Born and bred South Australian Mark Koennecke is operations manager at a small company set for big benefits from the state’s involvement in the $89 billion naval shipbuilding program.
Managing operations at SA-based Mincham Aviation, Mark says the state’s 30-year shipbuilding future will help expose the business to “the cutting edge of manufacturing”.
“The Future Frigates, Future Submarines and Offshore Patrol Vessels are future projects, we’re talking about programs that are going to be built in the next five to 15 years and the Future Subs will still be going in 30 years’ time,” he says.
“What we’re doing is exposing ourselves to the future and the benefit for us is to constantly be there at the cutting-edge of manufacturing.”
Mincham Aviation established itself in SA in 1996 and over time built a reputation for supplying specialist parts to global aerospace and defence sectors.
Employing about 16 staff from its base at Parafield Airport, the company specialises in the manufacturing and repair of advanced composite and sheet metal components for civil and military aircraft.
It also has a strong research department which has developed aerospace, defence and aero-medical equipment.
“We have our own line of aero-medical products that are used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service such as stretchers and lifting systems,” Mark says.
“We manufacture components for the Collins Class submarines, the Air Warfare Destroyer program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, Northrop Grumman’s Triton platform and the Tiger helicopters, there’s a lot that we work on.”
As of November 2017, Mincham Aviation became a participant in French software company Dassault Systèmes’ Virtual Shipyard Training Program at Regency TAFE SA.
Dassault is working with the Naval Group (which is designing the Future Submarines project) on building the country’s first digital shipyard in Adelaide.
A digital – or virtual – shipyard involves software that manages the lifecycle of the ship from its build to operation and maintenance.
Mincham Aviation along with seven other SMEs are participating in the Virtual Shipyard Training Program, as SA gears up for the $50 billion submarines build.
Through the program, participants will gain training and support in the development of digital capabilities, providing them with the opportunity to compete for work on a global scale.
Mark says the opportunity to be a part of it will expose Mincham Aviation to “a very high-end digital capability”.
“It’s giving us the opportunity for us to get our heads around how they (global companies) are going to expect local businesses to be operating and interacting with them in the future naval programs that will be happening here in SA,” he says.
“From our perspective it (the program) is covering off on areas that we do; project management, contract management, security management of data, then looking into the engineering side of things, product data management and machining capabilities.
“It’s a very big picture of how that’s going to be happening digitally in the future and how we can cross the bridge and start being digitally savvy in those areas right now.”
Despite its promising future, Mincham Aviation has hit some speedbumps over the years, including when the Global Financial Crisis hit and forced the business to lease out its second facility at Edinburgh Parks.
Now that SA is on the cusp of a shipbuilding jobs boom thanks to Australia’s $89 billion shipbuilding program, Mincham Aviation is considering a reboot of its Edinburgh Parks base.
“We have a medium-term plan to be re-establishing ourselves back at Edinburgh Park in the next five years and introduce a quantum leap in our capability level,” says Mark, who has worked in the defence industry for the past decade.
Prior to his role at Mincham Aviation he was the general manager of sheet metal fabrication enterprise J&H Williams in Port Adelaide.
Mark says over the years he’s noticed a significant shift in job security in the defence and shipbuilding industries.
“The landscape of the defence industry particularly here in SA has changed dramatically from there being comfortable amounts of work to what they call the ‘valley of death’,” he says.
“Now it’s a 15-50-year outlook that is very positive.”
Mark says working in the defence industry is challenging yet rewarding but being based in SA means he can stick to an industry he loves while remaining in his homestate.
“Being operations general manager doesn’t mean that I go home at 5pm, but it’s a choice I made to be in this role and I don’t have to go interstate, commute or fly in and out,” he says.
“I need to be with my family on a daily basis and I’m lucky that the defence industry has given me that ability.”
I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:
With the support of The University of Adelaide
Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.