Wärtsilä thruster assembly.jpg

Shown here is the new Wärtsilä thruster assembly hall in Drunen, Netherlands. This was part of an approximately US$15.5 million investment program at the Drunen factory.

The Netherlands is viewed by many as one of the most important marine countries in the world and home to an extensive network of suppliers, efficient shipyards and professional design companies. The Dutch marine markets and service operations are expected to continue growing in the coming years. With this in mind, last January Wärtsilä inaugurated the expansion of its thruster factory in Drunen, Netherlands. “World trade has grown over 7% annually on average during the last six years. Ship orders have grown strongly during the same period. We have increased our order book for the sixth consecutive year and have never before seen such a boom in the marine market,” said Ole Johansson, president and chief executive officer of Wärtsilä Corp., speaking at the inauguration event in Drunen. “We are investing in production capacity in order to respond to the strong demand in the marine and offshore markets, and to support our growth targets.”

Wärtsilä currently employs 1500 people at its four main units in the Netherlands, including approximately 700 people at the Drunen factory. “The key activities of Wärtsilä in the Netherlands are split over four locations, said Fred van Beers, managing director, Wärtsilä in the Netherlands. “First, our propulsion design center in Drunen for production in and outside Europe, and second, the logistic center for spares and a machining center in Zwolle. Third, we have our unit in Schiedam, which is one of the biggest total marine service providers in the Netherlands. Finally, in Kruiningen we feature a high level reconditioning knowledge of high loaded engine parts.”

The expansion of the thruster factory is part of an approximately US$15.5 remillion investment program at the Drunen factory, that is being implemented during 2007 and 2008. Around 100 thrusters a year will be manufactured at the new facilities, a jump from today’s 30 per year. “Our investment here in Drunen during 2007 and 2008 has been spent on the thruster assembly hall with tools and equipment. The CPP (controllable pitch propeller) blade component manufacturing has been equipped with an automated, five-axis manufacturing center, and fully automated grinding.

We have also spent money on the CPP assembly and on various tools and equipment in general,” said Jari Salo, vice president, delivery center propulsion, Wärtsilä Industrial Operations. The new capacity will be fully utilized by 2009. The new facilities in Drunen will employ a workforce of 40 once the production capacity is in full use. The additional personnel will be recruited and trained, for the most part, locally. It was mentioned by Wärtsilä in connection with this, that it was a problem to get people with suitable skills in the area.

Ole Johansson made it clear that it was not really the assembling of engines, propellers, thrusters and drive lines that is the bottleneck of production, but the supply of components from sub suppliers. “Components like crank shafts and engine blocks are the critical items, and we can assemble a unit as soon as we get these parts,” said Johansson. Delivery times of such items can be two to three years, and consequently the delivery times for the engines move away in the same direction.

“We see a changing economic order in the world and a new, rapidly developing industry in East Asian countries, not least in our part of the business. We, as Wärtsilä, benefit from this new
economical order,” said Johansson. “As a company we are part of this change, and we have been part of it over the time of our history.We have a social responsibility for our employees; and in order to secure stability of our activities and a social security, like here in the Netherlands, it is imperative to stay competitive. It is our task as Wärtsilä to come up with the solutions, and a good example is here in the Netherlands — where we have changed our mode of operation over time to stay competitive and be profitable.”

In Drunen, Wärtsilä has their knowledge center for propulsion efficiency, as well as the competency to produce efficient propulsion systems. The steerable thrusters are used on tugs, offshore support vessels and other special purpose vessels, as well as on oil and gas drilling and production rigs and other offshore applications that require a high degree of maneuverability and position keeping. One reason for increased interest in Lips Modular Thrusters (LMT) is just the offshore floating production vessels.

We are now establishing a flow through the new hall, a volume production, where the assembling of LMT will be made very efficient,” said Lars Hellberg, group vice president and head of Wärtsilä’s Industrial Operations. “We aim for a production of 100 units per year. With this extension in Drunen we shall concentrate on LMT thrusters and CPP. Besides this, the blade foundry will be an important production facility in Drunen.

“It is the responsibility of the politicians, the governments within EU, to see to it that the premises given in Europe, to the extent possible, do not prevent us from competing evenly with the new industrial countries,” said Johansson. “And that rules and regulations created are not in a way preventing the shipping communities and the ship building industry to compete in an even way with companies in East Asia and Brazil, to mention some new areas.”

Globally, Wärtsilä manufactures a total of 1500 propulsion systems annually, including fixed pitch propellers, controllable pitch propellers and thrusters. In addition to manufacturing in the Netherlands and China, Wärtsilä also manufactures propellers in Norway and Spain. In 2007, Wärtsilä invested globally approximately US$263.5 million in production and this year Wärtsilä plans to invest approximately US$310 million.

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