‘SA manufacturing is far from dead’: Levett Engineering

For a rather small, specialised company such as Levett Engineering to be awarded Exporter of the Year at the Business SA 2018 Export Awards speaks volumes about the quality of work this aircraft component manufacturer delivers.

However, founder and CEO Paul Levett believes it says more about the company’s organisation structure and workforce ability.

“Making the part is the easy bit for a manufacturer,” says Paul. “The quality and efficiency of your project management is the essential criteria that customers are examining, and your ability and capability to meet demand in good time is the key.”

From its base in Elizabeth South, Levett Engineering now derives 90% of its revenue from exports, with key customers including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Gulfstream already having some contract orders in place until 2027.

Levett Engineering CNC machinist Hari Shunmugavel, left, and CEO Paul Levett.

“What we have done is a very big symbol of what’s possible on the world stage from being based in South Australia,” says Paul.

It has been a steady rise since the company began in 1989, when Paul, a fitter and turner who had worked in defence, started manufacturing customised components from his backyard garage.

After 18 months, he took on his first employee, and two years later the expanded operation relocated to an Elizabeth West shed, which they outgrew and moved to their current site on Philip Highway in 2004.

In those days, a dark cloud hung over the future of manufacturing in SA, with hard questions asked about whether locally made goods could be cost competitive in a global marketplace.

Levett Engineering was smart and nimble enough to specialise in specific components that required high expertise and precision, rather than generalise in manufacturing.

Paul took a different tack by searching out gaps in local supply chains that could lead to global opportunities.

“For our business to thrive we had to look far beyond what all the other small part manufacturers in Australia were already providing – far outside of the automotive industry, and outside of Australia. We had to look where no-one else was going, to cut our own path,” he says.

Paul flew to the US as part of a trade mission in 2003, in the wake of the Australian Government’s 2002 Free Trade Agreement with the US, and began pitching for work in the aeronautical and defence industries, although the process tested his patience and persistence.

“It took five years of courting to keep showing what we are capable of. We had to prove ourselves, especially about how well we were managed, to build trust for us to obtain those crucial orders.”

Levett Engineering’s Claire Guichard.

By 2007, they had been awarded their first small contract, and soon won favour for their reliability. Levett remains the only Australian business producing machine components for the F135 Jet Engine, developed by US aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, and used in Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II.

“We make components from an aircraft’s nose to its tail, including airframe and jet engine components, electronic enclosures, and vacuum brazed assemblies,” Paul explains.

The credibility attached to such a prestigious contract has enabled the company’s output to expand, covering many international defence, aerospace, medical, electronics and commercial engineering sectors.

Such progress has occurred through the company proving the efficiency of its component delivery. For one particular aeroplane part, Levett Engineering was initially contracted to provide only 30% of the order, while the remainder was locked up by a long-time US firm.

That has now reversed, with Levett being the majority provider due to its ability to meet order deadlines with maximum efficiency, and prove it has the facility to provide even more.

In December 2018, the company purchased new Japanese equipment at a cost of $2 million that will increase production, enabling a 40% reduction in product delivery times to its suppliers this year.

Levett Engineering inspector Jared Pound.

Growth continues, with the workforce recently doubling in size to 60 people, working through three shifts across six days a week, on the back of 40% revenue growth for the past two years.

Manufacturing is now spread across two sites – at its original Philip Highway shed, and adding a new location 18 months ago, across the road at Lionsgate, the former Holden automotive factory in Elizabeth.

Paul can envisage moving all operations into a larger space within the Lionsgate complex, as Levett Engineering’s status as a Tier 1 Supplier to the world’s largest defence company is generating even more contract discussions with leading aeroplane companies.

“The extent of global supply chain needed to keep feeding the demand for elite plane building is staggering – and we are now positioned right at the very heart of that business,” says Paul.

“It has been a lot of hard work to reach this point, but our success on the international stage proves that manufacturing is far from dead in SA.”

Top image features Heather and Paul Levett at the Lockhead Martin Australian F35 rollout ceremony.

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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REDARC Electronics recharges Adelaide’s south with jobs, factory expansion

Advanced manufacturing company REDARC Electronics has come a long way since its beginnings in the late ‘90s, as an eight-person business operating out of a tin shed in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

Fast forward more than two decades and the Lonsdale-based company has expanded its product offerings from just voltage converters to a range of vehicle power solutions manufactured by a local workforce and exported across the world.

