Much of the recent evolution in yachting design results from the introduction of new accessories and the chance for numerous manufacturers and designers to broaden the horizons of possibilities . It is no coincidence that architect Ludwing Mies van der Rohe’s famous dictum was “God is in details”.
Over the last few years, just a few things have been so distinctive as yacht terraces with opening bulwarks, convertible transoms that can be easily transformed into submergible bathing platforms or retractable gangways that, despite an extension up to 7 metres, can be folded into compact compartments when not in use.
A key role in this innovation process is played by Besenzoni, an Italian company based in Sarnico, one among the most iconic places of high-quality Italian yachting industry. Founded in 1967 and specialized in the manufacturing of prime boat accessories, Besenzoni currently boasts 100 employees in addition to a wide network of local suppliers, all sons of a region that has built its wealth on steel manufacturing.
Over the past three years, 9% of company turnover has been reinvested in innovation: a great percentage if we consider that the EU average is around 2% (and the figure is much more significant if compared with the Italian reality where this value drops to 1.2%). Furthermore, Besenzoni Research & Development Department is supported by a great number of partnerships with universities, including the Engineering Faculty of the University of Bergamo. Students provide the company with their energies and skills and co-operate to develop new projects and products. The more than 60 international patents owned by the brand are clear evidence of the company’s real value.
The history of the brand started with Giovanni Besenzoni, who inaugurated his career by building powerboat windshields. Driven by a great passion for mechanics and manic attention to details, he quickly became a reference point for many shipyards. In the ’80s, the company was already famous for its iconic gangways. Since then, the company’s product range has been progressively enlarged. The current range includes 8 different collections: hydraulic and retractable gangways; fly bridge and aft cranes: helm seats; lateral electrically-operated doors and Patio doors; oleo-dynamic bathing and lateral ladders; hard tops and awnings; tender launch systems; electric doors and hydraulic bathing platforms.
The list of products is even longer and includes more advanced systems, such as folding helipads (currently under inspection by some aviation safety authorities) or drone platforms. In short, a multitude of products designed to suit the most various needs.
Today, the founder is retired but continues to provide the company with his daily, precious contribution. The group is currently run by his sons, Giorgio and Fiorella. The latter, who is also Communication and Marketing Manager of the company, has met us these days for an interesting interview where she has told us about Besenzoni’s activity.
– Fiorella, what do customers look for in a boat accessory?
” Invention engenders notoriety and draw customers’ attention. However, what makes the customer feel safe is the solidity of the business itself. Of course, we’re pleased that a helm seat of ours – the P 400 Matrix – has gained the nomination for the Dame Award – the prestigious competition hosted by METS, the world’s largest leisure marine equipment trade show – but what makes us feel much more satisfied is the certainty that customers look at us as a reliable partner for their needs”.
This means that products need not only to be new and attractive but also increasingly more “plug and play” and user-friendly. A company like Besenzoni has indeed to interact with different kinds of clients, including private owners, designers, boat manufacturers, project managers and even captains. Needs, too, are different: while some customers look for attractive design, others focus on easy installation, reliability and assistance network extension.
” Price is a common concern of all customers. Clients who “spare no expense” are a rare exception. I can’t recall more than three”, the manager tells us.
For all these reasons, an ambitious company should focus on each of these aspects to preserve its position within the market. This results in the need to develop products that can be as comprehensive as possible in order to not let anyone down.
Of course, the needs of the shipyard that has to install a specific accessory represent an important priority. 80% of Besenzoni yacht accessories are destined to be installed during a building or refitting process.
” Post-sale market consists exclusively of external gangways, table supports and helm seats”, Fiorella explains, “ The capacity of establishing a stable co-operation with a shipyard since the very first boat development and construction steps represents an additional guarantee for our industrial customers because we give them the solution to all their problems. In addition, we optimize our products or invent something new, if necessary”.
However, it’s only after installation that the life of an accessory actually begins. Demanding conditions, including moisture, salinity and uninterrupted motion, result in severe test for the resistance of complex systems like those ones made in the Sarnico-based production site. And if Murphy’s law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” – is true, companies should always be ready to offer efficient assistance services. Moreover, boat accessories inevitably tend to travel all around the world: after all, yachts sail…
” When your assistance network includes 185 help centres in 59 different countries, slack seasons don’t exist: alternating seasons in the two hemispheres result into the possibility to enjoy summer and cruises in different places. Consequently, the only solution is to be operational, always. And “always” means “always”, holidays included. A boat holiday ruined by an accessory failure is never a good thing”.
As already mentioned, creation of new products and improvement of the existing ones are the major priorities for a company. Everything can be improved. Gangways, for example, can be larger, lighter, longer and designed to be accommodated in more compact compartments. In addition, there are those who use gangways just to get on and off the boat and are therefore exclusively interested into the genuine product usability.
” It’s important to focus on those customers who climb on board a boat just once or twice a year: they generally look for gangways equipped with ropes or additional supports that can prevent them from falling overboard”, Besenzoni Communication Manager explains.
” Innovative in terms of design and technology, the world of yacht accessories remains conservative in terms of materials“.
Mrs. Besenzoni explains:“ Metal remains the main element in this sector. Carbon is beautiful but sturdiness and lightness are not its main strengths. Moreover, aluminum is the best and most cost-efficient material in the construction of gangways that must also function as cranes with a maximum load capacity of 200 Kg. Saving is always a virtuous attitude but if the gain is equal to “zero point..per cent” against a cost that can be multiplied fivefold, it doesn’t seem to me to be a great advantage. Such choice could make sense for more specific products, such as those designed for sailboats and cruising catamarans, where installation of marine accessories might translate into a greater advantage”.