Graham Harvey started as a structural engineer for Brown and Root. He became interested in composites and joined the marine industry 22 years ago. Looking ahead, he shares his views of the growth, and growing pains, composites have in store.
How have you seen the marine industry change in the last couple years?
Overall, there’s been tremendous reduction, especially in the last 18 months. There have also been a lot of changes in the way things are done technically with more people moving toward composites within the mainstream leisure market.
What are some growing trends?
I see more focus on health and safety activities, so lower styrene use along with more work in closed molding and vacuum bagging. We see a general trend of people discovering how they can industrialize their operations. Everyone wants to have lower prices and good quality, and they’re looking for production solutions to achieve that.
Have you seen much economic improvement in the marine industry recently?
People are reordering supplies and of course they want/need fast service in order to meet their own customer’s orders and stay competitive. At the moment, we’re cautiously optimistic.
How have you seen the composites industry evolve?
Composites used to be very esoteric, high-tech stuff. Now people are used to it. We’ve moved from the “unusual and rare” category to “very useful.” The way to move forward is to customize to meet people’s needs.
Within Gurit there are three main business units: marine, transportation and wind energy. Wind energy is a growing market with large customers and large volume orders. Within transportation we have aerospace and automotive, where customers like Aston Martin are using more composites steadily. The marine industry is fragmented. While still growing, it really only has one or two large companies, while the majority are reasonably small. On the automotive side, we actually make panels because the sector hasn’t had a composite manufacturer that can hit those quality requirements. But in marine we don’t because the need isn’t there.
What is the fastest growing market of the three?
Wind energy is the fastest growing market- it makes up 60 percent of our composite business. Turbine manufacturers are using composites extensively in blades and nacelles. The transportation industry is growing and we see it as a very long-term industry. Within transportation composites are used in aircraft interiors because of its fire retardant properties.