Aussie companies having big impact on defence global supply chain

defence supply chain, the venture magazine

Defence in the digital age is a multinational collaboration. A global supply chain is now the norm. Those concepts converge in the Australian government’s Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC), which helps Australian companies make inroads in the defence industry. Through the CDIC, part of the Global Supply Chain (GSC) Program, several Aussie companies are contributing to the latest military tech in the skies, on the ground, and on the water.

The F-35

Last December, Australia received its first two F-35 fighter jets as part of the multinational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme. Over its lifetime, more than $1 trillion in today’s money will be spent on the F-35. BAE Systems Australia, which supplies 300 titanium components monthly for each F-35 vertical tail, is digitising its supply chain to keep up with demand. “Digitisation will allow project partners to see plans in real time, identify and resolve issues faster, improve risk management, and optimise production,” BAE said in a press release. It also eliminates the need to use proprietary software, the expense of which can be a barrier to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) looking to participate in global supply chains.

“This is so much more than replacing paper processes with digital technology,’ BAE Systems Australia aerospace and integrated systems director Steve Drury said. “If we get this right and develop a freely available, open standard to digitise supply chains, the long-term benefits of this project to the broader Australian industry could be significant.”

The $750,000 digitisation project in partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) is a significant step in Industry 4.0 implementation. “The development of best practice between a leading defence industry prime and Australian SMEs is another example of how everyone can win from collaboration,” AMGC managing director Dr. Jens Goennemann said. “This will be essential if Australia’s manufacturing sector and economy is to successfully transform as the global market accelerates toward the adoption of Industry 4.0.”

In all, more than 50 Australian companies have contributed to the F-35 with contracts worth $1.3 billion. Lovitt Technologies Australia produces machined longerons for the centre wing assembly, and Quickstep manufactures carbon fibre composite components.

Surface to Air

On the ground, REDARC Electronics provides circuit design, advanced PCB layout, embedded microprocessor software development, and more for military vehicles such as the Bushmaster, G-Wagon, HX Truck, and Hawkei. The company is adding 2,000 square metres of advanced manufacturing space to its Lonsdale facility plus a new facility in the Williamtown Aerospace Centre.

“We have invested in three cobots for automated production assembly and product testing. The assembly of our products, via the cobots, will be directly integrated with both the product test equipment and the related database, as well as the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system,” managing director Anthony Kittle told Manufacturing Monthly “To adopt and realise the full potential of these technologies, Australian manufacturers, including REDARC, are transforming the way we run our businesses, investing in new knowledge and practices.”

With proven durability compared against European and American manufacturers, Mackay Consolidated Industries’ tank track systems have become sought after in the defence supply chain, with manufacturing locations in Australia and Thailand. Mackay uses unique materials from globally sourced suppliers and makes track pads, segmented rubber track, road wheels, and ballistic shrouds, among other products. The company also supplies missile system composite closures to the Department of Defence and direct to the US for a 12-nation NATO consortium.

On the water

defence supply chain, the venture magazine

Australian companies’ reach into the military global supply chain extends to the oceans as well. BAE Systems and ACS Shipbuilding are part of a $35 billion deal to build Hunter Class frigates. The concept expands on the technology employed by the UK Royal Navy and will deliver nine ships to the Royal Australian Navy over the next decade. BAE chose REDARC as its SME partner in the project.

“We are very excited. BAE’s engagement with the SME community has been exceptional and we commend CEO Gabby Costigan and the rest of the BAE team for their dedicated work connecting Australian companies with viable overseas organisations seeking to transfer technology to Australian industry,” REDARC’s Kittel said in a press release. “I am looking forward to fine-tuning our proposals and creating jobs and work not just for our business, but others through our supply chain.”

REDARC is taking steps to enhance its Industry 4.0 and digital supply chain capabilities with help from Dassault Systèmes. “Digitisation is a critical element of Industry 4.0,” Kittel said. “That’s where we see this Dassault digital shipyard programme integrating really nicely with our strategy.”

In the event of emergency, Liferaft Systems Australia’s Marine Evacuation Systems can rescue people directly from ships in distress via an inflatable slide. The rafts can weigh as little as 685 kg with a capacity for dozens of passengers. The systems can safely evacuate up to 600 people per station in 30 minutes. Defence forces from New Zealand, the US, France, the UK, and The Netherlands use the systems on everything from patrol vessels to destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Those new Hunter Class frigates turned out by BAE, ACS, and REDARC will be equipped with Marine Evacuation Systems from Liferaft. It’s just another example of how Australian companies are making their presence known in the global supply chain for defence, from air to land to sea.