Quality is not only aesthetic: An interview with DKB

Quality of service is very clearly at the centre of DKB’s passion, as Yachting Pages recently found out after speaking to Dolf Hamming, managing director of De Klerk Binnenbouw DKB – Dutch Built Interiors, specialists in the production of custom-built yacht interiors.

When was your business founded?

De Klerk Binnenbouw (DKB) started off as a workshop for a furniture in the centre of Rotterdam in 1873. The workshop developed into a bigger business for hotels, offices and villa’s.

About 35 years ago, Feadship asked us to help them build the interior of one of their yachts. Soon thereafter, we dropped our ‘land based’ business and focussed on luxury yacht interiors. Feadship is still our main customer today. We have grown and developed with them, focussing on the luxury part of the interiors.

In your own words how would you describe your business? 

Since DKB entered the yacht interior business, we have mainly focussed on luxury interior parts and superb quality. We only do custom builds, new builds and refits.

Employing around 30 craftsman in the beginning, we now have an organisation comprising of more than 100 employees. We combine extensive knowledge by amalgamating all sorts of materials in a design that is not only beautiful to look at, but exudes quality and finesse. We strive to provide an interior, which is pleasurable to use, not only the day the yacht is delivered, but even after many years of use.

What makes you different from your competitors?

Others are able to make beautiful interiors. Their product looks nice and the price may be right, but do they deliver real value for money? Value in terms of looks - of course - but also in terms of lasting quality, detail, timely delivery, repairs if needed and a pro-active working relationship with the designers/ architects/ yards?

DKB combines top notch quality with transparent planning of operations, a dedicated workforce and organised flexibility. These aspects create real value for our customers, at a fair price.

What’s new with your business?

DKB is constantly developing its products, technology and operations. From engineering (3D-CAD) to finishes (liquid metal), materials (light weight) and ICT (information and communication technologies). ICT for yacht interiors? Yes. Interiors are technical products that need maintenance, repairs, modifications and drawings. Beside the documentation that comes with the interior, DKB works on a platform that allows customers to look up information on their DKB interior online if needed.

Is there anything that people don’t know that you would like to announce?

Although we currently operate in the niche of the utmost luxurious yacht interiors, there is no reason not to involve us in loose furniture or land-based demands. Serving the same type of demanding end users, we understand the needs and the level of sophistication they are used to.

Who is your key target audience?

The end users of our products and services are not usually the same as the decision making units. We are rarely in direct contact with our end-users. The people that grant us the orders are usually the yards, influenced by architects and agents alike.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?

The market for high end interiors has been under severe pressure. Heavy competition among the interior suppliers resulted in price drops to a level where quality is not yet affected, but margins are unhealthy. There will either be a prolonged period where a shakeout cleans the business landscape, or a strong market recovery.

At the same time, design trends require higher development budgets. Also some veneers are becoming almost extinct, but are still very much in demand. We have already seen examples - from a lay man’s perspective – that a panel looks OK, but is just not the real thing. Although outsourcing interior work to specialists is a good thing, our contract partners need to maintain knowledge of materials and interior specifications in order to be able to evaluate price and performance, and appreciate the quality delivered.

How is business?  How have you been affected by the recession?

DKB is lucky to have seen significant growth in the past few years. It is however fair to say that this growth has been rather erratic, but it has helped us to become more efficient and compete more effectively.

What are your top tips in your industry?

Cost is important, but low prices will give you a cheap product instead of real value. Quality is not only aesthetics. Not all, but almost any design, can be made by DKB.

What are the current trends in your sector at the moment?

Shorter lead times. Probably one of DKB’s lesser known qualities by the way. Quality needs time, but our lean-based operation allows us to reduce our lead times close to the technical minimum. Short lead times are often confused with quick response times. DKB’s response time depends on the workload, however not for service requests. We maintain flexibility through our network of partners/ suppliers that work with us to maintain excellent customer service, anywhere in the world.

More versatility and different applications of materials and finishes in every new project we see. As not all materials are technically easy to combine and sometimes rather expensive, risks in projects are increasing.

Who would be your dream client?

Every new project is a dream: it’s unpredictable, exciting and always challenging.

We haven’t done many sailing yachts lately. DKB would love to be more active in that segment. Some of our employees are sailors themselves, which means we can add value due to our own experience.

For more information visit interior designers or DKB – Dutch Built Interiors.

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