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Carbon Revolution luring top auto talent

Aussie magnet: Carbon Revolution’s expansion has led to expert expats returning to the local automotive landscape, albeit one that looks very different to Ford and Holden’s now-defunct factories.

Big wheels turning at Aussie wheel supplier, drawing in heavy hitters from overseas

14 Jan 2020

AUSTRALIAN automotive component manufacturer Carbon Revolution’s position as a leader in the development and supply of advanced single-piece carbon-fibre wheels – and its rapid growth as evidenced by increase of its annualised production rate from about 12,000 units in August 2019 to an expected 32,000 by June 2020 – has lured a number of leading global automotive industry experts back Down Under.


They include Luke Preston, an engineer who worked at Ford Australia and Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) before shifting to Tesla Motors in California – where he established and built the general assembly manufacturing team responsible for the Model 3 – and Luke Maunsell, a former Holden executive who had relocated to Vietnam as vehicle assembly plant director for the country’s first high-volume auto manufacturer, VinFast.


These are two key appointments at Carbon Revolution among many, which over the past 12 months have included local and international executives including ex-Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard (non-executive director), GMH’s former director of vehicle operations Martin Merry (plant manager), global braking systems specialist Adrian Smith (sales and business development director) and financial expert Gerard Buckle (CFO).


In an interview with GoAuto, Carbon Revolution chief executive Jake Dingle said the company’s success, and its strong prospects, were playing a part in attracting such high-calibre talent as the workforce swells beyond 400 employees – and is expected to reach 1000 “within the next three to five years”.


“It’s not just shopfloor guys from the local area whose jobs have dried up in automotive and are now working here – that’s great, but we’re actually bringing in very heavy-hitting senior people who were good enough to get poached and leave to get jobs offshore, we’re bringing them back,” he said.


“They’ve come back because they are passionate about this sort of advanced manufacturing and seeing it maintained and growing in Australia.”


Mr Preston joined Carbon Revolution just over a year ago as industrialisation director, charged with transforming its manufacturing operations as the footprint of the Waurn Ponds factory increased from 3000 to 10,000 square metres.


He and Mr Maunsell are now in the thick of a wide-ranging industrialisation program that includes automating a number of core processes as the company scales up production of current and new customer programs, with Mr Preston applying his experience from Tesla to the Australian operation.


At Tesla, where he was manager of manufacturing engineering (general assembly), Mr Preston developed the manufacturing process for the all-important Model 3 electric compact sedan and led key functions such as validation builds.


He had earlier worked as a senior manufacturing engineer developing the initial Model 3 body-in-white production line, having relocated from Australia to the US in 2015.


Down Under, Mr Preston spent almost two years in production and operations management at Victorian-based packaging group Orora, and a similar period at HSV as process engineering and quality supervisor and, earlier, manufacturing process engineer.


He had a brief stint as production manager at auto aftermarket supplier Flexiglass Challenge and also served with Ford for almost six years, rising to manufacturing engineer (final assembly) on Australian-built models and spending a year in a similar role at the auto giant’s Cologne plant in Germany.


Joining Carbon Revolution as manufacturing and supply chain director in February last year, Mr Maunsell leads the end-to-end process of the company’s carbon-fibre wheel manufacturing, overseeing a range of areas including operations, supply chain, purchasing, maintenance, quality, HS&E (health, safety and environment), production engineering and lean manufacturing.


At VinFast, Mr Maunsell spent a year as director of its new purpose-built 335-hectare vehicle assembly plant at Hai Phong in northern Vietnam, which was established with an initial $US1.5 billion ($A2.2b) investment to build passenger cars and electric scooters.


He previously spent 18 months with Toll Group, rising from Toll IPEC head of Victorian operations to general manager of operations across Australia, after joining the Australian transport and logistics company in May 2016 after more than 11 years of service with GM Holden.


At the Australian car manufacturer, Mr Maunsell held a variety of senior positions including manager of Holden Service Parts Operations (HSPO) – based in Melbourne and overseeing the aftersales support provided to the entire dealer network across Australia and New Zealand – and plant manager of Holden Plastics Operations at its production plant in Adelaide.


He also worked as a production shift manager at the Elizabeth general assembly plant, had a stint as a senior quality supervisor and performed a number of roles related to the HFV6 powertrain.

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