NN3D in the U.K., and a Furuno USA apology

Furuno MFD12 in U.K

Seeking the cutting edge of marine electronics—any technology really—can be bitter sweet. On the one hand, for instance, it’s wicked hard right now to actually get your hands on Furuno NavNet 3D equipment here in the States, so hard that Furuno USA just posted a long apology about it. Meanwhile a U.K. Panbo reader and electronics pro has just installed a full suite of NN3D gear, and is exceedingly impressed (as I was after a trip on a Furuno test boat in May):

DRS4D (4’ radar): The dual range radar is “AMAZING”…went out on a small trial and it was very fast, very impressive.  Note this was using out-the-box auto settings; I did not manually adjust heading, timing or tuning once. I loved the NMEA2000 port in the scanner, which made the setup so easy. Furuno even includes a terminating resistor in the installation kit so you can connect 1 or 2 devices to the antenna and put the resistor over the data lines and the DRS will auto pick it up (don’t think NMEA will be happy with the “terminal strip and slap a resistor in” approach by Furuno but it works flawlessly). I ran a Furuno SC-30 and Maretron WSO100 into the DRS4D via this method no problem.

SC-30 (satellite compass): Very impressed with this bit of kit. It locked on to a GPS position while it was mounted at 90 degrees as we had the mast down tinkering with brackets. When the mast went up, it found a heading within 3 minutes and was SPOT on, no adjustment needed. The heave correction provided to the DFF1 was also very impressive! 

AIS: There is an issue with NN3D losing AIS targets after a few minutes, but I believe the fault to be with the Comar unit rather than the NavNet 3D. I am going to be doing more testing next week in the workshop when we receive our shipment of MDF8’s, 12’s, and BB’s, as if you use the FA150 or FA30 (50), there is no problem, so I think it may be a forming issue with the specific AIS strings.

DFF1 (fishfinder): Plugged in and worked excellently.

Fax30 (weather-fax and Navtex server): NN3D picks this up as “unknown fax” which I thought a bit strange considering the FAX-30 predates NN3D by a long way

As you can see (top, and bigger here), the MapMedia raster charts are very good on the MFD12, though I still prefer vector. I am pushing Furuno on a release date for the vectors in Europe.

There are some problems though. There is no port monitor for the 0183 ports or way to tell what sentences are being received by the system (I have flagged this to Furuno and they say this is to be looked into). The MFD12 was slower when radar overlay is linked to range (so the chart zooms in and out as the radar range changes) and the update of the radar overlay on the chart is about once per second. By slower I was expecting too much out of the little brother after using the black box unit.  It is still faster than any other radar overlay I have seen!

Overall, the customer is very happy, and I am ecstatic about how the NN3D performed.

I too was hugely impressed with the SC-30 satellite compass and will write more about it soon. But, Yanks be warned, Furuno doesn’t even have a U.S. price for this item yet. I also understand that the FI-50 instruments are widely available in Europe but very hard to get here. What gives? The Furuno USA apology sounds heart felt, but is short on details as to when all this gear will really be available in quantity, yet our U.K. friend seems to rolling in it (he says he’s adding three more stations to that NN3D network next week!). This is a completely wild conjecture, but could the Furuno mother company in Japan be favoring markets outside the U.S. because our dollar has gotten so weak?

PS Here’s a Hull Truth thread on NN3D MFD12 deliveries here in the States. One guy just put up pictures of his new helm with big empty cut outs where the dual MFDs should be. Ouch.

PSW Hull Truth NN3D MFD12 sockets

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

29 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    They are absolutely favoring Europe over the USA due to the USD – EUR conversion rate. They join the ranks of many companies that have created “shortages” in the United States by diverting hardware to a more profitable European market. Nintendo is another company doing this. I’m sure there are some CEOs patting each other on the back at their country clubs right now over this latest trick to inflate short term profits without regard to long term consequences…

  2. Wildfish says:

    I saw the vector charts for Australia at a boat show here recently and it was quite impressive. The sales guys explained that the 3D underwater view was not available yet for this area (Aus) but the satellite overlay was impressive. I viewed the demo on a Navnet black box but they also had 12″ and 8″ displays which were not as fast as the black box but they were certainly still fast when comparred to the Garmin with 3Dturned on. Also Garmin did not have sets running with radar overlay soi could not compare it but in my opinion the Navnet 3D was a clear winner and impressed me very much.

  3. Wildfish says:

    Kevin, I do not agree. A friend of mine who works for furuno in Europe (UK) is able to access the warranty data base that shows what equipmnt has shipped from the factory and to which national distributor. He’s got nothing to gain by bullsh*tting me and he said that as far as hardware goes the US has still got the most stock shipped. Other countires are struggeling just as much to get 3D hardware.

