Director of Operations on Growing Heesen’s 'Harmonious Machine'

By George Bains

What is the formula that drives the world’s leading shipyards? Heesen Yachts’ Director of Operations, Rick van de Wetering, sheds light on the structure and processes that make Heesen a one-stop-shop able to deliver high-quality yachts on short timescales.

With the recent expansion of Heesen’s interior workshop in Winterswijk and the yard’s largest ever yacht nearing completion, it is an exciting time to delve behind the scenes of one of the world’s most prestigious shipyards. Carrying almost 30 years of experience in the industry, 15 of those at Heesen, Rick van de Wetering is ideally placed to give an insight. 

Four successive launches have made 2019 a successful year, what makes these special?
This goes back to our core business; it is the speed of the boats and the fast delivery. Customers would obviously like to have a boat for the next season and we try to accommodate as much as possible, but we also try to ensure that any customisations specifically on the interior or exterior are still possible within the timeframe. On the other hand if you take Galvas for instance, that’s based on a very successful 55m platform and we customised that with the new superstructure so that 90% is custom. The combination of both the platform boats, the fast delivery vessels we build on spec and the customisation, this is the reason why we can deliver 4 boats in 6 or 7 months.

How does Heesen manage to marry the ideals of building ‘Dreams’ and achieving ‘Fast Deliveries’?
It is always a challenge, but that is why we are in this industry. One of the advantages we have is that we have all these disciplines in-house. The way we set up our organisation makes sure that clients can expect high quality and that we deliver the boats on time within the timeframes we have agreed with them. So, any change they would like to make, any modification to the dream they have, we try to accommodate to the maximum. That’s one of the success stories of Heesen, apart from customisation of a full custom boat but also with the fast deliveries we can always find the answer to the questions a client has, hence that we have so many projects in the pipeline so that clients can step in soon or later and still have their dreams when they take delivery.

When you took over your role in 2015 you highlighted the importance of investing in cutting edge technology and these in-house capabilities. What can we expect to see coming from the Wintersvijk expansion?
These developments like Wintervijk are to keep on par with the demands of the industry. We call it a one-stop-shop because the majority of our daily operation is in-house. Wintersvijk, an hour drive from the shipyard, is directly related to what we do here. It’s the same organisation, the same people who know what it takes to deliver the dream for a client. We have been doing this since 2000 and they are an integrated part of the shipyard. Another example is the investment we make in IT, in 3D biometrics to make sure that we are constantly improving the quality of our processes. The advantage of building platform boats and customising to the clients wishes using the latest software tools is that it enables us to reduce the time needed to make the modifications. Working with designers like Winch we actually start production of the interior as well. Then when the client comes in and buys the boat and requests modifications, even though in some cases we are even installing the interior, we have a programme in place to ensure any modification can be adapted easily during our production process. Over the years I can say with pride that we have been very successful in doing that.

You mention working with renowned designers like Winch, how does that change when you yourselves are interior designers with a facility of your own?
We are very used to that. We focus with what we do at the shipyard and we have design managers in-house who actually translate the information coming from the renowned designers, translating that into a package for us, and into production information for the engineers. It is a very harmonious way of working between the designer’s offices and the shipyard itself. Over the years I can say that it is becoming a machine. You know exactly what the expectations are, you have the demarcation of who is going to do what, and it works well for everyone involved. For us it is daily work.

Looking to the next couple of years, there are some exciting projects coming up, especially Project Cosmos – your largest yacht to date. How is that project coming along?
It is going very well, right on schedule. The keel laying was done four months ago, we are now building the superstructure and the designs are coming in from the designers in a rapid manner. A huge task, but with all the experience and expertise we have in-house and the specialists on contract, we feel very confident in delivering a very nice project again. It’s more volume, for us it’s a bigger size but it’s just improving procedures to adapt to bigger boats. It is a natural step for us to take. Over the years we have grown every year, with the 60m and now the 80m Cosmos.

With Cosmos and the expansion of your facilities, is it therefore Heesen’s intention to build bigger boats with the same attention to detail?
Absolutely, and the investment in Wintersvijk is a big part of it. You want to keep the quality in-house and to even improve on what we have done in the past. Winterswijk is a fully integrated part of the shipyard and to have that luxury and interior expertise in house, I cannot think of another shipyard that has all the facilities under one roof.

 A man with a strong vision and philosophy on yachting, Rick van de Wetering is helping drive Heesen forward, and an exciting future lies ahead.

"It is a very harmonious way of working... over the years I can say that it is becoming a machine"

Rick van de Wetering, Heesen Director Operations

"It is a very harmonious way of working... over the years I can say that it is becoming a machine"

Rick van de Wetering, Heesen Director Operations
By George Bains
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