Developing a sustainable business plan can be a cause of consternation for growing businesses. That’s why, when Composite Moulding (CML), a British-based marine manufacturer, discovered a solution for its excess materials, it was heralded by the marine-world. CML developed a plan to manufacture pram dinghies made entirely of surplus material from its manufacturing process.
The company builds 60-foot boat molds through vacuum bagging and wet lay up, which means they often over-order specified gel coats and resins. “After manufacturing a boat mold, we can end up with five to 10, sometimes 20 kilos of excess gel coat. If we’re using lay up inside the boat, we end up with huge pieces of extra cloth,” says Project Manager Tommi Buckley. “But since implementing lean manufacturing the year before, we wanted to find a good application for our off cuts and waste material.”
CML held a brainstorming meeting to see if there was anything they could do with the waste material. “We didn’t know exactly what to do with our scraps because we have to worry about batch control, each boat with its unique batch number, which meant we couldn’t use excess on other boats,” explains Buckley. “We also didn’t want to throw away valuable waste material, let alone spend money for someone to collect it and dispose of it properly—that’s just a double negative in my book.” Instead, after throwing out ideas like garden ponds and flower boxes, the company settled on something they felt was relevant to their existing market: pram dinghies.
Once they had the product picked, they did some good old-fashioned market research. “I went to shows and talked to people about what they wanted, how much things should cost and searched various online sources to see how we could make our product unique,” says Buckley. CML discovered that a finished 8-foot dinghy would cost approximately 700 pounds ($1,100 USD). However, if they manufactured and just sold a dinghy shell and allowed the buyer to finish it off themselves, they could sell it for just 100 pounds ($160 USD).
From the initial ah-ha moment to manufacturing was a quick process, approximately two months. The company was able to reclaim a mold they’d donated to a marine training center that wasn’t using it anymore. The 8-foot mold fit CML’s needs perfectly. Repairing the mold to good-standard and allocating space for it were the only challenges.
Once the mold was in-house, their apprentices were given the freedom to man the project themselves. “Using open mold and a wet lay up process, we’d have the apprentices take the excess resin, generally a polyester or vinyl ester resin, and create the dinghies with a spare hour,” says Buckley.