  4. Arnie says:

    Could the short supply in the USA and the large supply in the UK possibly have anything to do with size? Have you considered that an adequete supply in England would probably only fill 3 small Northeast states? I am sure you realize the size of the market in Florida alone dwarfs the entire UK. Just look at what is consdiered good circulation of a boating magazine in England.

  5. Andy says:

    I am the electronics guy who fitted the above kit to the UK vessel.
    The UK does not have huge stocks of it but our equipment has been on order for a few months.
    According to EU Furuno guys the statment that the USA has most stock is true so i think the USA is just got plain more orders.
    Also delaying the process is the fact each unit needs upgrading and loading with charts at the national distributor.

  6. Lee Guite says:

    Ben. I have to agree with the comments above which became more apparent to me since last September buying bulbs from The LED SHOP in Australia. The price in Australian dollars for the $35 bulbs were originally about $30 and change in US dollars, but gradually dropped down until when last checked the price was a dollar even. Our dollar isn’t worth it to the larger companies like Furuno which explains why they are marketed in Canada or Europe. Lee

  7. Steve says:

    Actually what is very peculiar, given the exchange rates, is why this stuff is not more expensive in the U.S. (or cheaper in the UK). I looked up the price of a MFD12 Display at mesldt.co.uk and at boatersland.com. The prices, translated into Yen, were equivalent to 520K and 364K respectively (The UK price was ex VAT).
    Assuming equal markups by the dealers, it looks like Furuno would make much more money by selling units in the U.K. than in the U.S.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Unlike China who’s business community seems to have adopted the US$, the Japanese factory sells it’s products to the rest of the world in Japanese Yen. The Australian company sells it’s products in Australian dollars. Unless you’re earning and paying in US dollars who cares?

  9. Russ says:

    Sorry Ben but I disagree with your theory that Furuno is manipulating shipments to arbitrage the dollar.
    While the value of the dollar has fallen dramatically in the last five years, since since last fall it’s dropped about 7%. We have no idea what the relative margins are in the various geo markets, nor how accurately Furuno forward priced the units last summer when they were setting pricing. Having managed products that sold $B’s / yr internationally I can tell you that there are a lot of variables in pricing and distribution; it’s not a simple matter of sending the product to the country with the best exchange rate.
    However, I have the luxury I guess of having been able to obtain a many elements of a complete NN3D system (MFD8, DRS4A, FA30, etc.). I had the system on order since they began accepting orders, but in the end I had to piece it together opportunistically from dealers all over the east.
    In addition to the supply chain issues that Furuno references there are definitely some teething problems. The charts on my system don’t look nearly as good as those pictured above. I suggest that anyone considering a purchase look at the charts on the system they intend to purchase before they get too upset about not being able to take delivery. Beyond that there are clearly bugs in the MaxSea software that is running on the units; some minor, some significant. There has also been a big delay in shipping MaxSea as a stand alone product which is what I plan to use for route planning. So for myself, the complete system is not really available even though I have the NN3D h/w.
    NN3D is a massive undertaking, writing a very large body of s/w from scratch, reformatting charts of the entire world in two formats, and of course creating custom hardware to run it all. While the NN3D units are a Windows computer at their core, there is clearly a lot of custom system design. I think it’s going to take a little time to sort it all out.
    To their credit, the Furuno support organization has been very responsive. And unlike some support organizations, they have never been “in denial”. When a problem is identified, and they’ve run through their diagnostics, they don’t try to pass it off as somebody else’s problem (like the user!).
    I was very happy to see Furuno’s continued pride in the reliabilty of their products in their open letter. If they are supply constrained while also sorting out the bugs, it may be the best thing for everyone.

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Russ, but please don’t raise my “wild conjecture” to “theory” status! I don’t know beans about international finance in general or much about Furuno’s shipping issues in particular. And I may have overstated NN3D availability outside the U.S.
    At any rate, I agree that NN3D is a massive undertaking, and I don’t think it should really be a surprise to any of us that it may take a while to completely sort out. Boats are such a complex environment for electronics, especially in relation to their small total market size.

