touch new materials. Imagine as a boatbuilder being able to describe a particular challenge you can’t seem to overcome and being able to ask, ‘What materials do you suggest?’ or ‘What do you have that might be able to solve that?’ This is stuff that’s crazy cool.”
Getting deals done
Attendance at last year’s show equaled that of 2012, with 4,700 participants and attendees at the events, both of which took place in Louisville. But Dammrich said at the time that the “most striking” aspect was all of the business that took place at the show. “Many high-level marine professionals — boatbuilders, engineers, designers, composite professionals and others — were networking and making deals,” he says.
Springer says that’s why Malibu sends a team to IBEX each year. “We send product design team members” and those in charge of procurement, he says. “We use that venue to have discussions about exclusivity, which is really important to us. We talk to our suppliers at IBEX, but we want most to be exclusive to Malibu, at least for a certain period of time, and we are able to command that. Our existing suppliers take the opportunity to go over scorecards.”
“We are so excited about Tampa. It’s going to be a great show. But it’s about the show, not about the location,” Dunbar says. “The most successful boatbuilders are the ones taking advantage of all these advances. The smart ones are all doing that. Doing it the old-fashioned way isn’t cutting it anymore because there are just new and more efficient ways of doing things. That’s what IBEX is about.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue.