Benoît Mériau, Bénéteau
Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, France
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite
When Benjamin Bénéteau started his boat-making business in 1884, he was fulfilling his dream of turning a groundbreaking design into a trawler with sails that would help fishermen do their job better. Later on, in 1912, his was the first company to produce a motor-powered tuna fishing boat. Like many innovations, Bénéteau’s was initially met with skepticism as people thought the motor would scare the fish away.
Today, the company started by Bénéteau – which still bears his name – specialises in turning other people’s dreams into reality. Along with fishing vessels, the company designs and builds sailing boats, motor boats, yachts and power boats in a range of different types and sizes. In fact, Bénéteau has become the world’s leading maker of sailing boats and builds about 10,000 craft per year. In any of the larger regattas, there’s always at least one Bénéteau boat in the race – and usually several.
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite helps boat builders keep pace with innovation
Bénéteau has the same passion for quality and innovation as its founder did more than 120 years ago, so it takes extra care to ensure each boat is build to the same standards – whether the client is paying 10,000 euros for a motor boat or over a million for a luxury yacht. The construction standards and procedures are described with graphics in minutely detailed handbooks aimed at boat construction workers in Bénéteau’s five factories on France’s Atlantic coast and others in the US and Poland.
“Over the years, we used a number of different tools to produce the handbooks,” notes Benoît Mériau, who heads up group IT operations at Bénéteau. The technicians need the instructions to fit fibreglass sheets from the bow to the stern, then apply a thick layer of polyester resin glue on top of the sheets. These two procedures form the hull of the boat and keep it light but very strong.
“Previously , some people used Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel to create the instruction manuals, but these procedures are complex and it’s hard to describe them clearly in a spreadsheet or ordinary document,” adds Mériau. “Other people used a vector graphics program, but it wasn’t adapted to manuals and we couldn’t import images from our CAD/CAM program Catia either.”
Benoît Mériau used CorelDRAW for hobbies at home and thought it would be a good tool to resolve the handbook creation issue. “We needed something that was easy to use because we create far more of these manuals now,” he explains. “Just a few years ago, we introduced about seven new features and functions to our boats per year. Today, that number has increased to 29 per year, so there’s a constant need for new manuals for different sizes of boat with different features.” With overseas factories as well as those in France, it’s important for Bénéteau to ensure everyone understands what needs to be done. To that end, Pierre Brunet, the laboratory and R&D manager at Bénéteau, had the idea of designing the instruction sheets like cartoon strips. “It might seem like a detail, but the cartoon figures do help people see at a glance what needs to go where. And the whole manual just looks more friendly!” says Benoît Mériau.
The 3D structural plans and other illustrations are imported from WindChill via Catia , while the team adds text, further illustrations and descriptions to create the instruction manual. Depending on where the technicians are working, the manuals are either emailed as PDFs or as hardcopy with laminated pages. “The molding workshops use glue and paint sprays, so computer-based manuals aren’t always practical there,” adds Benoît Mériau.
The team has created a set of style sheets used for different types of instructions, and these help accelerate the process of making the handbooks. Currently, about 12 people at Bénéteau use CorelDRAW Graphics Suite to create them, and Benoît Mériau is planning to increase that to 20 once training has been completed for other people on the team. The solution has become the standard tool for developing this type of manual throughout the group, which employs some 6000 people around the world.
Better content in less time
Benoît Mériau ensures all the users are trained to use the solution. They only need one day to learn how to use the main functions and the style sheets and do some practical exercises. The training takes two days for more advanced users. How have people responded to the tool in the 18 months Bénéteau has been using it? “No problems at all,” notes Mériau. “I’ve checked with our internal IT helpdesk and they haven’t had a single call about CorelDRAW !” Benoît Mériau says there’s been a dramatic improvement in the quality of the manuals since the team has been using CorelDRAW Graphics Suite. “The content is much richer and it takes less time to create it – and that makes us more efficient while saving money,” he says. Meanwhile, Bénéteau can get on with doing what it does best – driving innovation to fulfill people’s dreams.