Australian Defence Industry and the F-35 Global Enterprise

By Sophie Pearse

A Melbourne-based Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) component supplier has used a government grant to boost its production.

A.W. Bell is leading the way in global defence competitiveness by investing in a ground-breaking system at its Dandenong South casting facility.

The company has transformed its casting operation through an “Industry 4.0 Smart Factory”, which aims to lift production cycle times and output and provide superior quality control in its manufacturing processes.

The company made the operational change after receiving one of three Defence industry JSF grants in June, under the New Air Combat Capability – Industry Support Program.

The Chief Executive Officer of A.W. Bell, Sam Bell, said the Industry 4.0 Smart Factory integrated new digital and physical technologies to streamline factory operations, while increasing product effectiveness and reducing work health and safety concerns.

“Our Smart Factory has digitised production management across the foundry and production machining operations, from the receipt of raw materials through to delivery of final components,” Mr Bell said.

“In a technological first for an Australian foundry, our world-leading autonomous robotics used for component coating enables full automation of the production line and continuous monitoring of our operations in real-time.

“It embeds the digital monitoring of components at individual steps in the manufacturing chain, creating a serialised record of each part at every processing point, achieving the highest compliance with global aerospace traceability standards.”

Mr Bell said the company’s new production line system captured data to streamline planning and quality control, which ensured a digitally controlled, flexible and responsive operation.

The Director General of Defence’s Joint Strike Fighter Branch, Air Commodore Damien Keddie, said the venture had furthered A.W. Bell’s global competitiveness in the JSF supply chain.

“This leap in production technology has allowed A.W. Bell to expand its capabilities and global cost competitiveness in other aerospace, defence and commercial contracts worldwide and beyond the F-35 Program,” Air Commodore Keddie said.

This article was published by the Australian Department of Defence on July 17, 2020.

The featured photo: A.W. Bell’s Steve Bahr and Dan Biddle pour a casting at the company’s Melbourne foundry.