As the shipbuilding strategy in Canada continues to move forward, we are constantly talking with Canadian SMEs participating in the downstream technological advances being leveraged and brought to Canada. For this month’s issue, we spoke with a few business leaders innovating in the shipbuilding sector.

  • Antonio Jose Llago Hermida, CEO, Gabadi
  • Charles-Alexandre Pare, President & General Manager, Rousseau Metal
  • Vito Longo, President, Integral Management Solutions
  • Monica Jansen, President & CEO, Smart Galley Designs Inc.
  • Juha Pakomaki, Vice President of Procurement, Almaco

How did you get started in this business?

Hermida: We started in 1989 in Ferrol, a village in the North of Spain. We were born after a crisis when the shipbuilding industry restructuring took place in the 1980s in Spain. It was a time during which shipyards went from manufacturing every part to becoming synthesis shipyards.

Pare: Our experience with national defence goes back many years. We were involved in implementing drawer storage systems in the very first frigates. On the first contracts, Rousseau Metal’s cabinets stood out for being the most robust, while also the lightest.

Longo: Our company started in consulting for the defence and aerospace sectors in the operational excellence area. We then expanded into offering engineering and manufacturing services to the point of becoming vertically integrated.

Jansen: Before immigrating from the Netherlands, I was an OR technician and ran a construction company with my husband at that time. When I met my new partner Wayne McKay in Canada, who had a restaurant consultancy service and had experience in galley design, we decided to work together and to take that branch out of his consultancy services and start Smart Galley designs as a separate business.

Pakomaki: Before Almaco, I had over a decade of procurement experience in leadership positions at several large and well-known companies, including ABB and Rolls Royce. I started with Almaco in 2015 to take up the opportunity to return to sea and work with a leading marine systems supplier.

What do you think you have learned from the commercial businesses that you can bring over to your offering in the defence/naval sector?

Hermida: Within the offshore sector we have developed systems for modular outfitting, which enable industrial manufacturing options to be used and integrated afterward at the local shipyard. Within the military sector, these are less used but can be applied to modular wet units or modular cabins in big vessels.

Longo: The commercial sector has always been focused on quality, schedule, and cost. These aspects have been ingrained in our Modus Operandi and IMS has brought this mindset in working with our customers to help make their projects more affordable, meet tight deadlines and always maintain the level of quality required by the defence industry.

Jansen: It’s about people and safety first. Budget is second. The end-user defines the success of the project.

Where do you see the future of your industry going?

Hermida: The future is in containerized living quarter systems, which allows us to integrate containers to be transported by any container carrier in the world while providing a full outfitting and accommodation system inside with a capacity for more than 200 people.

Longo: The defence industry will always be in a growth phase that requires suppliers who are flexible and adaptive to meet the fast pace of change.

Jansen: We need to focus more on people, in our case, the crew and the people that work in the galley to offer them a safe and comfortable work environment that adjusts to their needs.

How can we apply the latest technologies to your business, which typically has been viewed as traditional? Do you see a role for technology in the outfitting business?

Hermida: We have supplied accommodations with bulletproof protection systems, improved ergonomics throughout, and use new technologies such as for communications and acoustic attenuation. This, together with the need to minimize weight and passive fire protection, makes for new materials, which are lighter, non-combustible, and with good acoustic behaviour to be increasingly used.

Pare: Rousseau invests time and money in new technology every year. That’s part of our DNA. We always want the most flexible and ultra-precise equipment possible to guarantee industry-leading quality.

Longo: The 3D modelling technology is becoming an indispensable method for developing products in general. It saves on development costs, design change investigation and ultimately achieving customer satisfaction.

Jansen: Height adjustable workstations and equipment choices that are safe for marine applications combined with the advantage of using WiFi in the galleys to increase the possibility of knowledge transfer. This would not only be for the good of the people but also would benefit the costs for the foodservice processes on board.

Can you talk more about your strategy in Canada, in particular as it relates to partnering with the local Canadian industry?

Hermida: Our strategy in Canada focuses on two main businesses: the military and the LNG sector. Within both sectors, we are a company with vast experience, in terms of the execution of these projects in different parts of the world. The search for the appropriate industrial partners and local Canadian suppliers, including innovative technologies to share that experience with, would make it possible for us to achieve that growth in a much faster manner, both in the Atlantic Coast, where we are already established, and on the West Coast, where there are new naval and LNG construction projects being born. 

Pakomaki: We’re preparing to expand further into the defence and marine sectors in Canada and we are very excited to continue to visit Canada.

What is your true competitive advantage that you bring? And how will Canada benefit by working with you?

Hermida: The main advantage is experience. Naval construction in Canada has just started and the demand for skilled and qualified personnel is very important right now due to the projects by the Government of Canada. These programs require long-term learning and Canada and its companies could benefit from the experience to reduce learning time.

Pare: Flexibility. Our products are built from the ground up to be flexible, which means we can customize them to meet different requirements. Whether it’s a tight space, a boat, or a truck, they can be adapted. If we don’t have the exact product the customer needs, we can customize it for them.

Longo: Our customers would benefit from our can-do, never give up and dedicated attitude. IMS is a dynamic, flexible and vertically integrated engineering and manufacturing company.

Jansen: We specialize in ergonomic, smart galley and kitchen designs by combining traditional with modern equipment configurations. We also provide consultancy and design services, turn-key solutions and a line of electrical adjustable Ergo Workstations that are designed to prevent workplace-related injuries.

Pakomaki: The year 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of Almaco. We’ve recently restructured into three new divisions that form the core expertise of our company: accommodation systems, catering systems, and service. So that’s where our focus is and that’s where we’re doing a lot of work.

Final thoughts

As someone working the front lines talking to Canadian suppliers, there is always an interest in both the direction of the general industry and how to partner with foreign companies building in Canada. It has been a pleasure to highlight some innovative companies operating in the ship interiors space, both foreign interiors businesses and local Canadian suppliers for this issue of Tech Watch.

Megha Khirwal is Account Manager, Customer Success at OMX.