BRISBANE-BASED Ferra Engineering has been contracted to manufacture sub-assemblies for the German-assembled Phoenice platform, Thales’ tactical navigation radar system for submarines.

Ferra Engineering specialises in the design, manufacture, assembly and test of defence and aerospace sub-assemblies, both locally and internationally. It has won manufacturing contracts for components ranging from missile systems to submarines to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – an impressive leap from Ferra’s origins as an auto parts maker.

Ferra will deliver two systems to one of Thales Germany’s existing European customers, with substantial potential future sales.

The program is expected to have flow on benefits to Ferra’s supply chain, with more than 15 Australian based suppliers engaged to deliver the project. The project is expected to create 25 jobs within Ferra Engineering itself. 

Ferra is the latest manufacturer to benefit from the Federal Government’s Global Supply Chain program, which has so far seen 148 companies awarded contracts totalling more than $900 million.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said, “Ferra’s success recognises a significant shift from automotive parts in 2002 to the innovative advanced manufacturing company Ferra is today, supplying complex assemblies globally.

“The project will result in the creation of new positions and the up-skilling of staff to manufacture, assemble and test what is an extremely complex assembly.

“Those benefits will be realised across the Australian defence industry as some work will be performed within Ferra’s extensive supply chain around Australia.

“The signing of this contract is a strong example of Australian small to medium enterprises building their capabilities and creating long lasting export relationships,” he said.

These Australian Government’s Global Supply Chain Program, delivered by the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, aims to increase Australian defence industry’s international competitiveness and facilitate opportunities into the supply chains of multi-national defence companies, Mr Pyne said. 


By Richard Collins >>

IT IS EASY to look at an industry like composites and quickly dismiss it as slow-moving and of no real interest to you or your company, but the chances are you would be wrong.

At the top-level, there are several assumptions that remain correct: the total growth rate is not dramatic, volume production of synthetic fibres used in composite parts is dominated by glass fibre (research organisation IDTechEx calculates this to be 95 percent), and that nobody sees carbon-fibre as a futuristic material anymore.

But, looking beneath this basic top level there is a wealth of innovation, supply chain turbulence, and specific growth areas. These are all analysed in a new report from IDTechEx Research, Composites 2017-2027: Innovations, Opportunities, Market Forecasts


The route to a fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) composite part has never been straightforward, with multiple steps needing to come together. At each step of the supply chain there are multiple innovations, extending from the fibres and their precursors through to the manufacturing processes and their associated industries. 

IDTechEx has investigated every step through primary interviews with key players and provide comprehensive analysis of the key changes in each. This includes alternate fibre feedstocks, plasma oxidation ovens for fibre processing, thin-ply technology for fabrics and prepregs, thermoplastic epoxy and bio-sourced resins for the matrix, 3D printing of composite parts and tools, in-situ foaming of sandwich core materials and many more.

Beyond the manufacturing, there are opportunities, not just for the traditional end-user, but also in how these parts are repaired and increasingly important how they are recycled or disposed of at the end of their functioning life. What is more, these technical challenges are being confronted all the way from multi-billion dollar companies through to start-ups and university research, meaning this seemingly slow and steady industry is one that is rife with opportunities.


The usual headline-grabbing property is the improved strength-to-weight ratio of these lightweight composite parts. This will continue to enhance their ever-increasing relevance for the automotive and aerospace industry, as lower emissions (ICE) and improved mileage (electric) are required. Lightweighting is the one area that both propulsion sides are singing from the same hymn sheet about.

Important additional properties also play a crucial role in their successful uptake and allow these materials to move into unseen directions. This could be their superior stiffness, corrosion resistance, or temperature stability.

Take CFRP (CARBON-frp) as an example. It has long been used, and is very much the industry standard, in certain application sectors. However, beyond these core sectors, newer areas including rail transport, civil engineering remediation, spars in wind turbines, prosthetics, UAVs, and pressure vessels are all looking at this as their needs and the material maturity start to align. 

Alternatively, if the properties or price are not currently to the end-user’s standards then hybrid parts are becoming increasingly viable options. There are numerous ways that dissimilar materials or fibres can be combined to optimise the product with an ever-increasing number of success stories.    


