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The Yacht Report - June 2006 - Westport Shipyard: On A Role

Written by Fabio Petrone

Each part of the build process is locked at continuously to ensure that there are no hang-ups. Iversen pointed out that some workers who were more efficient than others were getting ahead of the build schedule. "We had to take them aside and put them on other projects to allow slower people time to catch up," he said. "If some workers got too far ahead, they might install a part that blocked other work and slowed the schedule down." Iversen pointed out a chart that showed workers exactly when each job needed to be done. "Not to fast that they cause a jam," he said, "but fast enough to keep the line going."

Every job on a yacht built by Westport is carefully controlled. Computer generated sheets are placed at each workstation as the build progresses. These sheets tell the workers exactly how long a job should take, when it should be done in relation to other jobs, and what parts are needed. The parts for the job all arrive just in time, allowing warehouse space to be kept small and maximizing the space allotted to building. Iversen keeps a careful eye on the hours take to complete each job and on how each yacht is progressing. As the build advances, the yachts are moved from one work area to the next. These moves are all accomplished in a weekend when a specialty heavy-lift crew shuttles every 130-footer along to the next bay where a new list of jobs and procedures awaits it. At each bay the necessary disposables and parts are placed on special racks at the stern of the yacht so that workers can just grab whatever is required without going to a central supply repository. These racks are restocked at intervals so that no worker ever has to go wandering around the build shop looking for parts.

In addition, wooden parts, built specifically for each yacht, come by container from the Port Angeles wood-working facility twice a week. Each container is packed so that the parts are unloaded in the order in which they are needed. Moreover, the containers themselves are lifted to the same level as the build floor – approximately the same height as the yacht's main deck. The idea is to facilitate construction by having each part ready to go when and where it is needed, with no wasted time or effort. For example, at the build station, where the electrical lighting is installed, a large rack of circular lighting bosses is stacked. The person installing alight boss simply takes what he or she needs, and production keeps moving. There are no delays. As soon as the interior work is done, the yacht is moved over to the paint shed and painted with Awlgrip before being launched for sea trials.

Westport Shipyard wasn't always this productive. It started out building fishing and commercial craft for the north-west fishing fleet in 1964, but as the fisheries waned, company executives, saw the writing on the wall and focused on getting into the yacht market. The first Westport yacht was a 48-footer that was launched in 1979.

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