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Car, parts-makers look to defence contractors

Protecting industry: Armoured vehicle builder Thales is looking for component manufacturers to supply parts for the Hawkei.

Australian car-makers work with defence contractors to help parts sector diversify


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9 Jul 2013

TOYOTA Australia and GM Holden are working with defence contractors in a bid to help automotive suppliers find new markets in the defence supply industry.

Toyota recently invited two of Australia’s largest defence contractors, Thales Australia and BAE Systems, to attend its supplier development forum, providing an opportunity for its parts suppliers to demonstrate their capabilities and diversify their business operations.

Thales Australia has told GoAuto that the company is working with both Holden and Toyota as part of the “supply chain development program” for its Hawkei military vehicle.

“We’re looking for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) who are used to delivering high quality, innovative components into the auto industry,” said Thales spokesman Julian Elliott.

“We want to utilise their expertise in reducing Hawkei’s cost and mass to the lowest possible levels in order to deliver a value-for-money product for Australian taxpayers and the ADF (Australian Defence Force), while also achieving a globally competitive cost for export purposes.”

Thales is a French-owned company that took over Australian Defence Industries in 2006. It has a number of local operations, including manufacture of ammunition and the Austeyr, the ADF’s main rifle, development of the Eurocat air traffic management system and transport fare collection systems.

It is perhaps best known for its Bushmaster armoured personnel carrier, which has been sold to the Australian, UK and Netherlands armed forces.

The Hawkei is a smaller armoured vehicle designed to replace the armoured Land Rovers currently in use.

The unprotected Land Rovers currently in service are already being replaced by Mercedes-Benz G-Wagons.

Mr Elliott said Thales was not just looking for single parts but sub-assemblies that are delivered ready to be bolted in. ,“We are offering around 30 major work packages and, in conjunction with suppliers, will explore various options for manufacture and assembly, from components only to manufactured modules,” he said.

“The Hawkei is currently undergoing testing by the department of defence, and we are hoping to secure a manufacturing contract in due course.

“This will open up opportunities for SMEs, creating jobs and giving those in the traditional automotive supply chains the chance to diversify their businesses in what is a very challenging environment.”

Toyota Australia’s supplier development manager Barry Budge said ahead of the development forum held late in June that Australian parts-makers were well placed in terms of capabilities to diversify into defence.

“Our suppliers are amongst the most highly skilled advanced manufacturers in this country (and) one of the key ways our local suppliers can become more sustainable is to diversify their business,” he said.

“Rather than be reliant on one industry, they may identify additional industries which utilise similar capabilities and develop opportunities to supply parts.”

Mr Budge said defence contractors might find that they can replace imported parts with competitive local products.

He said that would be in Toyota’s interest, as stronger supplier companies will make for a more sustainable automotive sector.

GM Holden chief Mike Devereux also recently highlighted negotiations the company has entered into with Thales.

“They are looking to diversify their supply chain and to become more efficient in their application of parts going in,” Mr Devereux told a business forum last month.

“Actually … we are helping this defence contractor by putting them into contact with some of our world-class suppliers but also some of our management techniques in managing our whole supply chain.”

BAE Systems makes the Nulka hovering decoy rocket invented by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) – part of Australia’s department of defence – and also provides a wide range of computer-based systems integration for the armed forces.

A spokesperson for BAE Systems in Australia said the company wanted to ensure it used manufacturing best practice and was talking with parts suppliers in order to introduce them to BAE Systems’ Global Access Program (GAP).

“Our GAP team supports procurement specialists, engineers and project managers to identify world-class capabilities in industry and introduces vehicle suppliers to the right people across all parts of the global business, said BAE Systems spokesperson Kaye Noske.

“The GAP, which is part of the Defence Materiel Organisation’s global supply chain program, has previously identified export opportunities for composite parts, power distribution, blast seating, lighting, fluid tanks, condition monitoring software, mirrors and dashboards,” she said.

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