  11. Wildfish says:

    Steve, I believe that it’s impossible to do the math based on working a “street price” (prices you found on UK websites) backwards to calculate the Yen price. Furuno (Japan) would sell their products at the same price to all national distributors. The dealers offer discounts off the MSRP or RRP prices and depending on how much “profit” the market will allow them to make, this will detemine the actual street or end-user price. As someone else mentioned on an earlier post, the size of the FL market is bigger than the whole of UK so the US dealers work for less margins but higher sales volume. Once the products have been sold to the national distributor (eg: Furuno USA / Furuno UK etc) the parent company in Japan has made their money. It’s now up to the distributor and their distribution channel (dealers) to compete for the rest. Basically Furuno Japan tries to keep all their markets happy which with NN3D is proving to be quite a challenge. However as someone correctly pointed out (I think on THT), this is a massive undertaking by Furuno Japan and MaxSea in both hardware and software and not to mention the charts! One thing I can say about Furuno is that they do their own beta testing and they will not allow product into the market and expect dealers and end-users to fault find or sort out major bugs. Small bugs and minor upgrades are all part of the technology / software business but my experience with Furuno has been that they will rather hold back sales than release a dud!

  12. Roger says:

    It appears that Furuno have released a dud.
    The technology is wonderful but they have made the same mistakes that computer people were making 20 years ago. Announcing products which were not market-ready and not available in sufficient quantity to meet demand purely to pre-empt the competition.
    The rule then was buy what is available NOW as a finished product not what is promised.

  13. Cameron "Praetorian47" says:

    I don’t see how Furuno has released a dud. I understand being upset waiting. I’ve said before, I’m still waiting for charts for mine (and will likely have to wait 2 weeks more).
    Other top manufacturers have released product without enough supply for the demand quite often (Xbox, PS3, Wii ring any bells)?
    The thing about a company like Furuno is that they want things to be perfect, so they can delay release forever (a good example would be their FLS unit that’s not been released, even though I would bet it’s better than the Echopilot or Interphase units already).
    No manufacturer today makes all their own parts and supplies and are therefor at the mercy of those suppliers. Furuno and Maxsea have done an admirable job working together to make this happen at all (Maxsea Timezero isn’t available yet directly is it?)
    While I understand the frustrations people must feel, and share them in some way, I can’t see these repeated complaints actually accomplishing anything.
    Furuno has admitted they have a problem. They have admitted they are at fault. They have promised to do everything they can to make it right (ie air shipping units instead of by ship).
    What would you have them do?
    Personally, I would like to know what suppliers and parts are the ones causing the problems. Maybe that information would help us understand the problems better.
    That’s just my opinion, and opinions are like …..

  14. Russ says:

    Roger, I think we have different definitions of “dud”. I consider a product that customers decline to purchase when it’s readily available in the market to be a “dud”. And with probably 100 systems installed world wide it can’t be considered vaporware either.
    But as you say, if you need a system now, then it’s not the product for you. If you have the luxury of time, it may be worth the wait. I don’t think my NN3D system is quite ready for prime time, but it does show a lot of potential.

  15. Wildfish says:

    I agree, NN3D is hardly a dud. Frusting in that it is not being supplied in the quantity or time frame that was planned but I do not think Furuno is alone or the first to experience logistic set backs. Furuno are sometimes too technical and pedantic for their own good but at least when released their products live up to the technical specs on the brochure!
    MaxSea TZ is available in Australia with vector charts. The lastest Version 1.3 was released last week with: 1) Complete weather function 2) Routing module 3) Tida currents 4) Planning Route 4) NavData
    Not sure why USA has not released it?

  16. Wildfish says:

    NN3D is certainly no dud. I think Furuno are sometimes too thorough and technical for their own good. I suppose it is a good thing as at least when released their products live up to the technical and performance specs as advertised on their brochures.
    MaxSea Timer Zero is available in Australia. In fcat version 1.3 was released last week and includes: 1) Complete weather 2) Routing module 3) Tidal currents display 4) Planning route 5) NavData
    Also all vector charts are available for Australia.

  17. Russ says:

    That’s a puzzle, why is MaxSea TZ available in Australia, but not the US? According to the MaxSea web site, all of the NN3D integration is due in Q3. Perhaps Furuno USA is waiting for those features. Let’s hope that’s more like July than September 30.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Yes normal MaxSea TZ is in the UK
    Be a bit wary of the date on the maxsea site for release i would be surprised if we see it this year.

  19. Wildfish says:

    Just to keep the records straight guys. That’s MaxSea Time Zero PC version (without NavNet interface) that is currently available in Australia. We’re told by the local Furuno distributor that the NavNet interface will be available “towards the end of the year”.

