“My concern is, where is all of this skill and capability going to come from?” asks Direct Edge chief executive Diane Edgerton. “Do we have to import it because we haven’t upskilled and we don’t have the time to be able to get these capabilities in place before we’re ready for it?”
In this episode of the Defence Connect Podcast, Edgerton discusses the future of manufacturing in Australia, what it needs to flourish and how she’s working towards getting her own business the recognition it deserves on the national stage.
You’ll also hear about her experience working in a man’s world and how relying on her instincts and life experience helped grow Direct Edge from a simple jobbing shop to an advanced manufacturing business that works across multiple industries in multiple capacities.
Enjoy the podcast,
The Defence Connect team.
Listen to previous episodes of the Defence Connect podcast:
Episode 184: PODCAST: Extreme ownership – John Gretton ‘Jocko’ Willink
Episode 183: PODCAST: Supporting the defence workforce – Richard Price, Defence SA
Episode 182: PODCAST: Priorities for the defence industry – Matt Keogh, shadow defence industry minister
Episode 181: PODCAST: The need for a national security strategy – Senator Jim Molan
Episode 180: PODCAST: Maintaining intellectual advantage within the cyber defence space - Matthew Wilson, Penten
Episode 179: PODCAST: The 15-year evolution of the Bushmaster – Paul Feighan, Thales
Episode 178: PODCAST: How Australian SMEs can compete on a global stage – John O’Callaghan, Defence Council Victoria
Episode 177: PODCAST: The key challenges facing naval shipbuilding in Australia – Alain Houard, Dassault Systèmes
Episode 176: PODCAST: Operations since the SEA 1442 program contract, Michael Lenton, Leonardo
Episode 175: PODCAST: Forging closer industry partnerships on the back of Type 26 – Mark Goldsack, Defence & Security Organisation, UK government
Phil Tarrant: G’day everyone. It's Phil Tarrant here. Thanks for tuning into the Defence Connect Podcast. Always great to have you here. If you're new to the podcast, welcome. Happy you found us. Tell your friends. But for our regular listeners, as always, good to have you back. We'll continue to discuss all the issues which are currently impacting defence industry. It's an exciting to be in defence and it's something that I constantly say on the podcast, the evolution not only in government thinking towards defence programmes and the way in which these programmes are equipping our nation for the future is a very interesting time.
I think also the proliferation of SMEs within this space – there's a lot of new SMEs coming to market. There's a lot of SMEs understanding the opportunities in defence industry, at least for the immediate decade ahead of us as the white paper investment comes into play. I think longer term, considering the changing geographic, strategic nature of the world, I think there's going to be a lot of relevance for defence moving forward. It's comforting and very encouraging to see our large primes really encapsulating some of the opportunities available to them by harnessing the capabilities of the SMEs.
Today we're going to have a bit of a chat about that and I have Diane Edgerton from Direct Edge, she's the CEO, in the studio, to chat about how a smallish manufacturer from Burnie, which is the top of Tassie is now moving into the national stage working with a number of defence primes to prepare themselves for some work ahead but also working closely with other people within defence to thrive. Diane, thinking for coming in. You're welcome.
Couple of things I want to try and tick off today, and one of these I really quite intrigued about the story of your business. I think what you guys are doing is really interesting and some of the trials and tribulations of doing that. Running a business is tough and you need to constantly being reactive to market conditions but also proactive and understanding what you do and how you do it and how you can help sculpt your fortunes in the years ahead but also how you're working closely with two of the major primes who are bidding for LAND 400 right now, BAE Systems Australia and Rheinmetall and from I understand you are looking to provide solutions to both of those, should they be successful so we'll cover that offer a bit later.
Diane, let's have a chat about Direct Edge.
Diane Edgerton: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: What do you guys do and how did that happen?
Diane Edgerton: At the very beginning of Direct Edge, Direct Edge used to be a part of SERS and SERS is a roofing contracting company but, going back 30 years for us next year being in business and SERS started on its path because my husband wanted a big shed. Because he wanted a big shed, I told him he wasn't getting one until it was income producing so in order to be-
Phil Tarrant: Like a shed just to do stuff.
