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METSTRADE 2018: Groupe Beneteau CEO outlines long-term plans for growth

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Groupe Beneteau CEO Herve Gastinel gave the keynote address at Metstrade, outlining plans for his company moving forward. Gastinel told the packed auditorium at the Amsterdam show that the Groupe has a broader definition of innovation than most companies.

“In most manufacturing sectors, innovation is treated as product innovation,” Gastinel said. “That might mean improving the naval architecture of a boat with foils, reducing exhaust emissions or experimenting with building materials.”

But the Groupe Beneteau CEO said he believes “innovation lies in the capacity of a manufacturer to provide a high-quality product with a similar high-quality service.”

“We think it’s continuously improving our customer’s experience no matter what their boating practices are,” Gastinel said, who joined Groupe Beneteau in 2015. His “Transform to Perform” initiative focuses on product development, service innovation and manufacturing transformation.

Gastinel said that the company has invested $70 to $90 million in new-product development over the last 10 years, even during the worst years of the downturn. “Since 2016, we have launched 88 new models out of our current 200-model lineup. Over 44 percent of our boats are less than three years old,” he said.

Digital connectivity across boats, “Easy Boating” technologies and sustainable practices in boating are three initiatives that Groupe Beneteau has been working on. Its “Ship Control” connectivity platform was launched last year, having involved 15 Beneteau engineers working on it for two years, in collaboration with suppliers.

The company is also working on hybrid systems for cleaner propulsion. The Groupe is looking at parallel hybrid systems over the next few years and fuel-cell technology for the long-term. It is also developing wind-power technologies for offshore vessels.

But the Groupe is also focusing on services. “Digital transformation has made many tasks easier and faster and our industry also has to move faster,” Gastinel said. “Innovation in services has been a second strategy for us.” He said programs like Leasy Boating, Sailtime, the Beneteau Boat Club and a partnership with Freedom Boat Clubs are all intended to provide options other than pure ownership. The company’s BandofBoats.com is also designed for sales, charter and is a community platform for boaters.

The manufacturing transformation will include more local production in Europe and the U.S. of the Groupe’s different brands. “Our target is to produce 50 percent of our manufacturing in Europe, 30 percent in North America and 20 percent in Asia Pacific,” said Gastinel. “We’ve initiated the transfers of production between Europe and the USA, and our French, Polish, Italian and American facilities are now rethinking our manufacturing strategies. They are in contact everyday with each other.”

Gastinel believes that the industry needs more standardization of common platforms for boats, similar to the automotive industry, to improve manufacturing efficiencies.

The Groupe has also launched a new program where employees and suppliers can “pitch” ideas directly to senior management about boat designs and other initiatives. 

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