Monday Minute - Integrate, Innovate, or Evaporate


Some years ago, I wrote a feature article suggesting the need for a forward-thinking company to step up and take me out of the equation when it comes to managing marine electrical systems. I offered several examples of how a boat's electrical system could work autonomously, managing the loads, the battery levels, and all charging devices by itself. I was unnecessary and definitely the weak link in the chain. Assuming I know all the engineering that is involved is a bad idea.

My thinking was that these systems are comprised of products and equipment made by various unrelated manufacturers, and require the boat operator to know when battery levels require the generator to be started, and when an extended load on the inverter draws down the house bank too far.

Back then, there was no way to automate this, or should I say more correctly, there was no company interested in pursuing this automation. It required integrating system components.

I contacted my company reps for the article, and later spoke to them at boat shows. I clearly remember the generator manufacturers, notably Northern Lights and Westerbeke, telling me that they are in the generator business, and that is not what they do. I got the same reaction from Xantrex and Heart Interface. Nope, not what we do! The folks at Balmar loved the idea but it wasn't quite ready to happen.

Boy, have times changed! I believe it is fair to call 2018 the Year of Integration. Manufacturers and builders are going precisely in this direction to make boats as integrated and seamless as the automotive industry. You are not buying an engine and a boat, one company president is quoted as saying, "You are buying one product that has all of those components together," much like an automobile. Perhaps the days of "us" and "them" are over. These companies work together now, or as seen in recent developments, they are now on the same team, as mergers and acquisitions have taken over the industry. That is a good thing for us.

The many years of struggling to link proprietary protocols, adapters and security dongles, and systems that "should" work together but don't, may be coming to an end. The many components of a propulsion system, long a string of products sourced from many companies, may eventually come from one manufacturer working closely with the builder. And even some boat builders have become part of a larger manufacturing brand.

Take for example the recent acquisition of Power Products by Brunswick Corp. Some of the Power Products companies include names you are familiar with: Ancor, Blue Seas Systems, Marinco, and Mastervolt. And Brunswick owns other marine companies, including many boat builders and engine manufacturers. They all are under one roof.

The day of providing an automotive experience to boaters, offering extreme reliability, ease of use, and safety across the board, seems on the horizon. My recent evening on an MJM 35z was one such example.

Have a great week.