Although carbon fibre may not be the material of the future anymore, this industry is already showing its hand as to what might be.

In the report, IDTechEx predicts that continuous and chopped ceramic fibres and their role in CMCs are right at the cusp of some very significant expansion (10-year compound annual growth rate for the fibres is 27 percent is predicted). 

These have so far been trapped in the usual catch-22: manufacturing and cost advancements cannot occur without scaling, but scaling cannot occur without orders.

 The slow growth and closed-door early adopter industries they have been operating in will finally start to come out of research and qualification to hit large-scale production volumes.

Even more nascent are the roles of continuous ceramic fibre tows and monofilaments in MMCs, which are accurately described as ‘mature technologies in embryonic markets’ – and the impact pure boron fibres may have in the long-term future.

It is also expected that the next-generation materials will start our progression away from ‘dumb’ structural parts towards multifunctional products. Functionality will be incorporated in fibre composites for energy storage, sensor technology, energy harvesting or many more reasons.

All these key next-generation advancements are analysed in the IDTechEx Research report Composites 2017-2027: Innovations, Opportunities, Market Forecasts.


THE NEW VIDEO social network launched by QMI Solutions aims to do a lot more than help drive industry innovation through moving pictures.

The Vuable team believes that fostering ideas, skills and experience will ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Australia’s industries. The Vuable video platform will interlink small and large business, including innovators, researchers, start-ups and project owners.

Founded 25 years ago as the Queensland Manufacturing Institute – and now a national industry solutions catalyst and technology disseminator – QMI Solutions is well known for taking the lead in introducing new technologies to the manufacturing sector, successfully.

QMI Solutions managing director and CEO, Gary Christian – who pointed out that QMI successfully introduced the first industrial 3D printing system into Australia 20 years ago – said Vuable had been created in direct response to industry challenges in visibility, market access, collaboration and innovation.

Mr Christian also foresees Vuable having a significant role in connecting Australian researchers with industry and in helping companies market their innovations and products nationally and, eventually, internationally.

“Gary is right about that and it is the research into this area that we used to shape Vuable,” QMI Solutions’ Vuable co-creator Norm McGillivray said. “There is nothing like Vuable currently anywhere in the world.”

Mr McGillivray said the way the market has adopted video – through Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat stories – is an indication of how a well-planned and astutely organised video platform like Vuable could positively impact industry business growth.

“When QMI started to research and investigate a new platform, we looked around the globe to see if we could find anything like it, one that was solely tuned to industries and innovators,” Mr McGillivray said.

“We thought, ah! Obviously, YouTube and other social media platforms serve a diverse range of video content to the masses, but there was nothing just dedicated to industry and innovators.

 “Vuable serves our stakeholders in the sectors in which QMI is already active – and that is suppliers into major projects, manufacturers and their intermediaries, projects in development and innovators,” he said.

“It is, however, not limited to these industries. We are talking with retail, tech and financial institutions about joining the network as well as major projects and our industry leaders including government departments and research organisations.”


Mr McGillivray said Cisco Systems had released a report earlier this year on the impact of internet-delivered video, estimating that by 2018 people would consume about 80 percent of their online information through video.

The growth of video information has been driven largely by the smartphone, Mr McGillivray said. Industry is rapidly coming to grips with its potential, with many already incorporating video into training and apps.

Mr McGillivray, who has been working with his team on Vuable for just over 12 months, said observations of the video trend is backed by QMI’s investment in the system.

“I see small businesses in general already using video in many ways, along with larger organisations including government departments” he said. “Members of Vuable may initially use it to say who they are, what they do and who they work with. Taking their capabilities from text into the visual space”

“Research organisations and government departments will use Vuable to show what assistance programs are available, and what research organisations are doing currently.”

He said QMI could also see Vuable impacting the project space, highlighting major projects and being used practically for infrastructure to supply information, for contractors, community engagement, “and social good”.

Mr McGillivray said Vuable would almost immediately enable existing QMI Solutions customers to elevate their ability to market – an ongoing challenge in the manufacturing sector.

Mr McGillivray said in the initial planning stages of Vuable, a concern had been the capability of industry to create quality video updates – but the smartphone had virtually eliminated that concern. He added there would be a requirement of ongoing education to get industry comfortable about creating and publishing content, with confidence coming from seeing peers using the platform too.