  20. Cameron "Praetorian47" says:

    My dealer has givin me this information for delivery
    of the remaining stuff I ordered (this is about 2 weeks old):
    BBWX1 Shipping end of month (June)
    SC-30 Next few weeks
    3d Charts coming soon
    MaxSea+ I don’t know (his words)
    The charts are available and coming now. I mounted my old CP500 on the dash to get me out until I get the charts. I’ll also use it as a sanity check on the chart data for the first little bit, since I know the accuracy of the CMAP info.
    As I’m in Canada, my charts aren’t NOAA. The raster charts coming now are straight from CHS, where CMAP and Navionics get their source data from. This should make for excellent charts.
    I’ll post a comment here and/or THT on how the Canadian raster charts compare to the CMAP charts after I try them out.
    (the NN3 vector charts for Canada are months away, so I won’t be able to comment on them likely until next summer).
    One pet peeve that I have with some charts (Garmin is the worst for this, Navionics is usually the best) is that the charts do not have names listed for bays. The paper charts have them, Navionics has them in almost all cases so I know the data is made available.
    I’m expecting (and hoping) the NN3 raster charts have all this data – it will make finding things easier for me!

  21. LA says:

    Very simply in this day and age Furuno never should have scheduled a release date and shipping date without sufficient quantities of product IN the US and IN their warehouse. They knew they didn’t have it, heck not much of it had even been made yet apparently, but they did it anyway.
    They then waited months to issue a press release (just a few days ago) and a weak on at that, that there was a delay in manufacturing. I would have expected a lot more from them.

  22. Arnie says:

    I undertsand the childhood concept of not being allowed to have candy in class unless you have enough for everyone, but the last time I checked Furuno was runnig a business. I doubt that Cameron would be very happy knowing that his system was sitting in a warehouse until there was enough for everybody.
    I have also seen this happen in “this day and age” with many other industries so Furuno is certainly not unique.
    And what was wrong with their posted bulletin? It made sense to me and I have no reason to think they are handing me BS. What exactly would you like to see?

  23. Mike says:

    The question is not whether the NN3D hardware works.
    The issue is that Furuno has botched the *product launch*
    and has created a success disaster.
    What they have on their hands now is a massive case of “toying with the affections of the marketplace”. The historical record is clear – the marketplace does *NOT* like to be toyed with and usually administers a severe beating.
    As for there being some financial imperative to do an unprepared launch of the product, that’s the *worst* possible thing they could have done. It doesn’t produce an observable amount of revenue and pisses-off the people you need as customers when you can ship the product.
    Whether or not you like the iPod, Apple knows how to do a product launch. The products are in final-form production for months ahead of the launch so they can actually ship product on the date they promise. This doesn’t matter whether you intend to sell 10 million or 10 thousand units. You *must* have stock on hand and a manufacturing run-rate in-place adequate to meet forecasted sales demand before you launch because you only get once chance to launch a product.
    If Furuno has not done the marketing homework to get a reasonable sales rate forecast, then they simply failed to do one of the most important jobs in product management.
    As it is, they seem to have violated the first rule of product development and launch:
    Plan to succeed.
    Note there are at least 3 different interpretations of that phrase and they all matter.
    I happen to like Furuno a lot, both their products and their support, and wouldn’t wish this situation upon an enemy. I’ve been on the pointy end of this stick myself. I do hope they manage to get a handle on things and turn it around. I suspect it will involve, essentially, a product retraction or hiatus followed by a relaunch done with more attention to the fundamentals.
    I wish them lots of luck and that the product gods smile upon them.

  24. norse says:

    Apple never releases info on products they aren’t ready to sell. Compare Furuno which did a lot of teasing but very little revealing. The frustration started months ago.

  25. Kees says:

    @norse, @Mike:
    Ahem. Apple DOES sometimes announce future products, and ‘mess up’ the launch. The original iPhone was announced on January 9, 2007 and it was in the shops on June 29, 2007. They also didn’t have enough stock for the first period, *AND* they only sold the product in the USA.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Apple with ultra deep pockets vs. Furuno ? Does that even begin to be a fair comparison ?

  27. norse says:

    I changed my mind. I talked to a Furuno dealer and his comment was that Furuno hugely underestimated what the response to NN3D. Sounds like a good explanation to me, and that would mean that their marketing campaign worked well, even if I didn’t like it.
    As for Apple, I won’t defend them or rant about them here. I only mentioned them as the other extreme in product announcements. I would hope that anyone copying them (or anyone else) would just copy the good parts.
    I’m still looking forward to seeing NN3D in action.

  28. LA says:

    Arnie – people like you are great…That is clearly not what I said and you obviously have no knowledge of the situation. It wasn’t that Furuno didn’t have enough for everybody, but rather they didn’t have enough for ANYBODY. Furuno only had minimal units(if that) in the US and only partial pieces of certian items. I know people that received an array for a radar but are still waiting weeks later on the motor assembly?? What is that?? Furuno then waited months to issue a vague press release knowing full well, long ahead of the release, there was a problem and that very few of the units had even been built.

  29. Arnie says:

    Thank you for the compliment. My mother thinks I’m great too. 😉

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