Diane Edgerton: All men want a big shed. They just want a big shed. Got to have a big shed and I could just see, yeah, right. More money just going into an endless pit so I said, "Not unless it's income producing." I then had to put the thinking cap on, how am I going to make this shed income producing, because he wasn't giving up. I turned it into a jobbing shop to compliment his business and to give him greater efficiencies than what he already had. So many years down the track, that big shed just kept growing and more sheds kept getting added on.
Eventually I had to then build him two new buildings so I could move him out to take up more area. We still had this SERS name which didn't really tell people what we did and we had sort of grown out of the jobbing shop and developed into manufacturing with all the CNC equipment and machines and everything else. Then we called in a consultant to come in and say, "We need to rebrand. We need to tell people what we really are and how do we tell people that we're not manufacturers?" First part was he gave me a whole list of names and the names were atrocious. I hated every name, going through the list and he said, "Just pick one name out of it." I said, "There's too many of them and I don't like any of them." He said, "One will stand out to you." I said, "Look, if I'm going to pick any name it's going to be this one." He goes, "Why'd you pick that?" I said, "Because it's got my initials in it." That's how Direct Edge evolved.
Phil Tarrant: Okay. You guys are manufacturers.
Diane Edgerton: We're manufacturers of small components for above ground and underground mining equipment, global supplier into the Caterpillar supply chain. We also manufacturer ambulance walls so sitting inside an ambulance, all the cabinetry, we actually make those cabinets for Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tassie. We're supplying to that, so we actually cut, fold, fabricate, powder coat those walls, send them to the assembly plant and they then get put into the ambulances.
Phil Tarrant: You guys will create stuff for purpose or you'll create small batches of stuff for particular projects or programmes...?
Diane Edgerton: We have a production run, as such, so we continually do particular items but where our company differs is instead of having one product line that actually goes through production, at any point in time we could have 4 to 500 different products coming through. To probably make up those 4 to 500 products, you're probably looking at so many thousand parts that make up all of those products so you've got parts continually going through and that is a very hard task to actually manage going through your system. Ours is all need to start so everything has to meet up at a particular point in time when it's required, ready for fabrication. It's got to be on time every time and it's all about quality and that's what the business focuses on.
Phil Tarrant: You guys have been at this for 30 years now so you've started from a jobbing shop ...
Diane Edgerton: A jobbing shop.
Phil Tarrant: ... into an advanced, sophisticated manufacturing business, there decades in business. How's it been over that period? There must have been some peaks and troughs. Anything in particular which hurt or required a complete different sort of take on the world?
Diane Edgerton: The biggest learning curve for me, because the jobbing shop, we started in business in 1988 as the roofing contractors. In 1996 I opened the doors to the jobbing shop. In 2005 I actually convinced my husband that we could borrow this huge amount of money, the most we'd ever borrowed, even more than it what it cost us to build the buildings, to buy a piece of equipment. It's a piece of equipment that was going to do so much for us and help us grow. It turned out to be a dud. It didn't work. It didn't work. We didn't get what we wanted and it created great havoc within the business.
That, to me, was the biggest learning curve for me, myself. It took 12 months for the company to replace most parts of this piece of equipment and to get it to actually work. I still wasn't happy but I just had to kick myself in the butt and say, "Get over it and get on with it and make it work." I did. I turned it around. I was doing like 36-hour shifts because I needed to prove that I could make this work. Yeah, I'd work around the clock and that machine ended up running 24 hours and the business grew so much and grew so quickly because it was all about getting those right processes in place to enable it to make sure that it actually worked. The positive for that for me was, always look for the positive, never look at the negatives to be able to pull yourself out of it.
Phil Tarrant: How big is your organisation now in terms of people?
Diane Edgerton: People? Once all the last of the apprentices come on, it'll be about 45. At our peak we were 92.
Phil Tarrant: Okay. What I like about chatting with you is that your rawness and frankness. I think when you look at defence industry, what a lot of people forget is that often you see these whizz-bang aeroplanes or warships or great vehicles which are used by armed forces and you associate them with the large primes, your Lockheed Martins or your BAEs or whoever. But the reality of defence in Australia is built by driven, passionate, SMEs who are doing their little piece of the puzzle and that helps come to the end story. So what you're saying, and I know our politicians are now recognising, the is government recognising it, they need to look after SMEs to make sure that we can do what we need to do as a nation in terms of our war fighting capabilities.
How do you emotionally attach yourself with defence industry? Do you like the idea of being part of it rather than sort of putting a roof on a vehicle or creating something for a...
