Interview / Fountaine-Pajot:"With Dufour, we've gained weight with the distributors."

Nicolas Gardies, General Manager of Fountaine-Pajot

Nicolas Gardies, General Manager of Fountaine-Pajot, reviews the current challenges facing the catamaran brand, from the takeover of Dufour Yachts to industrial reorganization, training and recruitment.

The Fountaine-Pajot group had a busy 2017/2018 season, marked by strong growth and the acquisition of the rochelais shipyard Dufour Yachts. Nicolas Gardies, the group's general manager, talks to BoatIndustry about the projects of France's 2nd largest yachting manufacturer.

Fountaine-Pajot has seen a significant increase in boat production in recent years. How does this translate into industrial terms?

We have made significant investments since 2016, through the Ocean 40 programme for the New Organisation for Capacity, Efficiency and Improvement, which runs until 2019. We received the new workshops in 2016 and the new headquarters in 2018. Two thirds of the catamarans are produced at the Aigrefeuille site and one third at the La Rochelle plant. For all models, except the 67-foot model, we operate with a single central assembly line, powered by 4 peripheral workshops for the hull, flybridge, deck and interior modules of the boat.

The production is rhythmic and the line advances every 2 days. In one year, we went from a 3-day clock to a 2-day clock. This represents 105 boats per year. Our objective is now to improve the flow to 1.5 days, which is not unrealistic when some competitors are at 0.75 days. To this end, we are working on continuous improvement through ISO standards.

The use of an ERP allows us to better manage procurement and suppliers. We had reached a threshold and to move on to the next step, we recruited an industrial manager from the plastics industry. He will soon be joined by a Supply Chain Director.

Fountaine-Pajot Plant

What are the industrial and commercial synergies to come following the acquisition of Dufour Yachts and its monohulls?

From an industrial point of view, the Fountaine-Pajot plants are in La Rochelle and Aigrefeuille, while the Dufour plant is in Périgny, halfway between the two. Proximity will obviously help exchanges. On the other hand, a multihull production site is fundamentally different from a monohull factory. We're not going to do each other's houses.

The equipment for catamarans is oversized for a monohull. On the other hand, we will be able to improve processes and work on common solutions. When developing an electronic application, it can be common. Similarly, when considering packaging and procurement issues with a supplier. Proximity makes it possible to set up a common logistics tour. Dufour Yachts owns a carpentry shop and Fountaine-Pajot does not.

From a commercial point of view, bridges are built between the 2 networks. We have gained weight with regard to distributors and dealers, with an additional offer in terms of price: Fountaine-Pajot catamarans range from ?250,000 to ?2.5 million and Dufour sailboats from ?80,000 to ?1.2 million.

What is planned in terms of governance?

The management has remained in place and we are still relying on it. We don't pretend to revolutionize everything.

Dufour 63

What are the recruitment objectives and how are you addressing the labour shortage?

The group currently represents 1100 employees at Fountaine-Pajot and Dufour Yachts. We hired 60 people in 2017 and aim to hire 140 people in 2019. This makes us the 2nd largest boating employer in France, and even in Europe. We must therefore strengthen our human resources process. Today, temporary workers represent 25 to 30% of the workforce. It's an airlock. We need to strengthen the integration process, because it is not always easy to keep people.

Training courses have been set up with all partners in the sector, such as CIPECMA in Chatelaillon or AFPA, in fields such as composites, carpentry for furniture assembly, electricity, electronics or fittings. The new employee is then taken in charge by a tutor, with 3 other recruits to learn Fountaine-Pajot's working methods. The person is assessed on his or her behaviour in the company and technical abilities. If he is selected, he is finally integrated into a team. The idea is to put the operator in the best conditions to stay.

After the acquisition of DreamYacht Charter and Dufour Yachts, what are the prospects for new developments?

Dream Yacht Charter provides us with a good overview of maintenance topics on boats that run a lot. It also secures sales. Loïc Bonnet also regularly launches new topics for his clients. For his part, Dufour must be able to do better in charter. We remain industrialists, but we are obviously attentive to usage. New boaters use rental to zap around.