Exciting opportunities in global supply chains – Ann Ackerson

Today we continue our sponsored series reporting on BAE Systems Australia’s Partnering for success defence industry supplier event, with the big picture of opportunities open to SMEs in global defence supply chains. Here Ann Ackerson talks with Peter Roberts.

As Chief Procurement Officer for the global BAE Systems company Ann Ackerson (pictured) believes the uncertainties of the past few years have opened up exciting opportunities for Australian defence SMEs to enter global supply chains.

Defence customers globally are looking to bolster the resilience of their supply chains, including against the increasing threat of cyber security breaches.

Ackerson said: “I do think it is exciting for a couple of reasons.

“One because we are seeing across the global footprint particularly in the defence space in the last 18 months the need for defence is growing, geopolitically obviously there are a lot of different considerations that look different to a couple of years ago.

“You are seeing a greater level of interest from our customers in every market, which I think does provide us with more opportunities to bring to bear solutions for customers to raise the level of assurance that they are going to have what they need when they need it.”

Ackerson, who is chair of the BAE Systems plc Global Supply Chain Council and a Senior Leadership Team member, is in Australia visiting Adelaide and Perth for discussions with local team members, and to deliver the keynote address at the company’s Partnering for success event taking place this week.

She urged SMEs interested in defence to reach out to the Australian team involved in the company’s Global Access Program who were the main mechanism for matching Australian capabilities with global opportunities.

Dedicated staff in Australia the US and UK actually advocate for Australian industry and were ‘very much focused on building Australian capability’, she said.

But in creating sovereign capability there were always trade offs.

Matching up opportunities to capabilities, including of SME suppliers, to the opportunities in multiple markets across a global business is a challenge.

And this was especially true as Australia was not the only country focused on developing its sovereign defence industry capabilities

“Sometimes some of this is easier to say than to do.

“Some of that is the readiness of the industrial base, the ability to be agile if that capability isn’t fully fleshed out, and does the timing of the customer’s need align with the speed with which we collectively can get that capability to the level that it needs to be to achieve the outcomes that the customer requires.”

Ackerson said she liked to believe BAE Systems was helping create opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises to be able to grow their capabilities and enter export markets.

“In Australia that is a differentiator for us, it is an important attribute for us to bring to our customer community.

“In every market where we operate small business is a critical aspect for several reasons – one it is important to our customer and it is important to us.

“Another way to think about that is we think small businesses often bring tremendous innovation and could be more agile than other suppliers. So we certainly want to leverage that innovation.”

BAE also finds that SMEs can be great partners because they are willing to invest and work strategically with the company.

BAE runs supplier development programmes, operates councils that bring supplier together, provides training, and facilitates agreements with SMEs and potential suppliers.

Ackerson would not be drawn on the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the UK and the US to work together to develop advanced submarines and hypersonic systems, among others.

“At this point it is too early for me to really comment on AUKUS other than the fact that we have operations in the US the UK and Australia, and are committed to supporting our customers in each one of those regions.”

Ackerson will visit the Osborne Naval Shipyard today where the federal government envisages building nuclear powered submarines under the agreement.

“It will be interesting to see what’s changed from last year.”

She said that for small business continuing to invest in their own resilience, including through cyber security, were keys to the future.

“The last few years have highlighted the criticality of having strong and robust supply chains.

“From a supply chain perspective the world is a very very small place, and so those that are able to navigate the supply chain and have the most resilience supply chain are going to be those that are the most successful.

“We have done a pretty good job over the past few years demonstrating a resilient supply chain, and it is not going to be any less important in future that it has been.”

Picture: BAE Systems Australia/Ann Ackerson

@AuManufacturing’s series Defence industry partnering for success is sponsored by defence sector prime contractor BAE Systems Australia.

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