Quickstep – Aerospace manufacturing in Bankstown
Quickstep was founded in Perth in 2001 by the Graham family. Initially it was a technology-based business that developed the ‘Quickstep’ manufacturing process of carbon fibre composite parts.
Today, the business is firmly positioned in Bankstown and is a large manufacturer of aerospace components.
Traditionally, carbon fibre composite parts were made in high-pressure ovens. The process required high capital investment and there was always a long processing time for production. When the ‘Quickstep’ method was developed, the new curing stage removed the need for these ovens. Parts could be made in a much shorter time frame and at a significantly lower cost.
At the time, this was new technology in an industry that had various competing technologies vying for market dominance. Mark Burgess, Quickstep’s CEO, tells us,
“All the different technologies in development were addressing the fundamental challenge… the up-front capital investment costs and the rate at which you can produce parts. The processing time impacts the overall cost. Of course, longer time equals higher product costs.”
Move from Perth to Bankstown
From 2001 through until 2009, the company continued to develop its manufacturing process. It was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2005 to provide additional equity capital and in November 2009 Quickstep signed with Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin Corporation to manufacture parts for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, a large-scale defence program.
This project triggered a significant change for the company and necessitated the move from Perth to a facility that would accommodate volume production.
With the support of the NSW Government, Quickstep relocated to the ex-Boeing site at Bankstown. From there, they have become a volume manufacturer of aerospace parts.
In 2012, they won a contract to produce wing flaps for the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules Transport and extended their work on the F-35 Fighter through Marand in Victoria. Mark says,
“It was great to have aerospace manufacturing back at Bankstown after Boeing vacated. There is a very long history at the site… prior to Boeing it was Hawker de Havilland. There has been aircraft manufacturing based at Bankstown since World War II, so it’s been wonderful to bring that back in a meaningful way.”
Connecting with the community
Quickstep is a proud new partner of the Canterbury Bankstown Chamber of Commerce, and they have a positive outlook on the relationship. Mark is keen to grow the connection between the organisation and the local community.
“We are a large employer. We have around 225 people based at our Bankstown location and we draw our employees from all over Sydney… from Penrith, Cronulla, Camden, but we haven’t ever been visible to those around us. People haven’t heard of us, don’t know what we do, what we stand for, what our values are… they don’t know what kind of employer we are because we haven’t done anything outside of our four walls.
I often get taxis, or Ubers, or I’m just speaking with people who know that I work in this building and they ask, ‘What happens in that factory?’ When I tell them, they can’t quite believe it… people are surprised that we make these parts in Australia.
So now, we are focused on STEM outreach with local schools. We are presenting what we do and how exciting it is… talking to schools about vocational courses, offering high schoolers work experience.
Last year we launched a partnership with TAFE NSW out of the Padstow campus. They offer a range of qualifications that are highly relevant to us and they are professional educators, so we have been outsourcing a lot of our front-end training to TAFE.
It is working really well, and we are confident there is a lot more to come. We will be attending career fairs and engaging different universities such as UNSW, University of Sydney and UTS, where they have academics that are relevant to us.
We are a growth business, so we are always looking to hire good people. We value diversity and we invest in employee wellbeing. We want to get the message out about who we are as an employer.”
The team at Quickstep is also keen to partner with other organisations within the Canterbury Bankstown region to help those in need. They understand how important it is to give back to the community. At Christmas they organise a giving tree that is donated to the Canterbury Hospital and they are currently seeking local sports teams to sponsor.
“We want to find charity work that is meaningful to the community. Something like a sponsorship to a local football club can make a huge difference to the team. I’ve been so impressed by Revesby Workers Club and the work they do… we want to partner with these types of organisations.”
Moving beyond the legacy
Mark is passionate about the possibilities within the Bankstown area. The Mayor of Canterbury-Bankstown, Khal Asfour, invited him to join a CEO Forum to speak about moving beyond the region’s legacy.
“I’m from Manchester in the UK. Manchester is an incredibly vibrant, thriving and entrepreneurial place. I walk around Bankstown… down to Gourmet on Ashford to get my lunch and it reminds me of Manchester; it’s incredibly diverse and interesting.
There is a lot of three to five-year thinking… the metro, a new hospital, extra rail-links, the university, which are all important. But I think if Bankstown could invest into its night time economy in the next 12-18-24 months, by the time all the big development gets happening, it will also be somewhere that people want to go out.
Right now, the streets are quiet, there’s nothing much open at night… in the morning it’s a different story… you see a Lebanese bakery here… a Vietnamese restaurant there. The opportunity is just waiting for us.”
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