Australia’s Supply Chain Crisis: We Need to Rebuild Our Sovereign Manufacturing and Defence Capacity
Headland AdminSheet Metal
Supply chain disrputions
Whether it’s food processing, solar batteries, health care or our sovereign defence capabilities, the last few years have proven that any interruption to global supply chains has significant knock-on effects for Australian society and business.
All signs point to a continuation of global disruptions, whether it’s more pandemics like SARS, MERS, COVID-19 or geo-political interruptions to trade or sea-lanes caused by the rise of China.
In that context alone Australia should be looking to build its own sovereign manufacturing capacity, but there is a compelling economic case as well: value-adding.
From having our agricultural produce processed overseas, to our minerals and metals being sent off for processing and returned to us as consumables, the case for creating the manufacturing value-add here has never been more compelling owing to an increase in global production and shipping costs.
As the 12th wealthiest country on earth and one of the most urbanised nations in the world, Australia should be viewed as a manufacturing hub, rather than a giant farm or quarry.
Australian sovereign defence capability: a case study
When the federal government ripped up the Future Submarine Program (FSP) with French company Naval Group last year, it did so as a gesture toward the AUKUS agreement.
But by tearing up the FSP, we not only affronted the French, we missed an opportunity to build our own sovereign defence capability.
Tim Stoddard, State Manager at Headland and Headland’s former Account Manager for Naval Group, says had we not torn up the FSP agreement, we would have been delivering conventional submarines from 2035 and were only 3-4 years away from having our own sovereign defence capacity.
‘We would have the infrastructure, capital equipment, supply chain capabilities and were in the process of an official knowledge transfer with Australian engineers going to France to learn. The French would have made the first submarine or two, then Australia would have built the remainder here,’ says Stoddard.
‘Scrapping the deal has not only slowed the development of Australian manufacturing supply chains, it has also denied us our own sovereign defence manufacturing capability.’
George Yammouni, Headland CEO, says the FSP was a golden opportunity for the Australian manufacturing sector economically, but also in terms of national security.
‘America is full to capacity meeting orders from other nations and their own defence requirements. It makes sense to build our own defence capability and we can do that quite quickly.’
The technology fix
Advances in manufacturing technology – from additive 3D printing to laser cutting with 5-axis cutting heads – mean that if it can be conceived and designed on software it can be made.
One of those pieces of advanced technology is the Tecoi LS series. It uses a solid-state laser combined with a 5-axis cutting head to cut contours out of large flat or bent steel components. The ability to cut after bending reduces the chance of specialised steel from cracking, thus increasing the quality of our defence products.
Another product that supports defence manufacturing is the OMAX Abrasive waterjet cutting machine. They are available in very large formats (3.5m wide and as long as you need). Since it is a water cutting process, it can cut all materials and those materials that cannot be cut using heat due to their special material properties.