Diane Edgerton: Right. For me, the defence, when the manufacturing industry was going through its worst and we had big clients moving away and setting up in other countries, the thing that actually pulled me to defence was, hang on a minute, they're very similar to vehicles that we currently do. Why can't we be involved in defence? It's very similar type work. That's what sort of pulled me towards it and the other thing was…where was all the money being spent in Australia? I only want a very small part of that, just like I suppose a lot of other people do. More important than anything, it's that up-skilling of the skills within the manufacturing. Manufacturing is moving into a different era. You've got the technology that's changing all the time and it means that we need smart people within. I'll talk about the welders, even. I need smarter welders because if I want to move to the next area within welding, which is robots, I need to use the current welders that I've got but I need to up-skill them more so that they can then programme the robots because I just can't pull anybody in.
Phil Tarrant: You actually need to be able to understand welding to be able to tell a robot how to weld.
Diane Edgerton: You have to. You actually have to understand welding to be able to tell a robot how to weld because, put it this way, it's just like any other computer. It's only as good as the information going in. Crap going in, crap coming out.
Phil Tarrant: Do you think, obviously the government talks about boosting or realising the potential of Australia's manufacturing industry. The government, state and federal, are looking to promote and champion opportunities for young Australians to move into apprenticeships and longevity in those roles. That is the rhetoric. Is it actually happening? Are you getting that support you think to, number one, sell a role, a job, a career in manufacturing? Number two, is the government giving you the kick-along, whether it's cash or whatever?
Diane Edgerton: Honestly, I can't complain about our state government because they've been working very hard with me now, especially in a skills area. I'm actually pushing training providers through to making sure that we actually get the training that we actually need so they are there supporting us within that. One of the things I probably don't like is that when a skillset is probably put down, so to speak, I can just mention the comment made by Christopher Pyne in relation to backing up Malcolm Turnbull's submarine release. His comments were that welding is not an exceptionally skilled occupation.
Now, that worries me because I think every welder has just been kicked in the guys because, I'm sorry, but I can't get into defence without having specialist welding schools. I can't even get a look in and I'm now working really hard to ensure that all of our welders have those specialist skills. We have ISI for quality, two for safety, one for environment and now I'm working hard to get the 3834 for welding because that is the minimum requirement that's been put down by all of the primes. I'm going one step ahead of that because I want to be recognised internationally so that's my reason, also, for going to the DSEI in London this year. I want to do the 9606 as well so that we are then a company that these primes will want to look at because we have those skills and capabilities within-
Phil Tarrant: It gives you a ticket to play, pretty much.
Diane Edgerton: It certainly gives you the ticket to play, so staying ahead of the curve. My concern is that I don't think there is enough quality certified welders within Australia to be able to do this work.
Phil Tarrant: We have a lot of welding ahead of us with, there's a couple of submarines getting built, I'm told, and one or two warships, frigates coming online. We're going to need some blokes here, and girls.
Diane Edgerton: Yeah, my problem is you've got the ship building. You've got the submarines. You've got the LAND 400s plus there is also other projects going on that these primes are working on. My concern is where is all of this skill and capability going to come from? Is it going to be imported in through the 457? Hang on, we just stopped those, didn't we? Where do we get those from or is this a reason to say that we can't put the percentage in that's required for the Australian labour content? Do we have to import it because we haven't up-skilled and we don't have the time to be able to get these capabilities in place before we're ready for it?
Phil Tarrant: How long does it take to become a good welder? To weld something the quality of which...
Diane Edgerton: For the quality.
Phil Tarrant: ...would be to go into a LAND 400 vehicle, how long do you need to be welding to be able to create something which is sophisticated and good enough to go into something like that?
Diane Edgerton: Okay, a welder has to do a four-year apprenticeship and I always say the first two years, they're a liability to me. The next two, they need to start showing me something. To me, a minimum of six years in before you can actually start to reap some rewards from a welder. That's a minimum.
Phil Tarrant: That's a big investment on your behalf or the organization's behalf to invest in creating this talented welder who can go away and deliver.
