Manufacturing news briefs — Stories you might have missed

Production delays build inventories at Quickstep

Production delays related to absenteeism, supply chain issues and equipment reliability issues were exacerbated by global labour and spare parts shortages in the fourth quarter of FY22 at Quickstep. The resulting lower aerostructure production volumes caused a build in inventory of $5.2 million in the quarter for the composites manufacturer. While this had a negative impact on profitability – the company reported an underlying EBITDA of $4.8 million, down from $7.5 million in the previous year – the build up will be converted to revenue and cash this financial year, according to the company. Despite these headwinds Quickstep reported positive cash flows that supported $3 million in investment during the year. Quickstep has taken stakes in drone manufacturers operators Carbonix and Swoop Aero.

DroneShield’s first international airport installation

Drone detection and countermeasure company DroneShield has completed its first permanent deployment of a counterdrone system at a major international airport. The airport, which was not named by the company, has installed a DroneSentry system (pictured) incorporating passive long-range drone detection sensors and associated command and control enterprise software. While the contract value is less than $500,000 the company said the installation was a gateway into the US civil aviation market, which includes more than 5,000 airports. Airports are reporting an increasing number of intrusions by drones, with many having the potential to damage, or even bring down a passenger airplane.

A2 Milk plans $150 million share buyback

A2 Milk has announced a $150 million share buyback to return capital to investors following a year in which it experienced excess infant formula inventory and took action to refresh its strategy with a focus of maximising potential in the China market. The company delivered double digit earnings and revenue growth in the year, reporting EBITDA operating profit up 59 per cent to $196.2 million on revenue up 19.8 percent to $1.45 billion in the year. China label infant formula sales were up 12.2 percent, while liquid milk sales in the United States were up 30.2 percent. CEO David Bortolussi said: “Our on-market buyback demonstrates effective capital management and the improved confidence we have in our strategy, execution and outlook.”

Defence ICT, Cyber Security strategies released

Assistant defence minister Matt Thistlethwaite launched the 2022 Defence Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Strategy and the Defence Cyber Security Strategy at a Defence ICT industry forum on Wednesday. Thistlethwaite said strategies stressed the importance of enduring partnerships for Defence, in order to leverage the experience and expertise of industry, academia, allies and regional partners. The Defence ICT Strategy is described as ensuring Defence is able to harness and leverage the power of data for improved situational awareness and decision-making, while the Defence Cyber Security Strategy details combating cyber threats and ensuring capabilities are secured against attacks from adversaries. The Defence ICT Strategy can be read here and the Cyber Strategy here.

SEA Electric unveils all-electric aviation refueller

SEA Electric’s SEA 500 EV — the first all-electric aviation refueller in Australia — was put into operation this week. The refueller vehicle was designed and engineered in Australia, and built in conjunction with Air bp and Refuel International in Melbourne. It will be based at Brisbane Airport, uplifting Jet-A1 for business and general aircraft at the busy international airport. According to a statement from SEA Electric, it can carry approximately 16,000 litres of aviation fuel, with all onboard pumps and functions fully electrified, with the management of the systems provided by the company’s SEA-Drive power-system. “Of course, there are environmental benefits of converting to EV, with CO2 and other exhaust particulates eliminated, which makes for a healthier work environment at airports,” said Tony Fairweather, SEA Electric’s CEO and founder. “Transport makes up a significant portion of total emissions, with the adoption of pioneering EV technology, such as this aircraft refuelling truck, showing a great level of social responsibility.”

WA green H2 industry will go on show in South Korea

Promoting renewable hydrogen industry and building new partnerships will be the focus of the first leg of Western Australia’s investment and trade mission to South Korea and Singapore, the WA government has said. Hydrogen industry minister Alannah MacTiernan will spend three days in Korea for the 2022 Global H2 Conference and meet with international industry leaders wanting to invest in WA. and will also visit the Shinincheon Bitdream Fuel Cell Power Plant, the world’s largest hydrogen fuel cell power plant. Current global demand for hydrogen is estimated at more than 90 million tonnes a year and the value of Australia’s low-emissions hydrogen exports could reach $2.2 billion by 2030 and $5.7 billion by 2040, according to a statement from MacTiernan. “South Korea is seeking hydrogen supply and the decarbonisation of systems, and WA is well-positioned to be an optimal large-scale producer and exporter of renewable hydrogen – together making a complete, stable and secure value chain,” she said. “Senior Korean steelmakers are seriously invested in producing green iron in WA and we want to advance those discussions.”

NIOA appoints new New Zealand GM

Munitions company NIOA has announced the appointment of Fraser Winskill as General Manager for its New Zealand operations. Winskill has been the company’s regional business manager in NZ since May 2021. He will take over the role from Garry Powell — a long-serving director of the Sportways business which NIOA acquired — on November 1. “We thank Garry for his service and leadership since Sportways became part of the NIOA family earlier this year,” said NIOA Group CEO Robert Nioa. “Fraser’s background in the NZDF combined with his leadership capabilities, commercial knowledge and understanding of the industry through a lifelong passion for hunting and sporting shooting mean he has the expertise to carry us into the future.” The company successfully integrated Auckland-based Sportways Distributors into the group in April.

Power poles as street-side EV charging hubs

The federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced $871,000 in funding to Intellihub this week. The support will assist an Australian first deployment of 50 electric vehicle (EV) chargers across NSW installed on street side power poles for EV owners without off-street parking. Intellihub will install EV chargers on power poles across nine local government areas during the $2.04 million project. The project is also supported by Schneider Electric, which will provide the EV charging infrastructure, and EVSE, who will be managing the charging service. Origin Energy will supply 100 per cent GreenPower for the project, “meaning all of the energy required to charge the vehicles will be matched with the equivalent amount of certified renewable energy added to the grid,” said ARENA. The nine LGAs include Waverley, Woollahra, Randwick, Lake Macquarie, Ryde, Singleton, Parramatta, Northern Beaches and Inner West local councils. Intellihub CEO Wes Ballantine said: “Power poles line most of our public streets and that presents an opportunity for the EV charging market. They’re an accessible, safe, and practical option for EV charging.”


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