There is also a range of “fantastic video editing apps that are either free or low cost as well as desktop computer options” he said.

 “The use of mobile phone is key … You can use mobile technology to get the best outcome, we are practising what we preach and have created our own videos on smartphones” Mr McGillivray said.


QMI Solutions has developed the Vuable platform in just over eight months, utilising in-house developers to adapt open-source software.

A useful feature is Vuable’s search functionality, which utilises hashtags, while full instant messaging capabilities are incorporated.

“This removes the friction from the dreaded cold call, and adds the ability for subscribers to interact, business to business, and arrange anything from meeting informally over a cup of coffee to arranging a site meeting at a business’s premises, we think this is a pretty cool feature,” Mr McGillivray said.

“Suppliers and innovators can come on-board and enjoy a free trial period of 30 days and if they don’t like it that’s fine,” he said. “But if they wish to continue it is a month-by-month subscription that’s $25 and they can upload their video any time they want. It’s very flexible, they have total control to pause and resume their subscription at any time.”

QMI has always been an innovator in technology adoption and dissemination.

The Vuable platform grew out of QMI Solutions’ own re-assessment of where digital was taking industries and enacting its own digital transition strategy.

The first instance of this was the introduction of the CoreValue business evaluation system to Australia and New Zealand. This was followed recently by QMI’s introduction of its Online Procurement System (OPS) that serves procurement for industry through a fully automated procure-to-pay system.

“These products are already successfully in the marketplace – and Vuable is the third product that we are bringing to market,” Mr McGillivray said.

 “Vuable is another first of its kind and in the form of a dedicated video platform for industry and innovation. We are very proud of that,” he said.

 “The vision of QMI is that QMI helps make new possible … Vuable will help us to supercharge that vision.”


THE Australian Defence Force’s planned $2 billion development of a new Short Range Ground Based Air Defence system by Raytheon Australia, to improve protection for deployed personnel, is being opened up to a wider Australian manufacturing supply chain.

Minister for Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne said the project would seek to maximise Australian industry content to ensure defence expenditure also helped “deliver local jobs and economic growth”

“Through a Risk Mitigation Contract, the government will ensure there are opportunities for Australian industry participation, with direct access to Raytheon Australia for local businesses to showcase their abilities,” Mr Pyne said.  

“As part of this contract Raytheon will hold workshops across the country to engage with local industry, giving them an opportunity to be part of the supply chain for this project worth up to $2 billion.

“Defence will collaborate with Raytheon Australia and Canberra-based CEA Technologies to look at integrating the Canberra-based firm’s radar into an upgraded NASAMS,” Mr Pyne said.

“CEA Technologies’ ground breaking phased array radar system has already been incorporated into Australia’s ANZAC class frigates and this project will trial the technology in a land-based role.”

Mr Pyne said through the risk mitigation activity, Defence and Raytheon would also investigate using Thales Australia’s ‘Hawkei’ protected mobility vehicle, manufactured in Bendigo, Victoria, as a potential platform for the system’s missile launchers.

Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne said the project was the first step in the development of the Australian Army’s contribution to the Australian Defence Force’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence Program announced in the 2016 Defence White Paper

She said the government would invest up to $2 billion in the system “which will provide the inner most layer of Australia’s enhanced integrated air and missile capability”.

The system will be operated by the Army’s 16th Air Land Regiment.

“A modern and integrated ground-based air defence system is needed to protect our deployed forces from increasingly sophisticated air threats, both globally and within our region,” Ms Payne said.

“Australia’s current short-range capability is 30 years old and due to be retired early next decade. The replacement system will provide improved protection for our deployed servicemen and women.”

A Single Supplier Limited Request for Tender will be released to Raytheon Australia in the first half of 2017 to develop its highly successful National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The ADF will complete a detailed analysis prior to returning to government for final consideration in 2019.



AUSTRALIAN design and manufacturing company, Kord Defence, has won a significant contract to develop innovative products for the United States Marine Corps.

Kord Defence was awarded a contract worth US$2.25 million over 18 months for the US Marines that would see up to an additional four staff employed, including two engineers, under the United States Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) program.

