When we asked our clients and prospects what they needed from an underwater repair and maintenance company, their answers can be summed up in two words: SPEED and QUALITY. Clearly these two must go hand in hand on every job. A very high-quality job that holds a ship up for an extra four days is unacceptable. A very fast repair that doesn’t fully solve the problem is as bad or worse. In fact we have often been called in to repair a repair done by a less experienced or skilled company. Speed and quality combined also result in cost savings for the client.
The subject of speed has been covered in another article. In this article we concentrate on quality.
The meaning of quality
What do our clients mean when they demand quality, and what do we mean when we claim to deliver top quality work? A company offering maintenance and repair services is different from one that delivers new products such as propellers, depth sounders or ships.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “Quality” is,
- the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.
It comes from “Latin qualitas, from qualis ‘of what kind, of such a kind’”
To us, a high- or top-quality job is one where the client’s requirements are met completely or exceeded. A temporary hull repair, for example, must be of a quality that enables the ship to sail to its intended destination for full repair safely without leaking. A stern tube seal repair must be done so well that not only is the leak stopped, but the replacement seals last without leakage for at least the length of time specified by the OEM. This is one reason we insist on using only OEM and not off-brand seals. A propeller polishing fully polishes the entire propeller so that it is completely smooth and fuel efficient. And so it goes. We aim for this level of quality on every operation. We guarantee our work. And we have a remarkable track record. This level of quality is combined with speed of delivery and remains cost-effective for the client.
Basics: order, cleanliness, respect, teamwork, attitude
Boud Van Rompay, Founder and CEO of Hydrex, recalls the early days and the steps he took to inspire this level of quality of work in his team of divers and technicians. “I remember in the 1970s when we were just beginning, I used to go to our workshop near the shipyard on a Saturday. I would clean up the mess left by the divers, make sure all the equipment was in good repair, put everything away and leave the depot spotless and in perfect order. To begin with I had to do this myself to show the others what I expected. After a while, when they saw what I wanted, they started doing this themselves. When you keep everything in order and clean and operational, it is very easy to see when there is a problem or trouble spot. It stands out. You might wonder, ‘What does this have to do with quality?’ But when you go into our depot today or climb aboard one of our trucks, vans or workboats the first thing that strikes you is just how clean and orderly everything is – it speaks of a high-quality operation. This, to me, is the first step in achieving a high-quality product or service. It’s a tradition in Hydrex often commented on by others in the industry. We run the tightest, cleanest, most orderly and well-equipped show.”
Boud continues, “This fact, all on its own, generates respect. New people coming to work for us are attracted by this and respect it. This then translates into teamwork and a team of competent individuals who share high standards of order and quality of work.”
With these basic factors in place, the next most important element in delivering top quality service is completing actions. When parts of a job are left incomplete you have trouble. Each part of a job completed well results in the overall job ending successfully. So everyone on our team learns to complete actions and not leave anything open or undone.
Toon Joos, Chief Diver, points out the underlying intention or attitude that is key to success: “Our viewpoint, when we go on any job, is that no matter how difficult it is, no matter what obstacles we run into, we will always deliver a correct end product to the customer. That’s why we never fail a job.”
The team leaders and team members who go out on a job are all trained to think on their feet and deal with whatever comes up in order to get the job done.
“What we do at Hydrex is we solve problems,” says Jonathan De Kerf, a recently promoted Senior Diver. “Often these come up at the start of the job when we see exactly what we have to deal with, but can also show up during the job. When a problem arises, we solve it. As Team Leader, I have full responsibility for the final success of the job.”
“Teamwork is most important to quality,” Toon says. “It starts with the inquiry and the quotation in the office and continues through the confirmed order to the preparations and assembly of the team all the way through to the completion of the job and the final report to the client. We work as a team.”
Along with the clean orderly spaces, equipment and vehicles, the strong sense of teamwork is a distinctive hallmark of Hydrex at the depot and on the job.
Timo Verhoegstraete, in charge of Technical Services, explains the vital role played by his department in ensuring a top-quality result. Without the organization, planning and coordination, quality suffers. “Before the job can start we have to arrange everything including the necessary paperwork and permits, transport of the team and the equipment, accommodations and local transport if it’s a longer, remote job, workboats and cranes if needed, as well as all the safety measures. We monitor the vessel’s arrival and departure time to make sure we have time to complete the job. During the job we are in constant communication with our team on site and with the client and ship agent and manager to coordinate everything. Team selection is part of every job and another key factor in obtaining a high-quality result.”
Jonathan concurs: “Preparation is everything. Preparation of equipment, preparation of materials and procedures.”
Procedures and training
Clément Paquet, a very experienced Senior Diver who has overseen countless successful operations, says, “As long as everybody follows the procedures and adheres to Hydrex standards, then the quality will follow without fail. We have the people and know-how to deliver a high-quality product every time.”
Clément spent months writing up from experience the correct procedures for all the key operations that Hydrex is asked to undertake. “When you’re doing pioneering work you’re always going to make some mistakes in the beginning before you fine tune the operation in the end.” The procedures now painstakingly written up by Clément and side-checked by Toon and Boud are the final result of distilling the best way to perform each operation. These procedures form the core of Hydrex Underwater Technology. New members of the team are trained on them and they are a key factor in delivering a high-quality result.
“Training is carried out constantly and is part of every job,” says Toon.
Delivery and final result
Clément also stresses preparation, particularly from the point of view of the Team Leader. “Before the job starts you have to have the correct information. Then you can make your assessment and plan before you get on site. You must have the correct equipment and people with you. I always have a plan in my head already before I go ahead with the job. I try to teach the other guys too: before they start something, try to make up their mind about the exact steps for applying the procedure to that specific case. It makes the process easier once you’re busy because you already have the story written. On site you often have stressful situations due to lack of time and other factors. If you start on a job well prepared, then those things get easier. When the job is in progress, I try to oversee every step. I can monitor the divers’ actions by CCTV and correct where needed. At the end we make an overall CCTV inspection with the client there.”
Hydrex was founded with the purpose of delivering the highest quality of service possible at the highest speed, in order to keep ships in business and out of drydock. This purpose and accomplishment is what makes Hydrex stand out in a crowded marketplace today.
News and projects
At the end of 2022 our diver/technician teams carried out a double underwater stern tube seal repair on a roro
Recently our diver/technicians carried out scrubber overboard pipe repairs in ports in Belgium and the Netherlands. Corroded pipes were replaced
A 135-meter tanker suffered cavitation damage to the inside shell-plating of one of its ballast water tanks. We mobilized a