Game Changer: Andrew Kendrick, Principal Consultant, Vard Marine Inc.

Andrew Kendrick joined the UK Ministry of Defence straight after high school and was later sponsored by them through a Master’s in Naval Architecture. 

“The CPF program brought me to Canada, and a succession of terrific mentors and fortunate opportunities have helped me onwards ever since,” said Kendrick. He was later involved with Transport Canada in the work that led to the Polar Code and its associated rules and standards. Since that time, Kendrick was involved in polar technology projects of many types around the world with a career spanning over 45 years.

Andrew Kendrick was selected as a Vanguard Game Changer for the Dec/Jan 2021 issue. 

What is your role at your organization today?

I’m currently transitioning from Vice President in charge of Vard Marine’s Ottawa office into a new role with them as a principal consultant, which will allow me to take on the new challenge of becoming the next President of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. This is a huge honour. I’ll be the first non-US resident to hold the position, which I hope will help me bring new perspectives to SNAME’s work internationally. With Vard, I expect to stay involved particularly with the technical aspects of our various ice-capable ship designs, and with the coordination of our research and development efforts in this area.

What was your most challenging moment?

It’s difficult to pick; there have been so many! My career has not been short of adrenalin.  While falling into the ice-covered waters of the Northumberland Strait is right up there, I think the most difficult issues I have had to face have been ethical, where I have had to confront clients who wanted me to do – or not to do – things that conflicted with my values and sense of duty.

What was your aha moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?

My first trip to the Arctic in1984 was to manage a research project in which we rammed the M.V. Arctic into multi-year ice floes to measure the loads and responses. I’d already been working on issues to do with polar operations, but this voyage gave me a real understanding of the immensity of Canada’s North, its astonishing ecology, and the nature of the people who live and work there, from our Inuit polar bear monitors to the helicopter and aircraft pilots who fly in sometime hair-raising conditions. Crawling through the bottom of the ship to check for any structural damage allowed me to hear the songs of the whales and seals resonating through the hull, an experience I’ve drawn on more recently while supporting efforts to reduce ship underwater noise and its environmental impacts.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

The need for more research, and for more effective development of what we learn from it. The world is changing fast around us, and we are not doing enough in the marine sector to understand the implications and adapt to them. Our clients want us to design ships that will be still in service 50 years into the future. When I try to look forward 50 years, I see a totally new operating environment, and I don’t want to be designing dinosaurs.

What is the best advice you received?

When to shut up. At some point advocacy for any point of view becomes counterproductive and we need to move on. I’m not sure I always follow this.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

I am endlessly curious. I usually have four or five books on the go, covering science, economics, history, and various types of fiction, and supplement this with magazines and a variety of news feeds. I believe this helps me to identify trends and linkages that can support corporate strategic planning, proposal and project delivery and the identification of issues needing to be addressed.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset? 

Bengt Johansson of CANMAR was one of the revolutionaries in icebreaker and offshore platform design in the 1970s and 1980s, with vessels such as the Kigoriak and the Oden. He decomposed the problem and put things back together in new and different ways. Ben won a number of awards for his work but was not a self-promoter, so is less widely recognized than he deserves.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

Vard Marine has been a pioneer in North America for the introduction of new technologies such as hybrid drives and dual-fuel propulsion systems and for new types of vessel design including wind farm support vessels and icebreakers. We have recognized that we also have to be more than just traditional ship designers, and may need to help our client with issues ranging from requirements development to risk assessment and economic analysis. This requires a skillset broader than just naval architecture and marine engineering, and we reflect this in our recruitment and training.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

Vard operates across a range of sectors worldwide, and there is no single answer to this question. In Canada, I would have to say the biggest problem is the conservative (or bureaucratic) mindset of many of the public sector organizations involved, coupled with the acquisition strategies being followed.  Innovation has to be baked into the process at the early design stage, and this can’t be done if the ideology is to select a proven parent design or to award design work based on the lowest bid and shortest schedule. 

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

We have set up an in-house development team that is responsible for producing new product ideas in areas identified by our market research under an overall strategic plan.  In addition, we have technology user groups who work on the development and enhancement of our software tools and our processes. We are sponsoring a range of research projects at Canadian universities and providing in-kind contributions to most of these, using the expertise of our in-house specialists and applying our industry knowledge to help focus the research directions.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

We’ve been very fortunate in dealing with the pandemic to date, due to the measures we had already implement to facilitate working from home and also across offices and time zones through the use of a “one team” philosophy covering all of Vard Marine’s offices. But we have lost some things, and need to develop better means of handling brainstorming, mentoring, and other activities that thrive most with face-to-face contact. We’ve established a task force to work on this, looking at lessons learned from other organizations. On the business side, the twin mantras are digitization and decarbonization. We are working on several autonomous ship projects, and on ways to help our clients meet emission reduction targets. These both require long-term transitions, but I expect we will be a lot further advanced by the end of 2022.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Always be ready to challenge the conventional wisdom. As I noted, we’re in an era of rapid changes and today’s problems are not likely to be solved by yesterday’s methods.

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