Shaping a Global Opportunity: Marand Australia Participates in the F-35 Program


2014-04-01 By Robbin Laird

The classic fighter import program for a country the size of Australia is to build for the domestic customer, the program ends, you do a little bit of sustainment work and then move on.

With the F-35 as a global program, a domestic supplier can position itself for global opportunities, and by so doing bringing core competitive competencies to the program itself.  Investments up front are paid for downstream as the program continues to produce planes and generates demand for parts for a global fleet.

It is about getting the opportunity and then positioning to provide globally competitive value to the program itself.

For Marand, an Australian solutions provider, the F-35 program has provided a venue to shape new global relationships, which complement their Australian business.

According to the company’s website:

Marand is a leading global supplier of precision-engineered solutions to a range of industries including Aerospace, Defence, Rail, Automotive and Mining.

Marand’s customer base is predominately Blue chip organizations including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, Ford, BHP, Rio Tinto and Holden for which it designs and manufactures complex innovative equipment

During my visit to Australia in March 2014, I had a chance to talk with David Ellul, Managing Director of Marand about the company and their involvement in the F-35 program.

The intersection between the evolution of the company’s capabilities and their engagement in the program, a two-way street approach, was highlighted throughout the interview.

Ellul indicated that Marand started as a firm supporting the automobile industry in Australia and over time has transitioned  into the aerospace and rail businesses.  In fact, they have migrated over the past decade from having approximately 90% of their business in the automotive sector, to now less than 1% in automotive as the company has migrated to work in the other sectors in its portfolio.

Within aerospace, prior to F-35, their main client was Hawker deHaviland (now Boeing Aerostructures  Australia) for whom they designed and manufactured Aerospace Tooling

David Ellul and Bob Stevens at 2009 visit by the Lockheed CEO to Marand. Credit: Marand
David Ellul and Bob Stevens at 2009 visit by the Lockheed CEO to Marand. Credit: Marand

The initial engagement of Marand in the F-35 program was designing and building a unique trailer for installing the F-135engine into the F-35.  The trailer also removes the engine.

According to Ellul:

The requirement is quite complex.  It has to remove and replace the engine within a tight time frame in all of the environments where engines are changed.  From the production line to ship board and land based sustainment.  It has to do it for all three variants of the plane.

It has been a design and manufacturing job from the beginning. It is a clever piece of equipment that solves the customer’s requirements.   We are very proud of our design and engineering capability. 

Prior to the F-35 program engagement, Marand has not been a global exporter.  This has changed with the F-35 program. 

The company has added five clients through the F-35 program, which has allowed it to grow its export business.

Question: Why Australia?  Why Marand?

According to Ellul:

Australia has a tradition of innovation and although we are not a large company – we have 250 employees – we have diversified design and manufacturing experience and expertise and are able to solve complex problems and deliver good value, as we have done with the F-35 engine trailer.   

The second part of our F-35 work is in design and manufacture of complex Aerospace tooling. 

We have used our design and engineering capability to develop production tooling that makes our customers more productive. 

Over 1200 tools to all corners of the F-35 world. And the quality of our work has been recognized by Lockheed Martin as well. 

 In 2009, the CEO of Lockheed Martin, Bob Stevens, visited our company and gave us an award recognizing our role as a leading tooling company in the program.

The performance on the engine trailer and tooling provided the opportunity to be considered by Lockheed and their partner BAE Syestms to provide Vertical Tails for the F-35 program.

According to Ellul:

We recently had a ceremony to celebrate the delivery of the first Australian vertical tail set for the F-35. Next year we will deliver 4-6 tail sets and by 2019 we will be delivering around 70 per year for the program. As the second source, we will do around 30% of the total production of vertical tail sets. 

Once production ramps up, we’ll be looking for other opportunities on Aerospace structural work.  Five years ago, there’s no way we would have proved that we had the capability.  F-35 has done that for us.

But, with the ongoing help and support of  Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, we’ve created a whole new capability in Australia

And without them giving us the opportunity and trusting us and working with us and training us, okay, it wouldn’t have happened.

Editor’s Note: A ceremony was held on March 31, 2014 at the Marand plant to highlight the delivery of the first vertical tail produced for a F-35 by Marand.  

According to a Lockheed Martin press release:

Melbourne, Australia, Mar. 31, 2014 – A ceremony was held today at Australian company, Marand, commemorating the delivery of the first ship of Australian made F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter vertical tails.

The Honourable Dr. Denis Napthine, Premier of Victoria and The Honourable Michael Ronaldson, Senator for Victoria representing the Defence Minister were among the distinguished guests in attendance.

This delivery of the first major air frame components marks an important production milestone for Marand, BAE Systems and Australia, demonstrating the significant industrial benefits the F-35 program brings to the growing Australian aerospace industry.  The work on the F-35 vertical tails is subcontracted to Marand by BAE Systems and is one of the largest planned manufacturing projects for the F-35 in Australia, with 722 ship sets anticipated.

The Honourable Dr. Denis Napthine, Premier of Victoria, sitting in the full scale mock up cockpit below, was among the 250 distinguished guests and employees in attendance.
The Honourable Dr. Denis Napthine, Premier of Victoria, sitting in the full scale mock up cockpit below, was among the 250 distinguished guests and employees in attendance at the March 31, 2014 Marand ceremony.

 “We take our commitment to international participation very seriously, and today is a very proud day for us, for Marand, and for Australia’s F-35 programme.  In just two years, we have worked side by side with Marand to develop a world class aerostructure facility with a first-rate, repeatable capability for the next 20 to 30 years,” said Cliff Robson, senior vice president F-35 for BAE Systems. 

David Ellul, managing director of Marand, commented, “This is a major step for Marand to move into the field of aerostructures manufacturing.  I am very proud of our team for achieving so much in such a short time with tremendous support from BAE Systems. The unique capability we have established will serve the Australian Defence industry and create high technology Australian jobs for many years to come.”

The F-35 Lightning II aircraft will provide the Royal Australian Air Force with a transformational 5th generation fighter capability and provides significant benefits to the Australian aerospace industry, with more than $350 million (USD) already contracted and $6 billion (USD) in expected manufacturing orders over the life of the programme.

“The F-35 is not only transforming the battlefield but also the global aerospace industry. This programme is built on a foundation of unprecedented partnerships that not only tie our countries together, but also link our companies with one another. There’s really no better example of the true global nature of this programme than right here at Marand,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president Aeronautics, Lockheed Martin Corporation.