Diane Edgerton: Plus you've also got to remember there is two types of welders, as far as I'm concerned. You've got your quality, fine skills person who can weld and I call them the sheet metal worker. Then you've also, I call them the rough nuts of the industry which are the boiler maker welders who actually then do the welding of the big, thicker material. There is two special types of welders and both are required for all of these builds because you've got the thinner and the thicker materials that you're required to actually do. I've always found, just personally for myself, that I can't turn a boiler marker around. I can turn a sheety into a boiler maker but I can't turn a boiler maker into a sheety.
Phil Tarrant: Would they refer to themselves like that, like a sheety and a boiler maker?
Diane Edgerton: They do.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah.
Diane Edgerton: Yeah. They like to be known for what they are.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. Most of the work that the organisation does, you're more sheety than boiler maker.
Diane Edgerton: We're more sheety than boiler maker. We'll do up to $20 mil so we actually go in between. We'll go up to $20 mil in the mild steels and the metals, 12 mil in stainless but we have done up to around $50 mil in the aluminium.
Phil Tarrant: Do the guys and girls on your shop floor, do they have a passion for welding?
Diane Edgerton: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: Do they identify as, "I'm a welder and I'm a craftsman," or, "I'm a tradesman?"
Diane Edgerton: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: Is that how they see the world?
Diane Edgerton: They do. They have a passion. Put it this way, you wouldn't be doing it if you didn't have a passion for it and, for them, it is all about that quality because I'll probably agree. Probably anybody can weld but they can get that quality?
Phil Tarrant: I've tried welding and I get all that splatter stuff, I don't know what you call it.
Diane Edgerton: Exactly. Yeah. There is a specialist skill to it because with aluminium you can burn it out really quickly if you don't actually know how you're doing it. They take pride in their work and they're really excited about the journey that we're going on and they can't wait to be involved to say, "I was a part of that."
Phil Tarrant: Let's have a chat about that journey. Both the two down selected organisations tenders for Land 400, Rheinmetall and BAE Systems, that's all under way right now and it's a very good part of the process and we write about it and talk about it quite a lot at DefenceConnect.com.au, but you guys have been smart enough to put a foot in both cans. Rheinmatell, should they be successful, they've slated you as an organisation who they're going to turn to to support the creation of their vehicle, as has BAE Systems who only recently announced Victoria is going to be its manufacturing hub should they be successful, so very clever on your part but you obviously must feel something good.
Diane Edgerton: Yes. Well, put it this way. That thinking is what I've done throughout the whole business so we cover every industry within the work that we actually do. We don't specialise in one particular area and we don't have a product to sell to anyone. Ours is all about our skills and our capabilities but we like to service every market. Look, I don't know whether that's a good or a bad thing and I do know companies that do very well from one product, one product line but it's a bit like not putting all your eggs in the one basket for me. When you look at certain industries that will have cycles within, so I'm trying to even that line rather than get in the ups and the downs.
Phil Tarrant: Irrespective of who wins LAND 400, will you do the same thing for both solutions?
Diane Edgerton: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: Okay. Is your particular part of the vehicle that you'll be looking to manufacture or is it more of a holistic thing or if you can't go into it, that's cool.
Diane Edgerton: Yeah. All I'll say is that we specialise in components, components probably up to around 100 to 150 kilograms. We don't do the huge big ones but we stay within our core that we actually know and what we know that we're actually capable of.
Phil Tarrant: How have you found dealing with the primes?
Diane Edgerton: I actually haven't had a problem dealing with them. It's certainly been an experience in trying to get in there. I did meet Christopher Pyne one night and said to him, "I'm finding it really hard to open doors. I don't know how to open the door." He said, "If the doors are open to everyone, you just need to keep trying.”
Phil Tarrant: It's true, you know.
Diane Edgerton: Yeah.
Phil Tarrant: I speak to a lot of SMEs and even the people who have been in it for 20, 30 years in defence, they say, "You got to put the hard work in." You've got to be very, outside of that, very sustainable and capable business, but it's good old fashion business. You got to burn the shoe leather and open doors. You got to hustle hard.
Diane Edgerton: I think it's the challenge more than anything. You've got to realise that you just can't give up and I'm not one to give up. I do know a lot of companies that have tried and said, "It's all too hard. They ask too much," but I always think, "Isn't that going to improve your business by meeting those standards? Why wouldn't you want to?" I actually started the journey probably four to five years ago, understanding what was going on in our local area and realising that we had to make changes. Three years ago we got certified for our first three ISO and that was the first part of that journey because I knew that I couldn't open a door without it.
