From XU Magazine, 
Issue 31

Boat manufacturer with plans to conquer distant shores gets business in ship-shape

Industry expertise combined with software solutions TidyEnterprise & Xero help float Kingfisher’s boats

From their crow’s nest above the factory floor, a team trained in high-quality manufacturing sees a blue ocean ahead of them.

When the Mason family bought into a New Zealand-based manufacturer of catamaran-hulled boats, the business management software being used included TidyEnterprise and Xero, critical to the co-ordination and control of their production and supply.

After steadily maturing the business’ workflows over the course of the year that followed the Mason family involvement, Kingfisher Boats today enjoys a software system that provides accurate accounting, stock, and Work-in-Progress reports. There are also further developments in the works to accelerate overall business efficiency, optimise production processes, and deliver company-wide data visibility.

Kingfisher Boats is both designer and builder of the Kingfisher range of quality aluminium vessels with catamaran hulls sold through an approved marine distributor network. This growing New Zealand business, with its workshop facilities based in the city of Tauranga, happens to be in the same city as Tidy’s international headquarters.

Kingfisher has built up a solid range of marine-craft products for over 19 years including commercial and recreational vessels ranging from 3m to 18m in length. Laura Mason, General Manager of the company, comments “What sets Kingfisher Boats apart is our focus on alloy catamarans. We’re unique in producing metal cats under 6 metres with a single engine – delivering a more stable platform in a compact package,”.

Situation

Upon joining the business, Mason soon recognised opportunities for enhancing manufacturing processes. Applying experience she gained in the automotive industry, with its long history of process standardisation and optimisation; from the production-line efficiency made famous by Henry Ford to Toyota’s Kaizen methodology of continuous improvement, Mason sought to advance the somewhat unstructured approach characteristic of smaller businesses towards a defined and repeatable model. Mason emphasises, “This does need to be differentiated depending on the boat we’re manufacturing. When we’re doing a multimillion dollar 18-metre vessel, there’s a lot of customisation so repeatability isn’t important. But when you’re producing a standard design, adopting production line methodologies makes sense,”. In either circumstance, accurately tracking materials and effort is crucial for sustainability and profitability. “You absolutely can’t thumb suck it, or you’ll end up selling boats for less than they cost.”

While Kingfisher Boats presently meets the needs of domestic customers, Mason says it does have ambitions for international growth in the future. “At present, the focus is firmly on optimising every aspect of our production and sales processes. We recognise the necessity for a well-run ‘ship’, so to speak, before taking on the challenges of expansion.”

Solution

With Tidy’s TidyEnterprise job and project management software already implemented at Kingfisher Boats when Mason came on board, she set about making full use of its potential. “We’ve been figuring out how to maximise our usage of Tidy to give us data crucial for making better decisions.  This is increasingly critical as we trade through difficult times of increasing costs and supply chain disruptions,” Mason notes.

The software is used for job tracking and recording time and materials. Flexibility is essential, says Mason, particularly when a larger Kingfisher is moving through the production facility. “These vessels have a custom production setup specific to the individual, so they are a special case. The under 6 metre boats are pretty standard, and for these we’re moving towards creating a Bill of Materials from which we have a standard list of metal and components that go into the assembly.”

Stock management within TidyEnterprise is integrated with the company’s Xero accounting system, allowing for ‘straight through’ billing from building a vessel to invoicing it out to the customer. “This works well, with a process around the categories of materials that are cut, allocating the metal to the job, and providing a fuller and detailed picture of what each job costs. We’re also integrating time and consumables into the process – it’s a good step forward which provides essential information for running a growing business,” Mason says.

A further development is introducing Work-in-Progress tracking. “This next step is vital. When you’re building a big boat over the course of a year, accurate management of a balance sheet and profit and loss is fundamental. And as that is implemented in Tidy, we’ll look at boosting reporting capability for improved and instant visibility on every aspect of what goes into making the finished product.”


Results

With Tidy as a central system in advancing Kingfisher’s manufacturing processes they are steadily moving to the predictable, reliable, and efficient production environment required to scale from a national to international boat builder. Already, plans are underway to move towards stock forecasting and increased business intelligence, drawing on historical data contained within TidyEnterprise and Xero.

“There’s a lot to like in Tidy, including the Xero integration and how you can add all items into each project to keep a running tally, track time against jobs, and put a budget in there. We’re looking at reporting for time and materials, and generally maturing the implementation as we learn things and come across issues,” says Mason.

The proximity of Tidy’s HQ to Kingfisher Boats comes with mutual advantages in terms of process observation by the Tidy team and communication between the two companies to make improvements. Mason is complementary of the software vendor. “We’ve found Tidy great to work with. They listen, we share our insights and suggestions for what we’d like to see in the software, and they make improvements which probably benefit all their customers. It’s a solid relationship built on value creation.”

Why leave it there?

To find out more about how you can make your business Tidy

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