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Precision manufacturer secures defence future

Manufacturing

A South Australian advanced manufacturing company will use the Land 400 project to climb out of the Valley of Death and grow its defence business.

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Adelaide-based Plasteel SA is among a number of specialist Australian companies partnering with Rheinmetall Defence Australia, which was last week named as the successful tenderer for the LAND 400 Phase 2.

The $5.2 billion LAND 400 Phase 2 will deliver 211 armoured reconnaissance vehicles to the Australian Army from 2020. Rheinmetall’s Boxer 8×8 CRV was chosen as the preferred tender ahead of BAE Systems’ Patria AMV35.

Plasteel is expecting to work on the turrets, as it has done on previous defence projects. The company specialises in precision sheet metal product manufacturing and has previously worked in a number of defence projects including the M113 armoured personnel carrier and Air Warfare Destroyer.

However, when the last of Plasteel’s AWD work ended about 18 months ago it was plunged into the Valley of Death, reducing its workforce to a little over 20 from a peak of 45.

A series of commercial jobs has helped it build back up to 35 but Plasteel Managing Director Daryl O’Shaughnessy expects staff numbers to soon be well over 50.

“The Valley of Death definitely hit us hard but we managed to have some success with commercial projects and this will definitely bring us well and truly out of it, so we’re pleased,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“With all the defence projects coming up we fully expect to be engaged for many years to come now.”

Plasteel was established in 1964 and has worked in the defence industry for about 25 years. O’Shaughnessy, pictured, spent 19 years in the Royal Australian Air Force and has owned the company since the early 2000s.

He said the Plasteel site in the southern suburbs of Adelaide was well equipped to handle a wide array of advanced manufacturing work and could easily be ramped up with the addition of a second or third shift to cope with the increased workload.

“We’re very highly specialised, we engage heavily in advanced manufacturing and we’ve got some really good staff,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“We’re a one-stop shop and that’s one of the things that attracted Rheinmetall to us.

“At the moment we’ve only got the one shift on so we can increase to three shifts a day across 24 hours so we don’t have to increase the footprint and we can stay where we are.

“I’m really pleased that we’re keeping the work in Australia – that’s a big thing for us and for everybody.”

Plasteel was named Manufacturing Business of the Year at the 2017 Optus Business Awards in November.

It is among more than 40 companies from around Australia, including Supashock and Redarc from South Australia, identified by Rheinmetall to form part of a globally competitive military vehicle industry.

Rheinmetall will establish a state of the art Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence (MILVEHCOE) near Brisbane. The first 25 vehicles will be completed in Germany to help train Australian staff before the work is transferred to the centre in Queensland.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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