Phil Tarrant: Is LAND 400 your first foray into defence?
Diane Edgerton: We do some defence work for another company so we're coming as a tier two or tier three supplier. We've done some sinks and cabinets and things on the ships in Adelaide.
Phil Tarrant: Oh, great.
Diane Edgerton: We've done frames and everything for their bed and their bunks and their desks and things like that. We have been doing that for a while and doing stuff within the marine industry so, yeah.
Phil Tarrant: Okay. Do the team like the idea of having more involvement in defence and defence industry, to look at being part of the manufacturing process for the Rheinmatell and BAE solutions?
Diane Edgerton: See, Rheinmatell and BAE probably aren't as well known for the workers down lower but then when I started getting some pricing and everything to do for Rolls Royce, everybody knows Rolls Royce.
Phil Tarrant: Everyone knows.
Diane Edgerton: They go, "Oh wow. I can't wait to be a part of that."
Phil Tarrant: Yeah.
Diane Edgerton: Yeah. I think it's the name thing, you know. "Imagine telling somebody that I've done something for whoever." Yeah.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. I think when they sort of see these things out rolling around like that...
Diane Edgerton: Yes, yes.
Phil Tarrant: ...they'll be a lot more…
Diane Edgerton: They'll be a lot more excited.
Phil Tarrant: ...connected with the brand. How do you find working out of Burnie? That's a traditional manufacturing hub. Do you feel isolated at all or do you feel connected? I say that, it's Tasmania. It's not that far away but is the sort of tyranny of distance across the strait there sort of influence people's perceptions about Tassie businesses?
Diane Edgerton: They do and every comment you've just made is what everybody says to me, you know. "Why are you still there? Why aren't you moving?" I go, "What year are we in?" What technology have we got? Why does it matter where you are, plain and simple?
Phil Tarrant: I completely agree with you.
Diane Edgerton: What I'm-
Phil Tarrant: It's about the people.
Diane Edgerton: Yes and that's what I'm saying. To me, it's all about the people, the skills and everything that you've got there but you shouldn't look at a place as being a hindrance to stop you from getting something. You'd be amazed at how many people say, "Oh, do you have enough people down there?" A lot of people talk about Tassie and they go, "Oh, if I come over, can I sort of go around it in a day?" I'm just laughing, thinking, "Yeah right."
Phil Tarrant: Does Burnie have the depth of talent involved; say if you were to double your business overnight, would you be able to find the welders to help you do that?
Diane Edgerton: No. Because it is a manufacturing hub in Burnie and there is-
Phil Tarrant: It's competitive to get them.
Diane Edgerton: It's very competitive there and, to me, it's about training your own because it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks and I find, for the quality that I require, it's better to teach them my way the first time so that they actually know the quality that you're actually looking for.
Phil Tarrant: What is your way?
Diane Edgerton: It's a bit like my husband keeps saying to me, measure twice, cut once. Get it right the first time but work out along the process, if it's gone wrong, why did it go wrong, so that continual improvement going through. To me, it's all about making it easier for the people within the processes that they do. It's not about making it hard for them. How can I make it easier for you?
Phil Tarrant: Is your husband a manufacturing guy? Is that his trade?
Diane Edgerton: No, he's a roof plumber. He's a plumber by trade but he's now a roof plumber and he sort of runs his company and I run the direct edge, yeah.
Phil Tarrant: What is your job? Are you the guy or girl, sorry. Are you the guy that goes out-
Diane Edgerton: I'm the whoa-man.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. Are you the person that goes out and wins the business? Is that your job?
Diane Edgerton: My role is to look to the future for the business. Quite a few years ago I decided that I needed to get out of it, after that first machine going wrong, and then five years later, then buy more equipment and building more. I decided that I really needed to look more on the outside rather than being in it. Okay, I fixed these solutions here. We can now use these for what we're doing in the future. I set it up so that there's people running the day to day, I'm really there for the very last decision making and I'm out there looking to the future for them, making sure that the business stays sustainable for their future.
Phil Tarrant: Describe to me your leadership style.