REDARC recently completed its 15th consecutive year of an average 20% growth. It’s also recently diversified into the defence and medical device industry, and has grown to have 180 FTEs on the books with plans to recruit more.

Managing director Anthony Kittel says the company has a five-year plan to reach $100 million in sales, employ more than 250 staff, and also complete a factory expansion allowing for a boost in exports.

The $20 million expansion of its Lonsdale factory began in 2017 and will see the company grow its workforce and penetrate new markets including defence and medical devices.

REDARC Electronics managing director Anthony Kittel.

New state-of-the-art machinery and specialist testing equipment are currently being installed, with the company on the look out for workers with various expertise.

“REDARC are planning to hire electronic engineers, computer systems engineers, project managers, sales, business development and marketing staff while also providing traineeship and apprenticeship opportunities,” Anthony says.

“REDARC are heavily involved and committed to the community by nurturing and developing the skills of young people as they enter the workforce, and by providing many work experience opportunities for high school students and undergraduates in various areas of business.”

The factory expansion is expected to be finished by late November.

“We are currently completing the installation of advanced manufacturing equipment,” Anthony says.

“We have also completed the installation of a 100kW PV solar power system which will allow REDARC to offset CO2 carbon emissions by 80 tonnes per year.

“We’ve also added a Tesla Powerwall to store energy from our solar system and a diesel generator allowing uninterrupted operations.”

Today the company sells more than 500 products sold globally into North America, Europe, UAE, South Africa, UK, South Korea and Singapore.

Its road to manufacturing success was laid in 1979 when the company was founded by electronics engineer Robin (Bob) William Mackie, who hand-built vehicle ignition systems and voltage converters.

Bob passed away in 1997 and Anthony and Michele Kittel, along with Michele’s father Denis Brion, purchased the business which they believed had potential but “needed a lot of work”.

“I knew we had a lot of work to do and since that time we have had a motto, ‘customer is king’. It took almost three years to stabilise the business and develop a vision for the future,” Anthony says.

REDARC built its reputation on the high quality manufacturing of vehicle power solutions.

Six of the eight original staff from the ‘90s are still with the company which has since built upon its team-based culture and diversified into the development of products for the 4WD and caravan industry.

These products include inverters, power supplies, battery chargers, brake controllers, trailer braking products, and portable solar panels.

REDARC services a range of other industries including heavy trucking, emergency services, mining, industrial, marine and recreational vehicles and, more recently, the defence and medical device industries.

SA’s burgeoning defence industry is one of the company’s key targets and for the last five years has offered the Australian defence sector a range of electronic solutions for vehicles.

REDARC is an SME (small-to-medium enterprise) partner for Rheinmetall, which won the LAND400 phase 2 contract to deliver more than 200 combat reconnaissance vehicles for the Australian Army.

The REDARC workforce is expanding, with job roles in various fields.

REDARC is also an SME partner to BAE Systems Australia on the SEA5000 Future Frigates project that will deliver nine new Hunter Class ships built by ASC Shipbuilding at Osborne from 2020.

Aside from its branching out into defence, REDARC has also experienced growth in its usual sectors, namely through the acquisition of NSW company Hummingbird Electronics in 2015.

In 2017/18 REDARC signed eTrailer Corporation and Keystone Automotive Operations as two distribution partners for North America.

Despite the Adelaide-born company reaching global heights, its managing director says SA is the “best place in the world to live and operate a business”.

“We have long-established networks and connections, our families live here,” he says.

“It’s great to see the growth and confidence in the SA economy, employment creation and infrastructure development. We are passionate about Australian manufacturing and employing local people.”

I Choose SA for Advanced Manufacturing stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

Industry in focus: Advanced Manufacturing

Throughout the month of September, the state’s advanced manufacturing industry will be under the magnifying glass as part of I Choose SA.

As SA transforms away from traditional manufacturing processes, innovative and sophisticated products and services are taking their place, creating new jobs and investment opportunities for the state. Read more stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Axiom is moulding a new manufacturing future

In his 12 years working with Axiom Precision Manufacturing, Shannon Wride has seen a transformation in the way the business operates.

“We’ve strived to take on that high end work, and as a company we’ve always tried to do the jobs other people say they can’t do,” says the company’s operations supervisor and Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador.

“We’ve had people come to us saying no one else is willing to touch this and we’re always willing to give it a crack.”

