Anja Blomström and Heidi Autio work in the small parts laminating section at the Nautor’s Swan BTC plant (Boatbuilding Technology Center) in Pietarsaari. They both came from completely different sectors originally but applied to the boatbuilding industry as there was an opportunity of permanent employment and day work.
“The first three months, when everything was new, were challenging, but you gradually learn. If you’re inquisitive and ask about things you don’t understand, you learn,” says Heidi.
In addition to working, Heidi and Anja participated in a boatbuilding training course, arranged in collaboration with Optima. The training was during working hours and consisted of modules where you got to know about different aspects of the boatbuilding process.
“It was very educational to gain an insight into the whole industry – not just our own department,” says Anja. “It gives you a greater understanding of the materials and methods used and how different things affect each other. You understand the entire process better, and how important it is for us to do the right thing from the start, so that our parts will fit when installed in the boat.”
Anja and Heidi describe their work in the small parts lamination section as independent and highly varied.
“We manufacture everything from small parts to bulkheads several metres long,” says Anja. “The materials and methods can vary depending on the project. Some days we work on our own, and other days as a team. Certain projects are finished in a day, while others take several weeks.”
The small parts are laminated using resin-impregnated fibres (pre-preg and sprint) made according to boat-specific designs. The process consists of preparing moulds, applying fibre matting, vacuuming parts and oven curing. A lot of physical work, but the emphasis is on precision and problem-solving rather than strength.
Lamination methods have developed a great deal since the 1970s and are nowadays more hi-tech. The work has become more efficient with Nautor’s Swan staff developing a process whereby CNC-machined fibre matting is produced according to the project at hand. The work has thereby become easier, more efficient and more ergonomic. Nor do you notice any smell of styrene anymore in the lamination hall, thanks to modern working methods. In addition, staff have access to good protective equipment when necessary.
Just like other boat companies in the region, Nautor’s Swan is looking for more laminators in production.
“It’s an international workplace, with many languages being spoken, but if you speak Swedish, Finnish or English you’ll be fine here,” say Heidi and Anja.
They point out that the boat industry is open to everyone – women and men.
“A lot is to do with your attitude – daring to contribute, being inquisitive and not being afraid to ask things,” says Heidi. “I’m really proud to work for Nautor.”