Diane Edgerton: My leadership style is probably more through my life skills. I don't have a huge education background or anything like that. I finished grade 10. If I just explain my life briefly, but I was married at 17. I had my first child at 17. I had two children by the time I was 18. I was divorced at 25. I went through some hard parts of my life between 25 and 27, 28. Yeah, there were some things where I probably would not even be here today. I'm just lucky that I am but, yeah, turned my life around and remarried at 32. Had three more children and that's when this sort of business started along and we were already doing it but yeah.
Phil Tarrant: That's an interesting story. No, it's -
Diane Edgerton: I actually put all of my leadership and my management skills and I call everything common sense and, to me, running a business and making decisions is common sense. My forte is probably being able to make a decision at the click of a hand. I know when we bought-
Phil Tarrant: You trust your instincts.
Diane Edgerton: I trust my instincts.
Phil Tarrant: Your instincts are a product of experience.
Diane Edgerton: Exactly, yeah. Put it this way, if I have that feeling, oh, I'm not really sure on this...
Phil Tarrant: Something's not right.
Diane Edgerton: ...I'm not going to go with it but, yeah. A lot of mine are on that gut feel that people actually have, being able to make instantaneous decisions and putting it this way. Other people's problems within the business, they tend to be high on their Richter scale and then when they come to me, and I'm quite calm, and they go, "Oh my god, I can't believe. Why are you so calm?"
Phil Tarrant: Very pragmatic way to look at it. How do you find, because you would have different types of people in your business, so managing a team of ... What do you call them? Sheeties? Did I use that right? Yeah, managing a team of sheeties is probably quite different to some of the guys in the office.
Diane Edgerton: Yep.
Phil Tarrant: What's the dynamics there?
Diane Edgerton: The dynamics there is making sure ... Put it this way. If the need is required, I'll actually go and work out on the floor beside them.
Phil Tarrant: You can weld?
Diane Edgerton: I can actually weld but I do other things...
Phil Tarrant: You do the other stuff.
Diane Edgerton: ...and I will put a grinder and everything in the hand.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, good.
Diane Edgerton: I don't have an issue with that and I make sure when I go to work I'm dressed just like them. I have my work clothes just like they do. I don't pretend to be anybody, which I'm not better than anybody else. Yeah. It's being able to make sure, yes, you can talk to them. I think my main thing is I make sure I call the teams together and I actually call the whole workforce together. If something's going on, the last thing I want is a worker presuming and assuming what's going on. I always say, "You're going to hear it right from the horse's mouth." They hear it from me before somebody else is out there telling them a completely different story.
Phil Tarrant: Is that just goes back to your organic way of leading rather than some scripted management style that you read in some journal somewhere?
Diane Edgerton: I actually haven't read any management style. I know I can remember once at a function from an ex minister down in Tassie and he said to me, "What motivates you? How do you keep doing it? What motivates you to keep doing it?"
Phil Tarrant: I was going to ask you that question so what's your answer to it? Why? What's the why?
Diane Edgerton: What's the why?
Phil Tarrant: Outside of making profit and money, there's always a little bit more.
Diane Edgerton: It's not about the profit. It's not about the money because I don't really need to be doing it. To me, I actually like the challenge and I think it's just going back into those earlier years when I had a hard time. There was a person in there that told me I wouldn't be anything or do anything and I think it was for me to prove to myself that I could actually be something, do something.
Phil Tarrant: Everyone's got their own motivations. It's just really understanding what they are and transitioning into action.
Diane Edgerton: Yep. I think, like I said, to me it's all about the life skills, being at the very lowest point, being able to pick yourself up just like that machine that was a dud. My previous life skills enabled me to pull out of that where a lot of other people would've just given up and the company would've went under and everybody would've lost their job.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, it's a big responsibility, too, in what you do. It would appear, well, it is the fact that both Rheinmetall and BAE has sort of said that, should they win, that there's some work coming your way which is pretty handy but I think also BAE is … You're heading to DSEI.
Diane Edgerton: DSEI, yes.
Phil Tarrant: One of the pinup girls, boys, businesses, whatever you want to call it of promoting I guess the depth of Aussie manufacturing talent, particularly SME level on a global stage. Do you have to sort of try and crack their international supply chain? Can businesses from Burnie and Tassie sort of build stuff over in Europe and the UK?
