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Showboats International - January 2006 - Nine In Twelve

Written by Mark T. Masciarotte

The system is so sophisticated that it will not allow an employee to collect a part from the storeroom before the boat is ready to accept it for installation.

In addition, the company instituted an incentive program for its employees that rewards them financially for meeting production goals and for providing ideas that help the company become more profitable. The system (see SBI May 2004) not only helps the bottom line, it goes a long way toward ensuring that Westport retains its employees, in turn reducing the costs associated with training and the need constantly to rebuild the company's knowledge base from the bottom up. Wakefield stated that management sees the incentive program as an investment that pays dividends day in, day out.

Another investment that keeps the company competitive is its furniture factory, which is located in Port Angeles, Washington. Installed in a 40,000-square-foot building, the joiner shop is equipped to produce shipboard architectural woodwork from start to finish.

At one end of the facility, veneers, plywood and dimensional lumber enter the plant and are sent to stations where they are cut, prepared and marked for each boat in the company's production schedule. Veneer flirches are matched and pressed in-house. As the furniture is assembled, it is then sent to the far end of the plant, where final finishes are applied in one of three OSHA-approved spray booths. Once this process is complete, the joinery is collected, wrapped in protective material and palletized. It is then loaded into containers in order of need, so that the pieces required for the first boat are nearest the container's doors. Each boat under construction has a dedicated container, and each container is delivered to the respective building yard (Westport owns three) only a day or two before the crew is ready to begin the installation.

All of these measures play a part in keeping Westport's pricing competitive, and without them, the com pany's latest venture might not have been possible. At its new plant on the Port Angeles waterfront, Westport is building a series of arguably the largest production FRP motor yachts ever constructed. With a hull designed by William Garden and interior design by Donald Starkey, the Westport 164 series takes advantage of every innovation that the company has put in place over its 28-year history and opens the door to a new chapter in Westport's inventive business model.

But the innovations don't rest solely with the new 164. Vita Bella is the first of the Westport 130s to sport an interior by the company's recently expanded in-house design department. Led by Amy Halfmann and Theresa Rancourt, the team fashioned a pleasing decor package that complements the boat's lovely cherry joinery. In addition, a revision was integrated into the main salon that eliminated the standard fixed buffet normally located on centerline, replacing it with a low cabinet to port and starboard. The result is a more open look that gives the entire space a feeling of greater volume.

Wakefield noted that Vita Bella's owner plans to cruise the west coasts of North and Central America before departing for the Caribbean. He added that such voyages have become com monplace for the Westport 130s, citing Bjorg III, which sailed to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, from Fort Lauderdale on her own bottom during the summer of 2004. She has been cruising the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas since her arrival.

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