Engaging small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the defence industry has been an ongoing focus of industry and government, but it has not been without its frustrations. Northrop Grumman Australia’s CEO Ian Irving joined Defence Connect to discuss the challenges facing SMEs and what can be done to aid in their success.
Having worked across various primes and defence programs, including the Collins Class submarine program, Irving has had ample experience in communicating and collaborating with SMEs.
One of the biggest challenges currently facing Australia's SMEs is the setup costs, Irving lamented.
"I think there's still some work to do as a country and as a company in terms of ensuring that that access can be facilitated from the start," said Irving. "Oftentimes when we look at the opportunity there's tooling and setup costs that make it hard for some of the SMEs to actually take that step and access the program."
"We have been having a discussion with some of our SME colleagues and with the government around how do we deal with that? How do we provide that access so that those setup costs are not an impediment and a barrier to what is an otherwise very competitive offering?"
And discussions like these have been known to lead to successful collaborations on different programs, according to Irving.
"I think we've got a great level of dialogue with a lot of the SMEs. We've had some good successes with a small number of them that have succeeded with programs," he said.
"Quickstep for example, we always love to hold up Quickstep. Fantastic company. Has had tremendous success with us on the F-35 program, building composite doors and panels and will continue to win work in that regard. Electrotech, our partner on naval systems as well and a number of others who have – Rockwell Collins and others – [worked] on the F-35 program.
"So we're learning as a company how to do this too. Connecting SMEs with our global supply chain, ensuring that they can be competitive into our international programs."
To hear more from Ian Irving, keep an eye out for our exclusive podcast.