Industry focus: supply chain success

It’s often difficult for innovative smaller companies to stand out among larger more established firms and join the supply chains of larger boat builders. Rupert Holmes investigates the guiding principles that have led to supply chain success.

Marine lighting systems manufacturer Lumishore has grown quickly and now supplies top quality boat builders around the world. CEO Eifrion Evans, who has a background in aviation engineering, says: “We weren’t the first to operate in this space, but we brought innovative products – designed and built in house – to the market, and we have a great quality control system.”

He identifies four guiding principles that have been essential in Lumishore’s success: innovation, quality, reliability and integrity. 

Evans also says any big B2B customer will carry out extensive side-by-side testing alongside your competitors’ products. If your kit doesn’t live up to what your data sheets and marketing promise, it will be found out and your reputation will suffer.

Motor yacht builder Sunseeker has a wide and varied supply base, with 800 suppliers of everything from small washers to large composite structures such as hard tops. Supply chain director Matthew Francis says these companies must meet rigorous criteria and demonstrate a consistent track record. Increasingly it’s also important for them to have an ethical stance in relation to staff and to be developing more sustainable resourcing and working practices.

What about pricing? “Cost is of course a very important lever,” he says, “but it’s by no means the only one. Businesses must be able to able to supply on time, in full, and at top quality – we have to have confidence in the companies that we work with.”

At the same time, Francis says there is discretion to make judgment calls on potential suppliers that don’t have a long track record. This enables the company to work with promising start ups that have innovative products.

An important factor that’s often overlooked is consideration of how products will be handled by a prospective client’s production line.  Suppliers that take time to understand the minutia of a client’s production line, and even how to best package a product to speed up production line processes can make all the difference. 

To what extent does marketing to end users help? This varies from product to product and depends on application, however it has been key for antifoul developer Coppercoat’s expansion. 

“End users are the people who see the benefit of our products,” says Coppercoat director Jayson Kenny. “So we need to explain the advantages to them.” 

This is an important part of an approach that has seen Coppercoat grow from two people in the early 1990s to an international brand with 30 distributors across the globe today.  

“Sunseeker takes on new suppliers almost on a weekly basis,” says Francis, adding that when there’s a constraint in supply they will actively hunt out suitable partners.  

However, it’s difficult for smaller marine industry companies to stand out among the bombardment Sunseeker gets on a daily basis, “from firms hawking goods that
are of no interest”.

Francis says this means the best option is often meetings at boat shows, especially trade shows like METS, “where we can see what genuine marine industry companies are offering”. 

He also notes LinkedIn is a very powerful tool: “We see a lot of interesting marine industry businesses featured there that we follow up if they might be a good fit for us.”

While genuinely innovative, and problem-solving products should always rise to the top, experts agree that networking and a strong mixed strategy could create more potent inroads with clients and customers, particularly for the smaller and up-and-coming businesses across the marine sector. 

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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