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When Todd Shipyards Corp. won the contract to build three Washington state ferries for $182 million - $58 million less than a consortium of local shipyards - some people on the waterfront muttered Todd had bought the job.
What they didn't know about was Todd's secret weapon: Koichi Baba.
Baba, an understated Japanese engineering consultant with decades of experience at Japan's largest shipyard, is leading Todd's charge to transform its shipbuilding methods. The success of that effort will determine if Todd makes money on the ferries, and if it ever builds ships again.
"The ferry contract represents an irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really change," said Todd president Roland Webb, who used some of the same techniques when he operated a shipyard in Vancouver, B.C. "Really what we're looking at is the next century."
The changes in production techniques and …