When Shannon started out with Axiom as an apprentice in 2006 the company was then called Diemould Tooling and was based in Edwardstown, the work focused around the state’s automotive industry in producing plastic injection moulds.

As automotive work slowed down and China began taking over an increasing slice of the sector’s manufacturing pie, the SA-owned company took stock and began looking to change the way it operated.

The business began courting defence and aerospace companies and, eventually, new jobs began to roll into the workshops.

Axiom Precision Manufacturing operations supervisor Shannon Wride is an I Choose SA ambassador for the advanced manufacturing industry.

Before long, Diemould Tooling was merged with Numetric Manufacturers in Wingfield and the company renamed Axiom Precision Manufacturing.

Now the family owned business that started in 1979 works extensively on high-end metal component design and manufacturing jobs for the aerospace and defence industries.

It has worked hard to achieve AS9100 accreditation – meaning its quality system meets top level aerospace requirements, and the business has its highest ever staff numbers at about 60.

There are also plans to further develop land owned by the company next door to its Wingfield site, where its purpose-built manufacturing facility, delivering special purpose equipment, tooling and injection moulded components, is based.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a company relatively new to the nation’s defence industry. And it’s one that saw the company win a 2016 Defence Industry award for Most Outstanding Small-Medium Enterprise from the state’s Defence Teaming Centre.

The award recognised how it had excelled in engaging with the defence industry “to build their capability and to work in defence”.

Shannon, who first completed a four-year tool making apprenticeship, is now in charge of “day-to-day operations”, scheduling machine loadings and overseeing the inspection department.

He is in charge of “trouble shooting” and ensures orders reach customers on time with Shannon saying the company’s client base stretches across Australia.

He says one of the jobs he’s proudest of overseeing involves making moulds for a device that protects frontline defence forces from bomb detonations.

Shannon went through a four-year tool making apprenticeship and now works in an SA company that is taking advantage of the state’s growing advanced manufacturing sector.

“We’ve heard first-hand from people who have come in and seen these devices work in the field,” Shannon says.

“It’s saved lives, just hearing that is so rewarding, we are contributing to the protection of our defence forces.”

The company’s capabilities in precision machining also has seen it selected to manufacture components for space projects, from world class telescopes to high precision components supplied to Orbital ATK.

This space company manufactured fuel cells that launched the space shuttles to the International Space Station.

Axiom also makes components for the Australian Collins Class Submarines, ranging from precision-machined engine components to electronic hardware and the manufacture of tooling for battery components.

And it has a decade of experience in manufacturing medical devices and components including producing bone plates, dental implant components and specialised surgical equipment.

It’s this range of work – from defence to mining, food and beverage and medical devices industries – that’s kept Shannon committed to his role in a company that is not only growing but also taking on apprentices to train staff for high-end manufacturing in the future.

The business currently has three in-house apprentices and is looking to have another start next year with Shannon saying the state has a bright future.

“We hear that manufacturing in SA has been through a rough time but the ones who have managed to diversify early enough, we are booming, we haven’t had a quiet spell in years,” he says.

“And we’re attractive as employers, we’ve got a guy working here from South Africa and he picked SA because of the liveability and cheaper housing and with talk of the state being a defence hub as well.”

I Choose SA for Advanced Manufacturing stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

Industry in focus: Advanced Manufacturing

Throughout the month of September, the state’s advanced manufacturing industry will be under the magnifying glass as part of I Choose SA.

As SA transforms away from traditional manufacturing processes, innovative and sophisticated products and services are taking their place, creating new jobs and investment opportunities for the state. Read more stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Thousands of jobs for SA as BAE Systems wins $35 billion Future Frigates contract

Thousands of South Australian jobs have been secured in coming decades with BAE Systems announced as the winning tenderer of the $35 billion Future Frigates program.

The UK defence giant beat fierce competition from Spanish and Italian rivals to design the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of nine highly-advanced ‘Hunter class’ global combat ships.

The Future Frigates contract is Australia’s largest peace-time warship building program, with construction of the fleet set to begin by 2020 by ASC Shipbuilding.

The program will create about 4000 Australian jobs, including 1500 at ASC at the Osborne Shipyards in northern Adelaide.


In addition to the 1500 local jobs, another 600 jobs will be created in the development of the Osborne South shipyards.

Five-hundred Australian businesses, including 100 SA businesses, will be in the Hunter class supply chain.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is in Adelaide today for the announcement, told ABC Radio Adelaide that the government-owned ASC Shipbuilding will become a subsidiary of BAE throughout the build.

