AWARDS 2021 | Best Surface Drive Supplier – France Helices
Best Surface Drive Supplier – France Helices
France Helices (FH) was one of the original developers of surface drives. The company has retained an important part of its diverse propulsion system manufacturing business ever since.
Consequently, the company has devoted enormous amounts of time and money to researching ways in which to refine its SD product range. We at Baird Maritime continually hear very favourable comments about FH products from users all over the world.
“All our SDS surface drives are manufactured and mounted in our workshop, before being shipped properly packed to the customers,” FH told Baird Maritime. “We control all in the production chain, from the design, the patterns manufacturing, casting, CNC machining and finishing, to dynamic balancing, and then final dimensional controls and reports. Our specialised technicians revise all our drives in the workshop, and when required, they can move to the shipyards for the first mounting on the boat, or when the customer needs to perform some maintenance.”
FH said that this approach allows the company to supply each customer with a complete propulsion system – propellers, drives, and hydraulic elements included. Also, the size and structure of the company enables it to prepare products that will satisfy all the strict requirements of customers in varied sectors such as the military and the general workboat market.
For each customer type, FH selects the SDS model according to the kinds of boats being used. As the company has 10 different models of SDS, it selects the adapted model depending mainly on the boat, the hull, and the installed power before going into greater detail during discussions with the customer regarding performance and technical specifications.
“All these calculations are prepared by our engineers, as our programs are based on the CFD tests we carried out to verify the reliability of our surface propellers and our drives.”
The previous year provided FH with an opportunity to make new products and services available to its targeted market.
“Apart from updating all our systems on each boat to preserve the evolution of our knowledge, we also updated our services to give the customer a more technical portfolio of offerings. For instance, our home-made calculations programs added the ability to scan 3D tools to enable us to improve the performance predictions on boats. Our team composed of designers, naval architects, and technicians can use these technologies along with their experience to add quality to our product.”
The result of the continuous evolution and R&D and this subsequent integration is that FH’s design team can now make more accurate estimates and ensure more precise performance for the benefit of customers.
In 2021, the company also introduced significant changes in its processes to enable it to cope with the impact of Covid-19.
“The economic slowdown of the last two years and even the travel restrictions pushed us to adapt our manufacturing procedures accordingly, as we were no longer able to show our products to customers as we have become used to doing during exhibitions and our travels before the pandemic hit.
“Our manufacturing process has been approved by BV in accordance to ISO 9001:2015 norms since 2017. However, since we also needed to satisfy the requirements of customers in the military, we need to be regularly updated as regards compliance to quality standards.”
FH also discovered that one way to generate profit during the slowdown of the last couple of years, where many governmental projects had to be postponed, was to allot time for refits and maintenance of its SDS for existing customers.
“As we designed our SDS to be long-lasting, our customers used the year 2021 to carry out some maintenance, and this allowed our workshops to accommodate even older drives including those that we manufactured some 20 years ago!”
FH also spent time in improving its recent programs for calculations and developing new projects related to new CPP propulsion systems and new CFD tests for surface propellers. The company claims the products that will be developed through these projects will be ready for distribution within the next few years.
“We also committed to finishing our new workshop in Brittany, in order to increase our global production capacity.”
Interestingly, the company believes its prospects will flourish further in the coming year.
“We are really organised for launching all the projects that slowed down last year,” FH told Baird Maritime. “We are so optimistic for this new year when we will see our both workshops (one in Cannes and one in Concarneau in Brittany) fully occupied, with jobs for hybrid propulsion and complete refits of older vessels also in the pipeline.
The company also noted the evolution of vessels in general as a significant trend.
“The vessels of yesterday were slightly different from the ones of today, and we will see the same thing happening in the future. We will continue to see boats take to the sea, but their owners, their appearances, their power, their performance, and even the way they are operated will be different.
“We are in a new modern era, where everything seems possible. Propulsion will always exist, but it will just be different with greater respect for the environment and AI technologies now getting more attention compared to before.”
For a list of the 2021 “Best Of” award winners, please click here.
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