Paper Boat Case Study Analysis: Now Read the Voodoo Book Reviewed HBS Case Analysis


In “The Harvard Case Study Solution to Plastic Boat Protection,” Robert Clarke, M.D., Ph.D., and the crew of the National Institute for Health, along with some contributors from the National Academy of Sciences, have found a way to increase boat protection while drastically cutting costs. The solution for boat cases is to cut through the foam insulation to access the protected surface and provide adequate cushioning.

Experts all agree that foam is a poor insulator, and its material properties are a compromise. Not only does foam not insulate well, it is very reactive to heat and cold, which means that its own weight will tend to increase the boat’s center of gravity, thereby causing the boat to tip, move out of balance, or even roll over. This makes foam almost an oxymoron in boat protection technology.

To save on cost, companies normally utilize thick, urethane-coated foam. Urethane is similar to wood in its basic chemical composition, but it has been engineered to be stiffer and warmer. It is also more expensive than wood, and therefore absorbs water far better than it should.

Inexpensive, thin foam should not be used for boat cases because it is not as effective. There are two primary types of foam used in boat cases: cavity wall foam and airfoam. A good foam can protect the boat from many types of damage, from sea water penetration, to splashes, to spills and puddles.

Foam panels provide cushioning, but when placed on their sides, they will absorb water. Placing foam on its side reduces the area of the boat that is protected, especially when a boat is under large pressure, such as from a particularly heavy rain. As the water flows underneath the foam, it quickly increases water weight by transferring water from below. With less area to protect, it is even more important to protect the area that is unprotected.

But what about boat cases that do not have a foam liner? What about boats that are not fully lived up to their bilge spaces? What about unlined boats? The answer lies in protection, and its quality, and in where it is installed.

Instead of doing the work of installing foam insulation over the course of time, the crew could install protection right in the bilge. Many companies already do this, and most of them will ship it by truck for very little expense.

The foam material is a narrow piece of fiberboard or styrofoam, and water gets inside by passing through an air gap between the fiberboard and the hull of the boat. The water that reaches the material, a relatively viscous liquid called agitative water, penetrates the fabric to stay in suspension until it evaporates.

A thin layer of agitating water also serves as insulation, protecting the hull from a much wider, colder, and colder flow of water, which will eventually destroy any foam. If the foam material is not properly installed, and there is an air gap, the foam will not absorb water, which will cause the boat to leak.

The material is also much less expensive than foam, and companies like using this type of material on their boats because it is flame resistant, which means it is also highly hypoallergenic. Adding agitative water to a foam base is only one strategy, though. There are other methods for increasing the number of water-sensing fibers on the hull.

Plywood covered with microfiber fiber, or with artificial fur can also be used to absorb water and protect the boat. The lower cost, and the fact that the material is non-combustible make it a better option than foam for most marine vessels.

And that, in a nutshell, is the latest paper boat case study analysis. In the end, protecting your boat from the “twin of” the ocean is as important as protecting your boat from outside threats. Putting foam and other inflatable materials in the wrong places simply will not cut it.