Home' Ausmarine : March 2011 Contents Producing high quality at a fair price
and never delivering late are among the
core principles that continue to drive
leading New Zealand aluminium vessel
crafting firm, Q-West Boat Builders.
Established in 1994 and currently
employing 32 people in facilities on the
banks of the Whanganui River, the
company quickly grasped that winning the
business of leading industry operators
meant matching and exceeding their
standards, explains Q-West general
manager Colin Mitchell:
"World-class companies like Whale
Watch Kaikoura, which have ordered four
boats from Q-West over the past 11 years,
are a very good example for this type of
high-achieving business," he says.
"It is quite common to hear other boat
builders being two to four months or more
late. For any commercial operator involved
in fishing, tourism and passenger transport,
this is totally unacceptable. They need the
confidence you, as the boat builder, are
going to be able to deliver on time."
Implementing the competitive
manufacturing process -- albeit from a
"restrained" approach -- has been one of
the contributors to the company's "proven
system", says Colin.
"Some may say that's not how it's done,
but over the past few years we have made
significant gains in production, staff
communication and stock reduction. There
good about what we have achieved."
Q-West is also a leader on the
technological front, being one of only a
handful of yards in New Zealand and
Australia to build large vessels to mill-finish.
"Removing the cost of painting
aluminium boats and reducing the
maintenance costs are what some
commercial operators are looking for.
Doing this well with complicated shapes
and reducing plate deformation is tricky.
"Being a newbuild builder means you
inevitably end up installing the latest
engine or electronic system that has hit the
market. As you would expect, this can
present problems if not handled well. We
work very closely with our suppliers to
bring these items to market and provide
feedback for future installations. We also
are challenged to find and develop new
methods to build our vessels -- ever striving
While professionalism is at the
company's core, Colin says Q-West as a
group also prides itself on being "easy
going and approachable".
"It's no secret that without the people
here, we would not be successful. Myles
[Fothergill, Q-West managing director] and
I work hard at providing an enjoyable and
supportive working environment and I
think we are doing a good job, given the
staff retention figures.
"Training is another major focus and we
are involved in new initiatives to train
school leavers for industry."
The company's achievements were
markedly acknowledged at last year's
Massey University Wanganui Business
Awards, where it was named the Supreme
Winner 2010 as well as taking out the
Management Excellence, Primary Industry
Manufacturing and Export Excellence and
ACC Workplace Safety awards.
Located off the lower west coast of New
Zealand's North Island, Q-West's yard
includes three construction halls capable of
housing up to 35-metre vessels, a modern
machine shop including brake press, test
equipment for hydraulics and electronic
welding and computer aided design
capabilities. It also has mig welding
(including pulse technology) and tig
welding facilities, four five-tonne overhead
gantry cranes and a 150-tonne slipway
facility which can slip vessels directly into
the main construction hall.
From an initial focus predominantly on
fishing boats, passenger ferries and tourist
craft, the company has progressively
evolved into a "truly diverse" boat
building company, which Colin Mitchell
says was imperative to surviving in the
small local market.
A relationship developed with Teknicraft
Design, for example, has seen Q-West to
date construct over 40 foil-assisted
catamarans, mainly for the tourism and
passenger boat sector. The company has
also built vessels for many different
applications and countries such as
Australia, Bahrain, the United Arab
Emirates, Samoa, Fiji and the United States.
Asked if there has been one particular
"crème de la crème" project, Colin says that
"nearly every vessel has something special".
"There are many vessels that I would
say we consider outstanding -- Whale
Watch Kaikoura's four vessels, Pine
Harbour Ferries' four boats, the Police
patrol vessels, the gas platform access
vessel for Taranaki and Meridian Energy's
crew transfer vessel. Being custom-built
dictates that the vessels have some
additional feature that is not standard.
"The Port of Tauranga pilot vessel was
another such craft. Q-West and the design
team worked closely with the port to
identify what was important to them in
relation to performance, the cabin
environment and how the vessel will be
operated and maintained. We have built a
vessel that meets our clients' needs -- in
many cases exceeds them -- and in doing
so I believe set the standard for future
New Zealand pilot boats."
Colin Mitchell says Q-West also ensures
it participates in a "greater number" of
tenders and at the time of writing the firm
was working on four vessels.
"... a cray fishing boat being constructed
for a past client, a 17.5-metre passenger
vessel for an Auckland ferry company, again
a past client, a 24-metre tourist vessel for
Lake Manapouri designed by Incat Crowther
Design and a 16.5-metre pollution control
vessel for Darling Harbour in Sydney
designed by One2three Marine Design.
"This year will be our busiest year ever,
in terms of man hours.
"Our refit business is an area we are going
to develop further. Q-West can slip vessels
directly into a 35-metre shed. We can
therefore do refits without any weather
delays -- painting can be done in a controlled
environment and we have extensive support
from local suppliers and contractors.
"I also see our staff numbers increasing
to cope with the upcoming work. We've
hired some very good engineers and
recently a new operations manager who is a
former NASA propulsion engineer."
For further information contact:
Q-West Boat Builders, New Zealand.
PH: +64 06 344 3572,
Q-West-built 'Arataki', reviewed in Ausmarine,
'Lady Elizabeth IV' was reviewed in Ausmarine,
FOCUS ON NEW ZEALAND
AUSMARINE March 2011 25
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