“What this will mean is that the Commonwealth Government will retain its sovereign share in ASC at all times,” he said.

“BAE will take responsibility for ASC during the period of the program to go right through into the 2030s, then the Commonwealth will resume ownership of ASC.”

BAE System Australia’s head of industrial strategy Sharon Wilson and I Choose SA ambassador told Brand SA News in February that the Future Frigates program would be the “envy of the world”.

SA Premier Steven Marshall says the state is now “unquestionably” the centre of naval shipbuilding in Australia.

He says many local businesses in the supply chain will win a share in the historic investment.

“This $35 billion program will deliver unprecedented economic benefit to the SA economy, with over 100 businesses already pre-qualifying with BAE to be part of the project,” Mr Marshall says.

He says significant challenges exist in ensuring SA has the skilled workforce necessary to deliver the project.

“That’s why more than 20,000 additional work-based apprenticeships and traineeships will be created in SA over the next four years …” Mr Marshall says.

“Apprenticeships are vital to building a skilled supply of workers for industry and this has never been more important as we move to a more diversified economy and to capitalise on major, long-term national defence contracts awarded to SA.”

The SEA5000 ship will be considered one of the world’s most advanced warships, and will be able to be used in non-warfare roles such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The Hunter class will enter service in the late 2020, replacing the eight Anzac frigates which have been in service since 1996.

Aside from BAE’s Sharon Wilson, ASC’s Jessica Caston was also an I Choose SA ambassador for shipbuilding and defence. Watch her story below.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Speedcast: there’s no better place for us than SA

Mike Kenneally is a senior executive at Adelaide-based Speedcast and says there is no better home for the leading global communications company than South Australia.

He says that over the past four years the business has acquired a handful of other companies, boosted its revenue and is now a world leader in high performance communications for government, maritime, defence, mining, oil, and gas sectors.

“If you looked at where we were four years ago to now, it’s chalk and cheese,” Mike says.

“We have a much larger revenue, we’re a much bigger company, and we’re much more strategic.”

As the largest provider of remote communications and IT services in the world, Speedcast’s services are delivered via a global network of more than 70 satellites and more than 40 teleports worldwide.

Mawson Lakes in Adelaide’s north is home to a sophisticated anchor station facility that connects Speedcast’s clients to the rest of the world.

Speedcast acquired state-of-the-art teleport infrastructure from NewSat in 2015 and has since installed more infrastructure, employed more engineers, and experienced “healthy” revenue growth.

Mike says the Mawson Lakes-based teleport is “one of the biggest and most strategic from a military point of view”.

“The anchor station contains a whole lot of antennas that are pointed at different satellites and we connect all the clients of those satellites to the rest of the world,” he says.

“The location (of the teleport) is extremely strategic because we can cover all of the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East from Adelaide, we’re right in the middle of it all.

“We’ve supported Australian government initiatives in the Middle East and in our own region,  providing comms to soldiers in the field. Any sort of communications they want, we can provide.”

In 2017 Speedcast was awarded a contract to provide mission-critical remote communication services for the Department of the Environment and Energy’s Australian Antarctic Division.

The service allows individuals in Antarctica’s harsh climate to communicate with the outside world and in the event of an emergency.

Mike says Speedcast has upgraded the satellite technology in the Mawson, Davis and Casey bases in Antarctica, quadrupling their data throughput.

“Certainly it’s been an interesting challenge and we’re expanding the roles of some of the people here and in Perth (another of Speedcast’s hubs), but the responsibility for the project rests with the team here in SA,” he says.

“One of our guys (from SA) has been down to the ice for a couple of weeks to actually do the conversion, which was pretty exciting for him.”

In a more recent leap forward, Speedcast won a $184m contract with the National Broadband Network (NBN) Co to deliver enterprise-grade satellite services.

“The NBN up until now has been a consumer level service but they are ready to expand it and offer services to business … and clients in mining, oil, gas, defence, and maritime,” Mike says.

He says Adelaide’s climate makes it the perfect city to host satellite communication networks for use by the defence sector, among others.

“The weather here is perfect for us because satellites operate best in clear sky conditions, we’re geologically stable, politically stable and we have excellent communications infrastructure,” Mike says.

“We also share a border in some respects with the US, which you wouldn’t immediately think but for US clients who want to connect using (station in) Adelaide, they can connect without going over anyone else’s territory.”

