From Concept to Reality

How Cox Powertrain brought its breakthrough diesel outboard to production
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Cox Powertrain spent nearly two years setting up the production lines for its 300-hp diesel outboard.

Cox Powertrain spent nearly two years setting up the production lines for its 300-hp diesel outboard.

Cox Powertrain is now in serial production with the CXO300, which it markets as a new generation in diesel technology. The U.K.-based company achieved Tier 3 approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in June, and in September, U.S. dealers started to receive shipments of the first production units. Florida-based distributor Ring Power has since completed the first installation with a twin setup on an Intrepid 345 Nomad.

Tim Routsis, former CEO of Formula 1 engine supplier Cosworth — whose background is in engine development in global automotive, aerospace and marine markets — leads Cox, which has a worldwide network of 35 distributors and 400 dealers. Operations director Jerry Attridge, who joined the company in September 2018, is also a key figure behind Cox’s ramp-up to market. Attridge has worked in manufacturing and engineering for more than three decades, primarily in the aerospace and marine markets. He held a string of senior management positions, including roles as operations director at Acro Aircraft Seating, Oceanair Marine and De La Rue holographics.

The CX0300 has been in production for five months.

The CX0300 has been in production for five months.

With the CX0300 five months into production, Attridge talked to Soundings Trade Only about the challenges the company faced in getting a high-powered diesel outboard into mass production, setting up its manufacturing facility, its “no fault forward” manufacturing philosophy, and focusing on excellence in manufacturing and after-sales service.

How long did it take to set up the production facilities?

It took almost two years. However, in that time we had two major engine design iterations with subsequent production line modifications. We also needed to significantly increase the electrical power available on-site, and had to deal with all the planning implications of connecting an underground power cable to a substation almost a mile away.

What systems were put in place, and what are the line’s most innovative features?

The concept of our production line is “no fault forward.” That means that wherever possible, the production line has been designed to remove the possibility of an assembly error. Each phase has been created so there is only one way the engine can be assembled. In addition, the inline inspections are equipped with cameras and gauges to check and double check that everything is correct prior to the assembly being allowed to move on to the next work station.

What aspects of the engine made it difficult to produce, and which aspects did QM Systems assist with?

The CXO300 is a complex engine, so it was never going to be easy to build. Our manufacturing engineers have worked in close collaboration with our system design engineers to ensure that we have achieved a sound technical design that is able to be manufactured. QM Systems are just one of a number of key suppliers we engaged to deliver segments of our manufacturing facility. They worked with our manufacturing engineers to design and develop the cylinder head line, engine line and gearbox production lines. Other key suppliers supported us with the engine test cells, gearbox spin rig, lift assists, DC tooling, as well as our manufacturing execution system.

Operations director Jerry Attridge has an extensive 
background in engineering and manufacturing.

Operations director Jerry Attridge has an extensive background in engineering and manufacturing.

What issues did you face while setting up the purchase and supply chain?

We have a global supply chain consisting of over 70 suppliers, delivering in excess of 750 parts. Many of these already supply into the automotive sector. It’s a difficult balance to achieve technological advancements while maintaining high-quality products and achieving value for money. It has been a challenge to accomplish this, especially when we are perceived as a startup business. Our dedicated purchasing team has done and continues to do a sterling job.

Was it difficult to find the right employees?

We held an on-site recruitment day last year, which was very well attended. It gave us a good opportunity to provide potential employees with a flavor of the roles that were available, as well as a glimpse of the working environment. We conducted mini 10-minute interviews to match candidates against our values and from there created a short list. During the subsequent weeks, full interviews were held, and as a consequence, we successfully appointed a full production team of 21 people, including 19 technicians and two supervisors.

What skills were you looking for, and how many production staff did you employ?

We were looking for energetic, driven and enthusiastic assembly builders with strong attention to detail and an ability to complete work accurately and thoroughly. Initially, we employed around 30 people on a single shift. Soon, we intend on running a second shift, which may double this figure to keep pace with our sales.

The company says it will produce 160 outboards a month, eventually increasing that to 240 units.

The company says it will produce 160 outboards a month, eventually increasing that to 240 units.

How many engines will be produced each month?

After our initial ramp-up phase, we will be producing 160 outboards per month. This will increase to around 240 outboards per month. Initially, we are running the engine production five days per week for eight hours a day. After Christmas, we will be running two shifts.

Why is after-sales service so important to your company?

After-sales is one of the three pillars upon which we have built our business model. The whole reason the outboard market has taken over boat propulsion is a result of ease of service and overhaul. Therefore, it is essential that our after-sales service matches the standard of our product, and our customers will only be happy if they can confidently use the engine to go out to sea reliably. We have put in place stringent customer service milestones throughout our service network, offering a quicker service and more pleasant experience.

Cox held a recruitment day to staff the production team, which comprises 19 technicians and two supervisors.

Cox held a recruitment day to staff the production team, which comprises 19 technicians and two supervisors.

What promises are you making in terms of the speed of repair worldwide?

We want to exceed the level of service offered by our competitors, so we’ve put in place a stringent dealer rating scheme — from bronze to platinum — with the highest of the four levels operating as Cox centers of excellence. We are also in the process of developing an app to make the servicing experience as easy as possible for our customers.

Platinum dealers are required to have at least three Cox-trained mechanics as part of a well-established service team with decades of experience. They must offer 24/7 customer support and carry all necessary equipment, tooling and parts to overhaul a modern common-rail diesel. They will also be able to fix any issues on the tightest of timelines and deliver Cox’s engine-substitution program if necessary.

Why did it take so long to get the CXO300 into production.

This is a groundbreaking product, and we only get one chance to make a first impression, so it was critical that we tested and verified every part of the outboard design, supply chain and production line functionality. We ensured that everything was at the most impeccable standard before letting the engine roll off the production line and be shipped to our customers. 

This article was originally published in the November 2020 issue.

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