A local South Australian business, founded back in 1953, B.L. Shipway today is part of the Defence Supply chain working on the M113 – the world’s largest family of armoured personnel carriers.
When the late Bernard Shipway founded B.L. Shipway back in 1953, he never would have imagined his South Australian hydraulics business would one day support the Defence Force with the delivery of optionally crewed armoured personnel carriers.
Now some 60 years later, Bernard’s nephew David and his son Todd – together with their team – have done just that.
“Autonomous systems wasn’t a sector we ever thought we’d play a role in. So the opportunity to be involved is terrific,” Todd says.
“Supporting the defence force is a tremendous honour and a real privilege.”
Getting involved in defence
Since partnering with BAE Systems Australia over 15 years ago, working on the M113 – the world’s largest family of armoured personnel carriers – has been one of B.L. Shipway's most significant Defence Industry projects so far.
Gaining ISO 9001 certification helped Todd and his team rise to the challenge. Alongside quality, the greater attention to detail and discipline that the Australian Defence Force and Prime contractors demands has been their biggest learning experience so far.
“By applying those lessons, we’ve been able to evolve our systems and processes – and better assist our customers in other industries, like mining and agriculture.”
Small business, big benefits
As well as gaining the tools to extend their commitment to quality, working with BAE Systems has allowed B.L. Shipway to enter and succeed in a new and dynamic industry. As a result, they have been able to grow their business and take on more apprentices.
Breaking into the defence market as an approved supplier also had an immediate impact on their reputation, widening their network and spreading word-of-mouth. This has since seen the hydraulics provider secure work with major players in other industries.
But the biggest buzz has come from a seemingly small milestone: when one of our employees refitted a hose on a M113 that he’d originally worked on as an apprentice 10 years earlier.
“Not only does it show how reliable the first one was, but it was like we were sending it back out into the field for a new adventure,” Todd says with pride.
Advice to Australian businesses
While supporting our Defence Force personnel through the delivery of crucial products and services is fulfilling, Todd stresses that it takes more than being good at what you do. Businesses also need to consider the new processes and greater attention to detail that the defence industry commands – as well as new machinery needed to tackle critical projects.
“It doesn’t just happen,” Todd says. “You really can’t overlook the amount of investment required – as well as the additional documentation and responsibility.
“You’ve got to have a top-notch program in place.”
That ongoing commitment is something that sets Australian suppliers apart – and reaffirms that our local capability is world class. For Todd, being able to respond quicker and provide a top quality product is a real differentiator.
“We have an extra degree of responsiveness and readiness – which is really important in terms of sovereignty,” he says.
It shows that buying Australian is a credible and reputable path to go down, particularly where quality and reliability is important.
Todd Shipway, Commercial Director at B.L. Shipway
And by continuing to focus on both, Todd is confident B.L. Shipway will have the chance to collaborate with BAE Systems’ supply chain on prestigious projects like the Hunter Class Frigate Program, in which over 1,500 Australian companies are registered to work on the world’s first and only bow-to-stern digitally designed anti-submarine warship.
“The opportunity to participate in a national building project like that would be tremendous,” he says.
“We would source a huge amount of pride from that.”
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