The SeaKits Advantage for Spares Management

The dark, crushing ocean depths traveled by nuclear submarines are perhaps the most unforgiving environment we know.  It does not require much of a mistake to exact the most premium of penalties.  As a young nuclear operator aboard one of those submarines, Barry Kallander was trained to understand that harsh reality, and to do what he had to in order to ensure the safety of ship and crew.  And in some ways, Kallander is still at it.
Seakits MMS Homepage

SeaKits MMS Homepage

Kallander is the founder of SeaKits, a company that provides customized maintenance planning, record–keeping and spare–parts provisioning for large boat owners.  The service is designed to eliminate home–grown maintenance and parts logs in favor of a more organized – and more advanced – computer–based system.

While there are many software programs designed to help owners track maintenance and parts, SeaKits offers premium service at a premium price – and it may soon be the gold standard.  Just a year from its launch, the system has received plenty of recognition, earning a Best New Product award at the Newport Boat Show in 2007.  Manufacturers too are seeing the value – Kadey–Krogen, Selene, Fleming, Outer Reef Yachts and Real Ships all include the SeaKits system with each new boat delivered.

Seakits MMS Spare Parts Quote Page

SeaKits MMS Spare Parts Quote Page

Kallander’s Marine Maintenance System (MMS) is a thoroughly modern, internet–based application that takes a custom approach to each boat. It tracks every system aboard in great detail, based on simple inputs by the owner or captain, and then uses this data as a resource to inform the crew. For example, MMS can remind the user of upcoming maintenance and the actions required, based on information such as engine hours and manuals for the boat and its systems that are stored digitally. It can list the parts needed and their location – or help the owner order them. It even notes warranty expirations.

Ultimately, it is the content within the system – not the software itself – that becomes the asset, Kallander says.

“Frankly, how much value is there if you’re just getting a couple of spreadsheets and you have to fill in all the data yourself?  With SeaKits, you’re getting the fully populated database, customized for your specific boat and your systems,” Kallander says.  “We actually get the specs from the builder or we walk the yachts down ourselves.”

BIRTH OF A COMPANY

A typical Seakits spare parts package

A typical SeaKits spare parts package

Kallander started SeaKits in January 2007 and currently has approximately 80 customers, most of them powerboat owners with boats in the 50 to 80–foot range.  There are also a handful of customers in the 40–50–foot range and Kallander has his sights set on the 80 to 120–foot market and, eventually, the larger superyachts.

“Today we sell to the owner–operator,” says Kallander, though with larger boats, “you have to sell to the captains. The owners are typically much more arms–length.”

Kallander’s inspiration for the business was his own yacht, a Nordhavn 40 called Commander, which is featured in many of the company’s print ads. When he bought Commander in 2005, Kallander traded in his Catalina 42 and realized he needed a more organized method of keeping track of the boat’s maintenance requirements and spares.

“So as I got into it, I got into a more disciplined approach…outfitting the boat, keeping detailed records, talking to other Nordhavn and other yacht owners out there and I soon came to the conclusion that there was a business opportunity there,” Kallander says.

SeaKits Fluids Analysis Kit

SeaKits Fluids Analysis Kit

SeaKits’ original offering was a simple damage–control kit, with plugs, patches, fasteners, tools and a flooding damage control guide.  These are still available, but now are also sold by retailers for about $325.  The kit includes soft wood plugs for filling a hole in the hull, as one might experience with a damaged thru–hull opening, as well as a camp ax to shape and hammer in the plugs.  A variety of hoses, fasteners, sealants, ties, clamps and a flashlight with batteries are also included.

The company also offers fluid analysis kits to test engine and hydraulic oils, fuels and coolants.  A typical oil analysis kit includes a vacuum pump, three sample bottles, mailers, tubing, test packages, instructions and prepaid shipping to the lab.  It lists for $95.  A single hydraulic fluid test kit retails for $49 while a single–sample coolant test kit is $39.

But Kallander saw much more opportunity in the field and quickly decided to expand his operation into maintenance, spares and provisioning.

THE MMS ADVANTAGE

The result is the Marine Maintenance System, which goes beyond what most software can offer in several ways.  For example, the MMS can recommend the type and quantity of spare parts necessary for different kinds of cruising.  For the coastal cruiser within a day or two of a port where repairs can be made, the system might suggest a more modest inventory.  For the ocean passagemaker, who requires a higher level of self sufficiency, it would be more expansive.

Kallander also says that his MMS system better accommodates today’s boats, which contain complex systems and may be intimidating to owners.  MMS will provide a scheduled maintenance plan for all the equipment on board, from oil and filter changes to cleaning the condenser coils on the refrigerator.

MMS also makes use of documentation: all parts catalogues, data sheets and manuals are available on the website.  The customer can also receive a disk with a copy of these documents.  With the documents available online and on disc, there is little chance of loss or damage.

Another benefit is the ability to order parts by simply logging into the system.  “They go online, request a quote, we give them the quote, they approve it and then we get the parts,” Kallander said.

