Interview with Floris Lettinga (YANMAR Marine International)

The Next Organization is celebrating its 10th birthday! A true milestone that we are very proud to have achieved. To celebrate 10 years of helping clients to grow their business, we are publishing 10 inspiring client interviews throughout the year. With our clients we will talk about how the world has changed and which challenges they have overcome, what developments they see in their market, predict what their industry will look like in 10 years and which challenges lay ahead of them. Read all about it in the interview below.

“The journey shifting focus from selling engines to servicing end customers”

The next client to interview in our “10 Years TNXTO” series is YANMAR Marine International. YANMAR Marine International (YMI) is one of the clients that we have developed an extensive relationship with throughout the years. YMI is part of the large Japanese multinational, YANMAR. YANMAR is a global manufacturer of diesel engines for several purposes. The business unit YMI is responsible for Marine Pleasure engines with its global headquarters located in Almere, The Netherlands. Besides manufacturing of diesel marine engines, YMI has a global distribution and service network with over 2.000 dealers worldwide. On a cloudy afternoon we meet up with Floris Lettinga, Director Sales and Marketing of YMI to discuss the journey so far as well as the road ahead.

Looking back
The adventure for Floris and the rest of YMI began in 2014. With only 6 employees and an annual revenue of 47 million euros, YMI became a separate business unit headquartered in Almere. Together with Shiori Nagata, president of YMI at that time, an organization needed to be set up to successfully accomplish the vision of YANMAR’s overall president Takehito Yamaoka. His vision was nothing short of ambitious:

  1. Double the annual revenue;
  2. Become market leader in Sailboat propulsion market;
  3. Become Tier 1 supplier in Powerboat propulsion market.

The goal was clear; accomplish Yamaoka’s vision, the question now however was; how? With the clear vision of Yamaoka, the organization realized it needed to develop in order to reach its ambitious goals, and become more customer focused.

In 2016, two years after the initiation of the separate Marine Pleasure business unit, The Next Organization assisted YMI on its first project. Together with the management team at the time a strategy for the Customer Service department was developed and implemented. This was the starting point of a partnership to make the organization more customer focused in every division. Over the years the organization evolved and developed into a more professional company in terms of strategy, processes and supporting systems, not only at the headquarters but also “in the field” (the distribution and service network throughout the world).

Looking back at those years, Floris states the following: “The developments over the past couple have years have resulted in reaching the ambitious vision of our president, mister Yamaoka, and our organization has become “consciously competent”. We’ve come a long way, but it’s now time to look ahead. Our company (YANMAR) now exists for over 100 years, but how can we make sure that we still exist in another 100 years? Only 3% of organizations exists for more than 100 years, only 0.03% of companies lasts another 100 years.”

Looking ahead
Floris continues: “Looking ahead, our goal is to remain “consciously competent”, because it is important to remain conscious of the changes in our market”. These changes in the market were the topic of discussion for the remainder of the interview.

Decreasing carbon footprint while increasing comfort
Social and most of all environmental awareness amongst customers has increased, changing overall customer behavior.

Just like in every industry related to transportation, emissions and the environment are daily topics of conversation in the maritime industry. Hybrid systems are already present in bigger ships and ships that travel great distances. The heavy combustion engines are used for the regular transport, the electric engines inside the harbors to minimize the emissions in cities.

YANMAR is exploring alternative ways of propulsion for consumer markets as well, developing amongst others hybrid and full electric engines. Demand for these kind of propulsion systems increases, but not without a premise: “In the past, customers were prepared to pay an additional 5% for zero emission solutions. Nowadays this is even 8 to 10%, however, this is mostly the case if it adds to the overall experience. Comfort is king!” according to Floris.

Comfort is King!
This results in consumers being more willing to pay extra in favor of the environment but at the same time expect a premium overall experience. Just like in for example the auto industry this leads to a shift from “ownership to usage”. This means a segment of customers would rather rent a state of the art, environmentally friendly sailboat for week and pay a premium for a perfect experience than owning one and having to take care of maintenance and storage all year long. Customers that are still willing to buy a private sail- or powerboat expect an even higher level of experience: “Comfort is king”.

Integrated Service Solutions
This change in customer behavior impacts the way YMI is looking at the future. Since technology in terms of alternative propulsion is not moving forward in a fast enough pace, the company is diversifying into become a full service provider for its customers. “We are becoming a provider of “integrated service solutions”, offering more than just the propulsion system alone, but also the other systems that support the engine. When a boat doesn’t start, the user is most likely inclined to think it’s the engine that doesn’t start. In reality however, it’s rarely the engine that is the problem because of the excellent quality of the YANMAR engine. This, however, is difficult to explain since we are not responsible for the other systems on board”.

By becoming a full service supplier of integrated solutions and creating a single point of contact for its customers, YANMAR can create even more added value whilst increasing the overall comfort level. “Not only the users of our engines but also our customers, OEMs (large boat producers) and other boat builders expect this from us”. Floris and YMI focus on ensuring the development these integrated services solutions and dedicating time and attention to securing a global service network to provide (after)sales support.

“YMI will keep a close eye on really understanding our customer and the different segments whilst remaining to be trusted partner, offering transparency, reliability and no surprises.”

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