On the southeastern shores of Old Tampa Bay, a team of Volvo Penta engineers has been hard at work in the Lazzara Yachts shipyard. Their seemingly low-tech set-up, which at first glance appears to be merely a trailer and a high-speed Internet connection, doesn’t seem to fit the part for high-end yacht work.
But a closer look at the mobile office and test center, not to mention the results of their efforts at this base of operations, reveal the type of partnership that is perhaps unmatched in the marine industry.
Outside the trailer, Lazzara flies a Swedish flag in honor of those team members representing the Swedish-based engine manufacturer, and offers a sign that reads simply, “Volvo Penta Test Center.” The team of engineers, which has fluctuated between 6 and 12 total, worked successfully on location in this test center to integrate the first and only Quad IPS 600 system to date into the Lazzara LSX 75, a 75-plus-foot sport express yacht displacing 78,000 pounds at half load.
This relationship between engine manufacturer and yacht builder is a unique one, but it embodies the vision that Volvo Penta has for its partnerships.
“To drop two engines in is one thing,” explains Lazzara Yachts President Dick Lazzara. “But to design and build four of them is something else.
“You really need to be working collaboratively. Historically, with engine builders, that has not been done. They typically bring the engines over on a flatbed and drop them off.”
Filling in the void between the manufacture of the engines and bringing the boat-and-engine package to market is exactly what Volvo Penta has set out to do with the introduction of its Boat Engine Integration Center. While the partnership between Lazzara and Volvo Penta is a unique one, it illustrates the type of collaborative efforts the company hopes to create with other independent boat builders.
The company’s 18,000-sq.-ft. BEIC, which was introduced earlier this year, creates that personalized platform for integration in a setting that’s available to builders throughout the industry. It’s all part of a pursuit, the company says, to assist independent boat builders’ integration and optimization of Volvo Penta propulsion systems.
“It really is an entirely different kind of relationship that we’re developing with the boat builders,” says Volvo Penta President and CEO Clint Moore. “And at the end of the day, the true benefit of that relationship is for the boater. The boats that come out of here, working with the boat builder, cannot be done any better. Everything is optimized.”
The BEIC’s focus has been placed squarely on the front-end engineering of process and quality, something that Volvo Penta says gives it the opportunity to create a new level of quality and performance. The Center is staffed with boat-building experts whose knowledge encompasses fiberglass and metal fabrication, plug and mold making, and system electrical design. The facility can accommodate yachts up to 120 feet in length.
A good deal of the company’s growth is coming from boats less than half that size, however. In fact, the company is capitalizing on its IPS Joystick operation and a newly created Sport Fish Mode to diversify itself from its traditional express cruiser market and capture business from an increasing number of sport fish boat manufacturers.
Volvo Penta claims that the IPS’ Sport Fish Mode allows fishermen to back down on fish with greater directional control — “You have complete control, whereas with an inboard, you don’t,” says Sr. VP Marketing & Strategic Business Development Paul Dierksen. And that functionality, combined with what Volvo Penta says is 30-percent better fuel efficiency, has sport fish builders listening.
That makes sense. The Sport Fish Mode technology was developed in close cooperation with sport fishing professionals, down to such details as the amount of power available, steering angles and ergonomics, Volvo Penta says. In fact, Paul Spencer, owner and president of Spencer Yachts, was one of those who worked to help the engine maker develop the specialized software package.
That says a lot for the product, considering Spencer’s evolution. Spencer, who spoke to Boating Industry while he was on a break from a marlin tournament, says he has always had people wanting him to build a smaller-class boat. But it
wasn’t until Volvo Penta unveiled the IPS system that he paid much attention.
“When I looked at and studied their system, it was very interesting and appealing to me, and I wanted to give it a try,” he explains. “We’ve been fishing all of our lives, and there are certain things we wanted [IPS’ Sport Fish Mode] to do. They were very good to work with.”
With one “try” behind him, Spencer, a custom builder, is now looking to build three additional 43s, and his company has now designed several boats specifically for the IPS system.
This expansion is indicative of Volvo Penta’s place in the sport fish market. Just a few months ago, the company provided IPS units for nine sport fish boat builders that offered 11 models from 44 to 64 feet. While Volvo Penta says it expects to be able to announce more units in the next year, Spencer is one of a number of builders that are expanding IPS’ reach.
“When you have companies like Spencer and Lazzara leading the way for you,” says Dierksen, “it gives you a tremendous head start, just as Tiara Yachts did in the express business.”
Power of partnership
The team of Volvo Penta engineers recently returned to Lazzara’s customized test center on Tampa’s Rattlesnake Point to begin the integration of its second Quad system. Those team members have just a short walk down to the slips where they can plug in a computer and take Lazzara’s soon-to-be-introduced LSX 92 with its four IPS 850s for a test drive.
With the 75s, the collaborative efforts between boat builder and engine manufacturer took place, literally, around the clock. Engineers in Tampa tested the units by day, and wired their results to Sweden in the evening. The team in Sweden could rework the software and have it ready for the Tampa crew when they arrived in the morning.
“While there was a language barrier,” Lazzara says, “we were all joined at the hip because we were going after the same goal.”
Volvo Penta’s goal is to create similar relationships through the Boat Engine Integration Center. The facility itself is not a profit-generator for Volvo Penta, but the company’s profitability, its executives believe, will take care of itself as more relationships like these are developed and nurtured through this facility.
“Even if IPS hadn’t come along,” Dierksen explains, “we believe that as an engine manufacturer, working closer with the boat builder ultimately produces a better product than just shipping an engine in a box to a builder and hoping for a good outcome. With this collaboration, we become intimately involved with the boat, and the boat builder gains intimate knowledge of our products.”
“There’s product leadership, and we think we do pretty well in that category,” Moore summarizes. “But there are different elements to leadership, and this is a new one.”