One benefit of this system is that all spares ordering and provisioning can be done by SeaKits, eliminating the need to work with multiple vendors.  Kallander notes that the owner of a typical 55–foot vessel might have to deal with 15 to 20 suppliers in order to outfit the boat with all the spares needed for a cruise.

“Our value proposition is that that customer can come to us for anything on the boat, from a simple water filter under the sink to a spare water pump for an engine,” Kallander says.  “All the parts come to our shop first.  We tag them with part name, number, manufacturer and which kit it goes into – engine, stabilizer, plumbing, etc. – and then we assemble them into packages.”

WHAT IT COSTS

The MMS service is not cheap, but customers paying a premium for the help are offered premium service.  The initial fee to sign up, which covers documenting the boat’s requirements and assembling and kitting the parts, is based on length of the boat.  Kallander says a 50– to 60–foot vessel might cost in the $4,000 range, and that does not include the cost of the actual spares.  Thereafter, a more modest annual fee is charged. For example, an owner might pay $196 for a 55–footer.

The system can be used with an existing boat or it can be added to the commissioning process on a new boat, as it is for Kadey–Krogen, Selene and Real Ships.

“With Kadey–Krogen, for example, every boat that is sold comes with MMS and we start working with the customers a couple of months before commissioning,” Kallander says.  “At commissioning, then, we turn over a completed system.”  The system also allows owners to use it while underway, which can be a substantial help when ordering parts outside the United States.

“They can call us for anything from oil filters to the most substantial piece of equipment,” Kallander says.  “We had one client headed down the Mexican coast, for example, and he needed some emergency parts from his list.  He gave us a five–day window at a specific marina and we had the parts waiting for him when he arrived.”

Kallander says the typical owner will arrive in port and, unless they have reliable internet access at sea, log onto the system.  They will then provide engine hours – including generators and watermakers – and the system will calculate which maintenance requirements are coming due and provide alerts for those.  When maintenance intervals are time–based, the system will track those as well.

PUTTING IT TO USE

One customer of SeaKits is Ken Williams, who owns the first Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci.  Williams is well–known in the trawler community, thanks to his participation in the Nordhavn–sponsored Atlantic Rally, which saw a group of trawlers travel en–masse from Florida to Gibraltar during the summer of 2004. 

Ken Williams uses SeaKits MMS Aboard Sans Souci, his Nordhavn 68

Ken Williams uses SeaKits MMS Aboard Sans Souci, his Nordhavn 68

His blog entries from that trip were turned into a book.  Williams is still blogging and planning big cruises.  His latest plan involves a group of four boats, which plan to leave from the Pacific Northwest next year and follow a northern route to Japan, via Russia.

Williams is an unabashed supporter of the SeaKits MMS concept.  “First,” says Williams, “the effort they made just to get all the manuals and documents as PDF files is clearly of value.  I can look up whatever I need on the website.  ” Williams said he also has the original manuals onboard the boat but now doesn’t have to be on the boat to look something up.

“The maintenance interval stuff,” confesses Williams, “I’ve been really bad about it.  I tend to just tell [the captain] about it and he takes care of it.”  He says he is impressed at the level of detail in the maintenance recommendations, citing as an example, a reminder to grease the windlass – “stuff I would have completely forgotten about.”

Williams says the maintenance documentation and records will be of significant value when boats are sold, but he reserves his highest compliments for the spare parts management inherent in the MMS.

SeaKits re-labels and re-packs all parts for tracking and efficiency

SeaKits re-labels and re-packs all parts for tracking and efficiency

“That part alone justifies the purchase,” he says.  “When you get your spares, they’ve taken the time to shrink wrap and label them and pack them in Pelican cases.  Then, when you need replacements, they’ve got all the information.”  Of particular value, he said, was SeaKits’ experience getting parts moved through customs in foreign countries, a task that can often be a stumbling block for cruisers.

Williams’ captain, Jeff Sanson, who helps move Sans Souci between cruising regions and handles the maintenance and logistics for the boat, said he too is a proponent of the MMS system.

“I wish that all my owners had the system,” Sanson says.  “I wouldn’t have to spend the time I do on those boats.

Sanson says he probably doesn’t need the maintenance reminders and scheduling help as much as most owner–operators, having been doing yacht maintenance for the last 30 years, but acknowledges that the reminders are a good backup to experience and memory.  “I can always decide not to do something” he says, “but at least it is a conscious decision.”

Sanson’s company, Pacific Yacht Management manages 10 yachts, the biggest at 90 feet and the smallest 38 feet. His bottom line?

“If I was building a new boat, I wouldn’t even think twice about that system,” he said. “It would be on the boat.”

Copyright ©  2008 by OceanLines

Posted by Tom

Tom Tripp is the owner of OceanLines LLC, the publisher of OceanLines and founder of Marine Science Today. He is an award-winning marine journalist, science writer and long-time public communications specialist. His PR career and much of his writing stems from the fact that he loves to explain stuff. It all began when he and his brother Mark threw all of Mom's tomatoes at the back wall of the house. . .

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