Damen Song Cam Shipyard leads the way in production efficiency
Damen Song Cam – the story of Damen’s Vietnamese joint venture shipyard is quite a remarkable one. First of all, just take a look at the sheer speed with which it has reached its intended production capacity. The first tugs left the yard in 2014, and now, in 2017, it is able to produce 40 tugs per year. Secondly, the yard’s production portfolio allows it to have a crystal clear focus on efficiency.
“The first Damen vessels built in Vietnam were with Damen Technical Cooperation at Song Cam Shipyard back in 2003,” begins Chris Groninger, Managing Director at Damen Song Cam Shipyard. “This was a great cooperation that continued with that yard fabricating more and more vessels for us.” As the relationship between Damen and Song Cam Shipyard grew, the two companies started planning a joint venture together; one for a new dedicated outfitting yard. “We got the green light to build the new yard – to be called Damen Song Cam Shipyard – in 2013. It is 70% owned by Damen and 30% by Song Cam Shipyard.”
On one line
The rapid growth of vessel production figures speak for themselves: five tugs built in 2014, fifteen tugs in 2015 and 32 in 2016. “We are ready to build 40 tugs in 2017, but obviously this depends on how many orders come in.”
The organisation of production is distinctly divided between the two yards: “Song Cam fabricates the hulls – including all of the hot works,” he explains. “And Damen Song Cam completes the outfittting, systems installation and commissioning. The cooperation between the two yards is on one line. We are constantly fi ne-tuning – pushing ourselves to be more efficient – in order to reduce lead times. At the moment we can complete an entire vessel in just over a year, but it is our aim to get this down to 10 months.”
Such high and fast production levels can be attributed to the fact that Damen Song Cam is more of a production facility than a traditional shipyard. “Most yards have to be flexible, building different vessels at different times. However, we are in the heart of Damen’s standardisation strategy, building multiple examples of just five or six vessel designs to European quality standards. Because we don’t see each vessel as an individual project, but more of a construction conveyor belt, it makes the process very efficient.”
This move from a project focus to a product focused organisation can be seen in the yard’s work process. “Our method is that we bring the work to the boat,” states Mr Groninger, referring to dedicated work platforms that are positioned adjacent to the tugs at various levels. “These platforms contain everything – the stores, the tools, small fitting workshops for piping, steel and carpentry and the foreman’s office. Logistics and human ergonomics are both optimised.”
Extending beyond the vessel construction phases, the yard’s primary goal of efficiency improvement is always close at hand. For a Vietnamese yard with a large customer base in the Atlantic Ocean region, vessel delivery is definitely a subject that can be bettered.
Because delivering one vessel at a time would lead to spiralling transport costs, Damen uses a multiple vessel delivery strategy to transport several vessels in a single shipment. Sometimes more than 20 vessels are transported simultaneously.
“This concept is coordinated with multiple Damen yards. A single heavy lift vessel picks up the finished vessels – tugs, pontoons, crew suppliers, for instance – from our yards in China, Singapore and here in Vietnam. This considerably reduces the transport costs per vessel.”
With Damen Song Cam Shipyard up and running with a potential construction capacity of 40 tugs per year, how does Mr Groninger see the yard developing in the future? “In our position as extension of Damen’s worldwide organisation, we want visitors to the yard to really understand the Damen feeling. We also will continue to be a preferred production location for tugs – producing top quality vessels in the most efficient way at competitive prices,” he says. “And, looking further in the future, it is, of course, our dream to become the world’s biggest tugboat factory.”