Despite Adelaide being an important hub for Speedcast, it has 1300 employees worldwide, the majority of them engineers.

The company has two sites in Adelaide, one in Thebarton and the other in Mawson Lakes.

Mike says Speedcast is “looking to expand its role” in the nation’s naval shipbuilding plan, including the $35 billion Future Frigates to be built in SA.

He says that with the state secured as Australia’s defence epicentre, over coming decades will come a drive in growth and optimism for local start-ups.

“I think we’re seeing recent wins by a lot of companies and a decision to continue shipbuilding-related activities here,” Mike says.

“That will have a spin-off for SA and businesses are sensing that optimism, which hasn’t been there for quite a while.”

Mike has a background in technology, satellites and defence-related projects and says he’s glad he can remain in the industry from his home state.

“The changing technology now makes it possible for people to work from anywhere but still be engaged in the sector and I think that’s a fantastic thing,” he says.

“It means that people don’t have to move away for their job.

“It also means there are new opportunities for new start-ups to capitalise on niche opportunities and operate from here … they don’t have to go and live California to do it.”

I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

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.


SMEs to benefit from SA’s future shipbuilding boom

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.

Mincham Aviation employees are based at Parafield Airport.

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.

Mincham Aviation’s operations manager Mark Koennecke.

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.

BAE’s Sharon Wilson on embracing the digital revolution in defence

Major defence and security company BAE Systems Australia’s Sharon Wilson is proud to play her part in South Australia’s high-tech jobs revolution.

Originally from the UK, Sharon and her husband chose SA to live and work in 30 years ago and was catapulted into the world of defence and shipbuilding almost from the get go.

She’s been with BAE Systems, one of the country’s largest defence contractors, since 1990 and is now the company’s head of industrial strategy.

“I think people will be surprised to know just how many women there are in our company,” Sharon says.

“We have some amazing women in senior roles, our management board is about 60/40 male to female which is very good by industry standards.”

BAE Systems’ new CEO, Gabby Costigan told a recent conference in Canberra that the company is using collaborative robots to build parts for the Joint Strike Fighter jets in Adelaide.

Gabby told the conference the use of such technology does not mean the removal of the human employee.

Sharon agrees and says it’s all a result of Industry 4.0, otherwise known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The trend in automation, that is already transforming modern manufacturing, is relevant to shipbuilding in various ways, she says.

“(It) can range from something very simple in terms of tracking a part in a factory to measuring the efficiency and capability of machines in your factory,” Sharon says.

“It can be a virtual integrated schedule, so you know where things are without looking across lots of spreadsheets, basically automate the process as much as you can.

“In terms of a shipyard, safety is paramount. So how can we apply technology robotics automation to minimise risks as much as we possibly can?

“(In the future) we will still be having people doing manual labour and robotic programming. So the kinds of jobs will be very different and they’re already different.”

BAE Systems Australia’s head of industrial strategy Sharon Wilson is an I Choose SA ambassador for the shipbuilding and defence industries.

With Industry 4.0 comes a new wave of high-tech jobs, many of them in SA.

With the state secured as the epicentre of the national defence sector, SA will be the home of the majority of work involved in the nation’s $89 billion shipbuilding plan.

Projects within BAE Systems’ reach have the potential to be “groundbreaking”.

One of them is the $35 billion SEA 5000 Future Frigates contract, of which BAE Systems is one of three contenders.

The successful bidder, expected to be announced mid-2018, will deliver a new generation of warships for the Australian Navy.

Sharon says if BAE is successful it will also include the build of Australia’s first high-tech digital shipyard.

The digital shipyard would create a paperless ship build, with each of the nine ships replicated to allow real time accessibility to all aspects during design, build and maintenance.

BAE would base the SEA 5000 design on its Type 26 Global Combat Ship which is being built for the UK Navy “in SA with an SA workforce”.

Sharon says the Future Frigates program will be the “envy of the world”, regardless of who wins the contract.

“I think it’s very exciting for shipbuilders, SEA 5000 is going to be groundbreaking and will be the envy of shipyards around the world,” she says.

BAE Systems employs more than 3500 people in Australia, including 1000 in SA.

The company has two sites in Adelaide –  one at Edinburgh Park, the other at Technology Park.

Sharon says BAE Systems is “absolutely” set for a job rise “in the thousands” across the nation.

