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A Day in the Life of Princess Yachts’ Manufacturing Engineering Director

James Smale and his team of 30 are responsible for current manufacturing engineering and future product launch coordination.

October 12, 2020
James Smale
James Smale and his team of 30 are responsible for current manufacturing engineering and future product launch coordination. Princess Yachts

Originally published in Watermark Extra, Princess Yachts’ lifestyle magazine for owners.

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“As Princess Yachts’ manufacturing engineering director, I head up a team of 30 people and together we are responsible for current manufacturing engineering and future product launch co-ordination between the development and production departments.

I joined the business – then Marine Projects – as a 16-year-old engineering apprentice in 1997 and gained several years’ experience in boat building before becoming a manufacturing engineer tasked with integrating more efficient manufacturing principles and improving the operational process. A couple of years later, I became a production manager in charge of the fitout assembly for a number of boat models, and later took on the role of operations manager and head of engineering – at the time, the youngest person to have been promoted to that level.

Then in 2014 I took a sabbatical, indulging my passion for offshore powerboat racing in Florida, followed by a period in the Defense sector supporting our Royal Navy platforms. I then returned to Princess in an exciting role heading up the newly-formed advanced operations team, which 12 months later morphed into my current role when a number of engineering functions were consolidated under one ‘Man Eng’ umbrella.

The role includes supporting new product projects, visiting the various sites, reviewing new product strategies and supporting operations with engineering and build sequence direction. Because of my background, I also like to get involved and support the day-to-day problem-solving decisions with current builds. We consistently have between five and 10 new model projects ongoing at any one time and, once a product is launched, the team analyses what could have been done more efficiently on site and factors this into future projects as part of the ‘lessons learnt and continuous improvement’ process.

When it comes to product design, Princess has always had strong traditional roots and this has led to a large number of returning customers who trade up over years of ownership. We have some extremely talented designers who are keen to push the boundaries in terms of innovation – you only have to look at the R35 and X range – and part of my team’s job is to manage how far we can go within the ‘design for manufacture’ parameters of build sequence, cost, quality and validation of weight affecting fundamental performance and stability characteristics.

I enjoy all the different aspects of my job and I think my 20-plus years at the company helps greatly in my current role. My professional experience, from shop floor to senior management, gives me the tools to empathize and communicate with people at all levels, as well as the practical skills to back up our engineering strategy and return on investment (ROI) projections.

The excitement of working with the latest product designs and playing a key role in mapping the future boat production pipeline is something that I thrive on. I continue to feel privileged that I get to work with such talented people, and I look forward to strengthening the department with further talent as we progress towards achieving the goal of a ‘Flawless Launch’.

To learn more about Princess Yachts’ craftsmanship, visit their website.