Innovative SA company to reap rewards of frigate contract

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The benefits of winning a major defence contract go way beyond monetary value, according to the Chief Operating Officer of an innovative South Australian manufacturing company that is making gasket parts for BAE Systems Australia’s Hunter Class Frigate Program. 

Luke Sernecki, of PRP Manufacturing, said the company now not only has a deeper relationship with BAE Systems as a prime but could leverage exposure to other primes and related defence projects. 

“We now have an accolade we are very proud of, and it’s something we can use as a reference for future work,” he said. 

PRP has supplied 51 different types of gasket parts, for a total of 2,210, into the Hunter program’s prototyping phase, after winning a tender via ICN Gateway. 

Through Hunter, BAE Systems’ maritime division is designing and building 9 of the world’s most advanced anti-submarine warfare frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. 

At the state-of-the-art Osborne Naval Shipyard, the workforce is making good progress in establishing the productive environment where the Hunter Class frigates will be built. 

During the program’s prototyping phase, representative ship blocks are being built and the processes, systems, tools, facilities and workforce competencies are being extensively tested and refined, providing a solid operational foundation ahead of ship 01 construction. 

 The company maintains an active profile on ICN and has alerts set up to be notified of potential work packages. That is how Luke first became aware of the opportunity with BAE Systems. 

We’ve worked with many defence-related companies in the past, mostly indirectly on many major projects, but this is the first project we successfully won through the Gateway and the tendering process,” Luke said. 

“It reflects both the influence of ICN and where we have come as a company. It was a rewarding moment for us and showed what we’ve done behind the scenes to put us in a position to win a tender like this.  

“It can be challenging for a smaller company to get a foot in the door. ICN breaks down barriers and makes it more accessible.” 

Luke said that working with ICN helped the company understand the accreditation and compliance it needed to work with Defence primes. 

“ICN made it black and white– made us sharpen our pencils,” he said. 

When it comes to future projects it puts us in a stronger position. This tender has helped us establish and improve processes. We’re a lot more productive and efficient, our quality control has evolved, and we have advanced in-house software for managing accountability and traceability. We are constantly driving a mindset that fosters learning and improvement and this is reflective in the company’s rapid progress.  

“This will help us not only with future work in Defence but other industries as well.” 

These are just some of the non-monetary benefits for a smaller manufacturer in winning a Defence contract. 

“The contract has helped establish foundations for us to invest in additional machinery. We expect to employ extra staff once we go full steam ahead. The long-term effect is more about strengthening our relationship with BAE Systems and increasing our exposure to future work.” 

Outside of checking Gateway, PRP attends networking events where possible, including travelling to Queensland to take part in the Defence SA pavilion at Land Forces 2021. ICN SA was also involved on the same stand. 

According to Luke: “It was great because the team was so approachable; they came up and spoke to us. It was good to meet a few more faces and create those networks.” 

Land Forces 2021 attracted 12,766 people from industry, government and Defence over 3 days in the middle of last year. More than 700 companies took part, with participants learning from 26 conferences, symposia and seminars. 

It was the first time PRP had exhibited at a Defence event. 

According to Luke: “I think there were about 16 companies sharing the Defence SA stand and it was a great little icebreaker. Good for us because we were able to showcase our products with a lot of other SA companies,” Luke said. 

Established in 1991, PRP Manufacturing provides advanced flatbed CNC cutting services and attracts diverse industries, including construction, HVAC, rail and the once robust automotive industry. 

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