BAE System’s Edinburgh Park base is home to a machine that manufactures titanium tail components for the Joint Strike Fighters. It’s the only machine of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

“Machining titanium for aerospace is a very tricky business and the kinds of parts we manufacture are what they call ‘fracture critical parts’,” Sharon says.

“The whole process is very much quality controlled to ensure we don’t have any issues.”

In her 30 years in SA, Sharon says she’s pleased with the efforts of Defence SA and “progressive” State Governments that have solidified SA as the defence epicentre of Australia.

She says the state’s burgeoning industry will have nation-wide benefits.

“It’s going to be important for SA to be able to deliver what it needs to deliver, that’s the reality,” she adds.

Sharon is an I Choose SA ambassador for the shipbuilding and defence industries.

I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to learn more about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.


Why a leading edge cyber security firm chose SA for growth

Cyber security company VeroGuard Systems was lured to South Australia by the position of the state’s defence precinct, its “world-class” universities and skilled workforce, says the company’s Iain Moore.

Last year the Melbourne-based company announced plans to establish a $57.5m advanced manufacturing and operations facility at the Edinburgh Park industry estate in Adelaide’s north.

The move will create almost 600 jobs in three years, with about 400 of them employees from Adelaide’s northern areas including former automotive workers.

In February 2017 it was announced the 600 jobs boost could grow by another 1500 following a partnership with Adelaide company LVX Group.

The new advanced manufacturing facility and Global Network Operations Centre, supported by a $6m State Government grant, will allow the company to produce cards and software enabling ‘hyper-secure’ online transactions.


So what place does a cyber security company have in SA and what does it mean for the state’s burgeoning defence and shipbuilding industries?

“Cyber security underpins the ability for development and execution of sensitive material to be done in an effective manner,” says Iain, VeroGuard’s commercial general manager.

“Imagine if every time someone wanted to share some information it needed to be printed, put in a briefcase and physically taken to someone else.

“Although a USB stick can now play the part of the printer, much information cannot be simply downloaded and emailed to a colleague, as the security level is not high enough.

“VeroGuard enables that collaboration or interoperability.”

The spotlight was put on the importance of cyber security in the defence sector in 2017 when sensitive information about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was stolen from a small business.

VeroGuard, originally based in Melbourne, has developed the world’s first digital identity platform and cyber security network to prevent hacking and secure the internet for VeroGuard System users.

“Put simply it creates a secure environment in which users can create content online, transmit that content and store it without fear of hackers stealing their information,” Iain says.

“Cyber security is a key enabler in defence industries due to the highly sensitive nature of the data created, transmitted and stored by organisations in that industry,” Iain says.

“VeroGuard Systems has developed a solution that solves these risks at a level that can be accepted by defence and their contractors.”

Iain says VeroGuard intends to work with many of the contractors involved in the naval shipbuilding program, set to unfold in SA over coming decades and bring thousands of jobs.

Born and bred in SA, Iain worked in large technology companies before an opporunity at VeroGuard was too good to miss.

VeroGuard Systems commercial general manager Iain Moore.

He says a return to home soil is possible due to the company’s growth in SA.

For now, the jobs involved in the company’s advanced manufacturing side will be long-term and “brand new roles”, Iain says.

“Due to the nature and intellectual property, the assembly will need to be completed onshore in Australia,” he says.

“The chain of custody related to these processes mean that offshore assembly is not an option, so former auto workers out of Holden or other auto suppliers will be very well suited at the VeroGuard Systems facility.”

The company is also teaming up with the University of Adelaide to collaborate on research around cyber security and to create content for newly designed courses in the sector.

Iain says SA universities’ links to defence and STEM fields were a key drawcard in VeroGuard’s growth plans.

Other pulling factors included the skilled workforce from the car making industry as well as the Edinburgh Defence Precinct, he adds.

I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries stories are made possible by City of Salisbury:

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.


New local links in Future Frigate supply chain

The supply chain of the SEA 5000 Future Frigate Program has begun to firm up with a South Australian metalworking firm joining Raytheon Anschuetz.

Adelaide company Rowlands Metalworks has been appointed as an approved Raytheon supplier to work on the navigational bridge consoles for the Future Frigates program in South Australia.

The deal came about after Raytheon was introduced to South Australian electronics company REDARC through the BAE Systems Global Access Program.

REDARC then recommended Rowlands to construct the housing for the consoles.

