A higher gear
The premise behind Mekanord’s foundation was the design and manufacture of gearboxes for marine applications, with particular focus on controllable pitch propulsion (CPP) systems. Over 30 years of operation Mekanord has developed a wide product portfolio of propulsion and control systems, and gearboxes ranging from 200kW up to 8000 kW. Ten years ago the company also entered into the renewable energy market, repairing, upgrading and refurbishing gearboxes for wind turbines.
Until recently Mekanord’s activities have been focused within the north of Denmark from its base in Frederikshavn but now the company has begun to move into new markets. Søren Klyvø, managing director of Mekanord, elaborates on the reasons behind this move: “We see a lot of potential for us in the future within the marine markets of Asia, which means we need to establish a local presence and be able to provide after sale services. Currently we’re establishing service capabilities within China, which will shortly be followed by local production facilities.” The company has a varied client base including direct provision to shipyards and ship-owners. Mekanord also supplies motor and propeller companies, which package its gearbox with their own products such as engines and propellers to create a complete propulsion package.
Mekanord is focused on its clients’ needs and handling requests in a fast and efficient manner. Søren highlights the company’s main strengths: “Our service ability and fast reactions are a real advantage – we stick to a project and can deal easily with any problems that may arise. We have a more flexible nature than our competitors, working to produce solutions for clients and are able to offer a level of customisation rather than just standard products.”
As well as designing and producing new gearboxes, Mekanord also offers service and overhaul solutions for the marine and wind industries. With its own full gearbox manufacturing facility Mekanord is able to utilise this resource for urgent repair or service needs. “We are able to create the capacity for handling gearbox repairs whilst maintaining the same quality standards as our new builds. Having our own machining department means we can cut down the lead time on new parts and we have created a special task force to deal with urgent repairs so we can complete them as quickly as possible. With the wind industry, repairs often have to be completed in a short timescale because a broken gearbox means the turbine cannot generate electricity and therefore is losing money. Because of this we have created an exchange pool of gearboxes so that when we remove the broken gearbox for repair we can install a new suitable gearbox. This means the turbine is up and running again quickly and we have more time to complete the repair process,” explains Søren.
One of Mekanord’s key strengths is its ability to create retrofit, or customised solutions for clients. A lot of this is down to Mekanord’s in-house research and development department as Søren emphasises: “It is crucial to have that in-house knowledge because we’re manufacturing our own designs and its important we know every detail and calculation about the gearbox so we can help clients after sale and provide solutions for the aftermarket. We have to be able to find the root cause of failures whether in our own or other gearboxes so this knowledge is really at the foundation of what we do. We find that being able to offer more customisation than our competitors means we can provide customers with a better propulsion package for their needs. It is a balance though, whilst the customisation is important for winning projects each time you carry out a custom project you put more parts in stock that you then need to be able to provide services for afterwards.”
Currently Mekanord is in the process of upgrading its series of marine gearboxes to make them more efficient at transferring power from the engine to the propeller, as well a upgrading its hydraulic systems to provide a better propulsion system overall. Mekanord is also investing internally in optimising its production and in staff development. Søren comments: “We believe that to pro-actively develop the company we need to invest in the skills of our employees. Right now we’re running an internal programme of education to help improve our staff competencies as they are key to our continued growth and success.”
The after effects of the financial crisis are still being felt by the marine industry with low levels of activity and increasing competition. Søren describes what this means for Mekanord: “We are seeing much tougher competition when bidding on projects because following the recession everybody is able to meet the required delivery times. At the same time you have a few competitors who are able to deliver products of the quality needed, and that only leaves price so its very tough on costs at the moment.”
Despite this growing competitiveness within the market, Søren is confident about the future for Mekanord and outlines the company’s ambitions for moving ahead: “We have set ourselves a vision for 2015 to double the business compared to the size we have today. We see opportunities for us to gain market shares within the marine business despite the slow nature of the market, but we believe the main contributor to this growth is the wind aftermarket. Although we are maintaining a strategic focus on the marine market and the growth of that sector, developing the wind aspect of the business helps to stabilise the company with operations in two different industries.”
Extensive knowledge base and expertise
Works within marine and wind industries
Offers overhaul, repair and retrofit services