Equipping Australia’s armed forces – Novafast piping aboard frigate build

Our editorial series – Equipping Australia’s armed forces – ends today where we began two weeks ago – looking at the benefits for SMEs of meeting the stringent demands of defence prime contractors. Here Peter Roberts profiles Novafast International.

BAE Systems Maritime Australia is working around the clock to commission one of the world’s first all-digital shipyards to build Hunter class frigates at Osborne in Adelaide.

What is less well known is that a three yearprototyping phase began in December, with the company trying out new technologies and new SME suppliers as it builds its local supply chains and fits out five representative steel ships blocks.

For Adelaide composite piping manufacturer, Novafast International, a notice on the Industry Capability Network (ICN) Gateway 18 months ago led to a contract to produce 600 metres of composite water pipe as well as pipe fittings, and a massive effort to lift its technology level and capabilities.

Novafast business director David Figallo told @AuManufacturing: “The biggest attraction behind this for us was the opportunity to further improve our manufacturing capabilities.

“We figure if we can knock the prototyping phase out of the park we should be in a good position as the only local company capable of taking on the main production contract.

“There is no other in country capability, no-one else doing what we are doing.”

Novafast already makes complex pipe for demanding oil and gas customers in SA’s Moomba and WAs north-west shelf fields, so it is no stranger to working with very big companies and to stringent quality requirements.

But to lift itself into defence the company has had to learn new quality competencies and gain certifications.

Figallo said: “Composite piping systems (for the oil and gas sector) are effectively bespoke products – it is not like going to Bunnings and picking up some 50ml pipe.

“But with defence, it is effectively how you manage defence documentation, and how we manage our web based storage of defence related documents.”

Novafast is also spending $4 million on warehousing and a new production line at its Kilkenny factory – a major commitment for a family-owned business – with the first equipment arrived and ready to be installed.

Meanwhile the company is planning to work with the Line Zero factory of the future research partnership with BAE, the Innovative Manufacturing CRC and Flinders University at the Tonsley Innovation District, which is demonstrating the capabilities of advanced robotics, automation and Industry 4.0 industrial transformation in the frigate build.

All this preparation will culminate in late October when Novafast begins production of the pipe and fittings for the prototype blocks, with installation and exhaustive shock and vibration testing to follow.

BAE Systems Maritime Australia also recently placed two other prototyping contracts – with Century Engineering for the supply of pipe support manacles and with Mackay Consolidated Industries for pipe hanger inserts.

BAE through its global supply chain access program is helping Novafast find opportunities in its global shipbuilding operation – with the Type 26 frigates being built in the United Kingdom and Canada’s future frigate program.

But Figallo said the company had benefitted from new capabilities of relevance to its existing Australian customers…and there are still nine frigates to be built in Adelaide over 10 years.

“We see a big opportunity in this shipbuilding program.

“We are already looking at opportunities with Collins class submarine sustainment and potential work on on the Anzac class frigates.”

@AuManufacturing’s editorial series – equipping Australia’s armed forces – is brought to you with the support of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Picture: Novafast International

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