Man conducting vacuum hardening inside chamber

Without HTA’s services, such as heat treatment and vacuum brazing (high-end joining technology resulting in extremely strong joints), manufacturers in the supply chain would need to ship machined parts to the US for heat treatment and return them to Australia for final machining and assembly.

Dr Karen Stanton, Director – Strategy & Corporate for HTA and Member of the CDIC Advisory Board, said HTA has been central to other Australian businesses’ success in the F-35 supply chain.

“We’ve invested heavily in equipment and training and can provide all required processing,” Dr Stanton said. “This supports the SMEs to be more internationally competitive and produce a higher quality product.”

HTA entered the defence industry due to the decline of general manufacturing in Australia. “We needed to find new markets and new opportunities that could grow our business. Defence industry seemed like the right fit.

“We engaged with the CDIC in 2016 to better understand the defence industry and mature our business processes and systems. We wanted to be ready to engage with both global and domestic defence primes and original equipment manufacturers.

“CDIC business advisers provided mentoring, helped us apply for a Capability Improvement Grant to fund staff training and maintain necessary quality systems, introduced us to global primes and OEMs, and hosted various seminars and briefing sessions.

“We now work within supply chains, usually as a second or third tier supplier to an OEM or prime, although we do have some direct contracts with US primes.”

HTA has grown steadily since working in the F-35 supply chain.  In 2017 HTA set up a facility in Los Angeles, the first of their international branches. ”Los Angeles is doing well and growing quickly.  We are now looking to expand further by opening another international facility.”

Dr Stanton said Australian businesses wanting to enter the defence industry need patience. “It can take many, many years from initial engagement to contracts or winning sales. To have the best chance of success, cultivate relationships, visit customers at their site (that means a lot of international travel), be persistent and follow up often.”

HTA was established in Queensland in 1979 and now has branches in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles, growing from a one-person operation to a business of 65.