Diane Edgerton: It's a little bit scary for me because it is the first time anything like this on this international scale. I was part of the LAND 400 in Adelaide on a Tassie stand and I know it's going to be a lot bigger than that. Yes, it's a little bit daunting. Maybe I need some help in trying to refine myself and put myself out there but at the end of the day if I want it, I've really just got to get out there and do it.
Phil Tarrant: There is nothing wrong with being yourself. That's the best policy.
Diane Edgerton: That's what I say. I don't know that anybody can change what I am. I am what I am and hopefully that's what people are looking for.
Phil Tarrant: The next frontier, is defence going to be a growing component of your business? Obviously if you pick up this work, there's got to be quite a lot of years of undertaking to get these vehicles built but are you looking at anything else, any other programmes or projects in particular you fancy?
Diane Edgerton: I see the defence one as probably a programme that will probably go for 10 or more years and I think the skills that come from that. You see, I'm one of these women that like new machines, the new modern machines and looking how the future's going to go and I have my vision on that and I move with those. To me, getting into the global arena, getting into a more global supply chains is going to ensure that manufacturing stays within Australia, stays within Tasmania but actually stays as an industry because the last thing I want to see if manufacturing being just an assembly plant.
Phil Tarrant: We did a really good podcast with Jens Goennemann recently who is looking to change the way that people view manufacturing in Australia rather than we just stick it together. Yeah, there is so much more to manufacturing than that. One point I wanted to make is that it's great to actually have a female on the show because we're big for trying to promote female leaders within defence and the career opportunities for females in defence so thanks for coming on and sharing your story. But it's also a shout out to our listeners, particularly our female listeners, please do connect with us and let us know what you're doing. I think the female participation within defence is highly under-subscribed and we collectively, as issue, all need to work about bringing more women into defence, both at a defence force level but, in particular, at a defence industry level because there's a lot of work to be done there.
Diane Edgerton: Like I said, it hasn't always been easy being a woman in a man's world but I think that's a story for another day because that was a big journey, too.
Phil Tarrant: I bet you it was. You can testament that. That's not too hard coming on. That's a pretty easy chat. It's nothing too dangerous.
Diane Edgerton: It's a lot easier than what I thought. I was very nervous.
Phil Tarrant: I think we've covered quite a lot. We could chat all day about the challenges of growing an SME within defence but I think you've given some nice tidbits of information to listeners and a lot of SMEs do listen because they all appreciate the challenges to try and crack primes and government. If you had one tip for them, what would it be?
Diane Edgerton: I think that as a united group, that all manufacturers really need to be looking at those skills within and the capabilities so that we don't miss out. I am concerned there. I am concerned that we're going to dumb down our industry rather than increase the skills that we've got in it. I would like to think by having this opportunity within defence and being able to get into that global arena, that we can actually stay there and be known on a global arena that, hey, the Aussies have the best skills but we need to all work together to get there.
Phil Tarrant: Your message to government, how can they...
Diane Edgerton: How can they help?
Phil Tarrant: ...better support you?
Diane Edgerton: Don't dumb it down. Don't say that it's not a specialised skill force but I think that this is because you can't get into defence without it. Primes are clearly saying that, that you're not going to get a look in without it.
Phil Tarrant: What can the primes do better, do you think?
Diane Edgerton: To be honest, I think they've been very supportive. I haven't had an issue with them. I feel like they're trying to mould me into what they want and I don't see that as a bad thing and they're doing it in a way that doesn't make me feel bad so that's probably a good thing. Yeah.
Phil Tarrant: There's nothing wrong with change, you know?
Diane Edgerton: Change is as good as a holiday, I always say.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. It is, it is. Just keep doing what you're doing. The fact that both of the down selected companies for LAND 400 are flying their flag for you guys and saying that you ha the skills and capabilities to help them build these capabilities is a good thing so keep at it.
Diane Edgerton: Exactly.
Phil Tarrant: Great story.
Diane Edgerton: I'm there to try and get Tassie known.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, well, it's a beautiful place.
Diane Edgerton: It is.
Phil Tarrant: I do like Tassie. I've never been to Burnie.
Diane Edgerton: Haven't you?
Phil Tarrant: I have to go down there and check it out.
Diane Edgerton: Oh, you have to check it out.
Phil Tarrant: Come see you guys.
Diane Edgerton: Yeah, exactly.
Phil Tarrant: That'll be good. Thanks, Diane, I really enjoyed.
Diane Edgerton: Oh, thank you.