“Kord Defence is an innovative company with technology that fundamentally improves the capacity of the soldier in the battlefield,” Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said at the official contract signing ceremony.

“Kord Defence will develop a Rifle Accessory Control Unit for soldiers to mount on the front of their rifles.”

The contract is for the design, programming, production and subsequent trial of a Rifle Accessory Control Unit (RACU), fitted to the M27 and M4 rifles, and the Infantry Assault Weapons used by US Marines.

The universal controller allows the soldier to take control of all electronic devices from one location, without taking their eyes away from the target or hands from the weapon.

“This contract reflects the innovative technologies emerging from Australian defence industry being imbedded into partner countries,” Mr Pyne said.

“Australian capability is cutting-edge and globally competitive. We are seeing increased attention on what Australia has to offer.”

The Minister said the US FCT program only invited tenders from overseas companies who were at the forefront of innovative technologies in their respective fields.


THE Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) has launched a new guide to help Australia’s manufacturers and commercial building owners take control of their energy costs.

EEC CEO, Luke Menzel said the new Quick Reference Guide to Energy Auditing would give businesses the information they need to work with energy efficiency experts to find ways of slashing their gas and electricity bills.

“Businesses are grappling with massive energy price hikes, reliability issues, and huge volatility in gas and electricity markets,” Mr Menzel said.

“These price shocks pose an existential threat to energy intensive industries, and the market needs to be fixed. But in the meantime, taking advantage of cost effective energy productivity opportunities can give energy users some breathing space.”

The Guide, launched at the Energy Users Association of Australia National Conference in Brisbane recently, was developed in partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. It is the first guide to step energy users though Australia's new energy audit standard, released by Standards Australia in 2014.

“Businesses understand that getting more out of every unit of energy behind the meter is a way of reducing their exposure to the craziness playing out on the other side,” Mr Menzel said.

“The Quick Reference Guide to Energy Auditing will help them get the information they need to assess and invest in measures that quickly cut energy costs, and mitigate the risk of future price rises.” 

The EEC is Australia’s peak body for energy efficiency, cogeneration and demand management, formed in 2009 as a not-for-profit membership association which exists, Mr Menzel said, “to make sensible, cost effective energy efficiency measures standard practice across the Australian economy”.

“We work on behalf of our members to promote stable government policy, provide clear information to energy users and drive the quality of energy efficiency products and services,” he said.

The EEC’s full suite of policy recommendations for promoting smart energy use across the Australian economy are set out in its Australian Energy Efficiency Policy Handbook.

The Quick Reference Guide to energy auditing is available at:



​BULLA Dairy Foods (Bulla) plans to adopt Australia’s new Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) changes early, including voluntarily adopting them on ice cream products.

Bulla CEO, Allan Hood said he wanted to increase labelling reform for greater transparency for all consumers. 

“As one of Australia's largest family owned dairy companies, we are proud to be leading the way to the new CoOL reforms in our category, transitioning our ‘chilled products’ to the new labelling one year ahead of the mandatory timeline,” Mr Hood said.

“In support of transparency across the dairy and wider packaged food industry, we have also voluntarily implemented these changes for our ice cream, with our flagship product, Creamy Classics Vanilla the first to transition in September 2017.

“As an iconic Australian brand, we’re committed to ensuring there is greater transparency for our consumers about where the products they choose to buy come from and will continue to deliver the best quality dairy products using real fresh milk and cream.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, recently visited the Bulla factory with Member for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, to welcome the move. He said the CoOL system would give consumers “the extra level of information they are seeking” around where their food was grown, made or packed, and how much was sourced from Australian farmers.

“The Coalition Government welcomes Bulla's commitment to deliver the Government’s new CoOL reforms one year ahead of time on all their chilled dairy products, including ice cream, which is not mandatory under the changes," Mr Joyce said.

“It is clear that Bulla is proud to be an Australian company and wants to use the labels to show consumers where their food comes from, and that the milk they use is proudly all Australian, supporting Australian dairy farmers,” Mr Joyce said.

“It is encouraging to see Bulla is also making a concerted effort to source more ingredients from Australian farmers, where possible, as it embraces the CoOL changes and the information it displays.”


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