Boat builder seeks IT helping hand

New Zealand Yachts set up in Whangarei last October, the brainchild of Kiwi multimillionaire Allen Jones. He recently returned home after making a fortune designing and manufacturing car-wash machines in the US.

There’s more to yachts today than throwing bits of wood and fibreglass together.

When they cost $50 million or more, a cornucopia of IT devices are found inside them and increasingly sophisticated methods are used to make them.

New Zealand Yachts set up in Whangarei last October, the brainchild of Kiwi multimillionaire Allen Jones. He recently returned home after making a fortune designing and manufacturing car-wash machines in the US.

Although intent on relaxation at first, he felt a need to “put something back” into the community, so he set up the yard. The firm is training locals to make the boats, which he hopes will help reverse the New Zealand brain drain. About 80 trainee boat builders started at Northland Polytechnic last November, helped by a $500,000 government grant.

At present, the boatyard employs 67, increasing by two a week, and expects to employ 200 by Christmas. The firm is looking for an IT specialist to manage its information systems.

Managing director Dennis Maconaghie, the former head of client services at Trade New Zealand, helped bring the enterprise to Whangarei. He says technology is essential to this and any other business and he cannot imagine anyone operating without it.

New Zealand Yachts has a variety of servers and systems for doing 2D and 3D design. It uses thin-client software from Citrix in tandem with Windows 2000.

“We are running very sophisticated software in Primavera project management. We are also running a reasonably sophisticated financial package called Axapta. We also have website and email and are working toward purchasing from an electronic database,” says Maconaghie.

“Our quality control system is computer-based and there is a helluva lot of electronics in these boats — miles and miles of cabling. We work with designers in New Zealand and Europe, constantly sending designs and drawings. You cannot survive without email and the web,” he says.

New Zealand Yachts set up in Whangarei because the city has a 120-year boatbuilding history and was where Jones’ own vessel was made. Whangarei also had a 20ha site with slipways, wharves and deepwater access and a good skilled labour base.

At present, the IT work is contracted to Computerland Northland, but the growing company is bringing the work in-house for day-to-day management, considering that cheaper, while still retaining Computerland to build the system.

“Boatbuilding is becoming more and more dependent on computer technology. It’s part of life now,” Maconaghie says.

Maconaghie expects to sell two yachts this financial year, for a turnover of $50 million.

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