Rowlands managing director Cameron Johnston says the rigorous vetting process and subsequent memorandum of understanding would allow his established company to bid for more work on other Raytheon projects, including non defence contracts.

“We’ve been in operation for more than 60 years now, supporting a broad range of industries and sectors and are delighted with the opportunity we can see to reach further into the defence industry with this deal,” Cameron says.

“There’s no doubt the South Australian defence industry is on the cusp of some very exciting times and we will now be well placed to make the most of the growth in the sector here in SA.”

Cameron says each of the nine navigation bridge consoles will cost more than $250,000, bringing the value of the contract to more than $2 million for Rowlands.

With a current team of 45 people, he says the company could potentially grow its staff number by at least 50% to service the new opportunity.

Construction is expected to start immediately after the contract is finalised in the coming months.

Header image: An artist impression of Raytheon’s navigational bridge console.

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to learn more about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.


Saab boss says shipbuilding jobs are here for the long run

Defence and shipbuilding in South Australia will not be a “boom and bust” industry, but will support secure long-term jobs and opportunities.

That’s according to Andy Keough, former Defence SA chief and current managing director of defence and security company Saab Australia.

Andy, a former submariner, played a key part in lobbying for Australia’s $50 billion Future Submarines to be built here in SA.

He says despite big sectors, such as the mining industry, usually experiencing a “boom and bust” pattern, there is a long-term commitment to continue shipbuilding in SA.

“We saw it with the upswing of the mining industry which took off with unimaginable riches that have come and gone,” Andy says.

“But here there is now a Federal Government commitment to continuous shipbuilding … and that’s a massive magnet that will continue to draw high quality workers from across Australia and the world.

“There aren’t many sectors in Australia that have the assurance that their industry will continue for many decades to come.”

Saab Australia managing director Andy Keough.

The Future Submarines Program includes the construction of a fleet of 12 new subs, constructed from 2022/23 at Adelaide’s Osborne shipyards, creating 2800 jobs.

The subs are one part of the nation’s $89 billion naval shipbuilding plan, which also features the construction of the Future Frigates and Offshore Patrol Vehicles.

While Saab has been selected to upgrade the control systems for navy’s current fleet of Collins Class submarines, it is also supporting Lockheed Martin to deliver the cutting edge combat system capability for the Future Submarines.

After two years in the top job at government agency, Defence SA, Andy joined the Mawson Lakes-based Saab as its managing director.

He brought with him 22 years of experience in the Australian Navy, including commanding two Collins Class submarines.

Andy retired from the navy in 2007, a year after receiving the Conspicuous Service Cross for his leadership while in command of HMAS Sheean.

Originally from Sydney, he came to SA nine years ago to work for ASC, starting in business improvement before graduating to being responsible for the in-service maintenance of the Collins Class fleet.

He says that typical views of the shipbuilding workforce were changing as people realised both skilled tradespeople and high-tech engineers are essential to operations.

“When I was with ASC there was a large trade workforce, but for every tradesman there were four or five highly skilled professionals including engineers, project managers, and supply chain and quality,” he says.

The skill level of the defence industry is evident in Saab’s own workforce, which includes a range of “hardware and software engineers undertaking advanced naval combat system work”.

Ships from Task Group 659.1 (including HMA Ships Canberra, Warramunga and Ballarat and HMNZS Te Kaha) joined by French Floreal class frigate FNS Prairial transit to Pearl Harbour, Hawaii to participate in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. The ships have Saab’s combat management system on board.

Andy says “business is expanding” at Saab Australia, with the company expecting to grow its workforce by at least 150 “in the next couple of years”.

Saab is also strengthening its ties to academia through a partnership with the University of South Australia (UniSA).

Saab will partner with UniSA students to collaborate on the design of a future combat system, following the formation of the Defence Technologies Institute in 2017.

The initial collaboration involved Saab hosting projects for students in STEM-related fields, helping to equip them for their careers in defence and shipbuilding industries.

“Saab is working closely with UniSA so that for generations to come, graduates from this partnership will build a skilled, technologically savvy workforce for defence capabilities,” Andy says.

“It’s essential for a company like Saab to have a close relationship with UniSA because they (students) are our talent pipeline.

“They will assist us to get the best individuals on board.”


This I Choose SA for Shipbuilding and Defence Industries story is made possible by City of Salisbury and the University of South Australia:

Visit the I Choose SA for Industry website to read more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.