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Export hopes high for Aussie-built Hawkei

Hawking: The hunt for export opportunities is now on, and looking promising, after the ADF has contracted Thales to build 1100 Hawkei armoured vehicles in Australia.

Supplier buoyant about export opportunities beyond ADF-Thales armoured vehicle deal

General News logo9 Oct 2015

By IAN PORTER

THE federal government’s announcement this week that it has contracted Bendigo-based Thales Australia to build 1100 Hawkei armoured vehicles for the Australian Defence Force could be just the tip of the iceberg, with a strong likelihood of exports now anticipated.

In an interview with GoAuto, Quickstep Holdings managing director David Marino has revealed that the company, which will supply lightweight carbon-fibre panels for the Hawkei, has already been sounded about whether it could substantially increase – and potentially double – its production volume.

“I have heard that there is significant interest in terms of export,” Mr Marino said.

“There has been a request to assess our ability to service a volume that’s significantly greater than the 1100 that has been announced.

“We are hopeful of a doubling of the volumes but, whether it is that, or more or less, it remains to be seen.

“I think it is a world-class vehicle and that’s why we are so proud to be part of it.”

Announcing the Thales contract at the Monegeetta proving ground in Victoria earlier this week, federal defence minister Marise Payne said there was “enormous potential” for the Hawkei to be sold overseas.

“We will work closely with Australian defence industries to make the most of those opportunities wherever and whenever we can,” said Ms Payne (pictured below inspecting the Hawkei with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull).

For Quickstep, Mr Marino said the Hawkei contract is another step towards achieving a rate of production that would suit car manufacturers.

The company currently makes parts for aeroplanes like the Joint Strike Fighter, but the rate of production is much slower than what is required in the automotive industry.

80 center imageLeft: Quickstep Holdings managing director David Marino. “In terms of the volume base, the amount and the number of vehicles over the Hawkei contract, it’s quite a modest manufacturing speed, but it is consistent with what you would expect for this type of contract,” Mr Marino said.

“It sits within our ‘Qure’ and ‘Resin Spray Technology’, which is different from the ‘RapidQure’ that we are evolving for next-generation automotive.

“RapidQure is really the mass-production solution that we are looking for. It utilises the same sort of technologies in a more automated and industrialised way.”

Quickstep will produce at least a dozen parts for the Hawkei including the bonnet, side skirts and mudguards.

These will be made at the factory that Quickstep is currently building on the Waurn Ponds campus of Deakin University, near Geelong. The plant will be equipped with the RapidQure technology to speed production.

“We have capital equipment going in there right now so that we’re planning to be producing parts towards the end of this year,” Mr Marino said.

“The leases are done, the capital is going in and we are going to start producing parts in the not-too-distant future, so it’s moving along pretty quickly.”

While the Hawkei contact is the first won by Quickstep’s automotive division, it will not be the first automotive contract that the company will service.

The company is also tooling up to make some under-bonnet parts for a still-to-be-revealed Australian-made model, and those parts will start to flow early next year.

“We are starting to have a look at a number of contracts, both at an automotive level of similar volume and type of customer like we have recently announced,” Mr Marino said.

“But there’s a number of opportunities that we are working through, both in terms of supply out of our new facility but also as part of the company’s development as we take the technology global as well.

“There are a lot of interesting opportunities ahead of us.”

As well as producing and supplying parts, Quickstep will sell licences to use its patented technology and will construct and export the manufacturing cells a licensee would need.

“That is part of our strategy – we are looking to do a lot of our pre-production activities locally,” Mr Marino said. “Where it makes sense to export out of Australia, clearly we will.

“But where the volumes are significant, automotive companies want their supply chains pretty close and domiciled locally with them. So part of our strategy is to do the parts manufacturing and pre-production activities locally here in WP (Waurn Ponds).

“It’s both a parts opportunity and a capital equipment opportunity. From an automotive perspective, we still think there are opportunities for us, certainly to manufacture the equipment and export it, particularly when the Australian dollar is at the US70c mark.

“Commercially, it is starting to make a lot more sense again.”

Quickstep shares increased half a cent to 20 cents earlier this week after the Hawkei contract was announced.

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