Keywords: privatisation, technology adoption, aerospace industry, Australia
From privatisation to commercialisation: a case study from the Australian aerospace industry
AeroSpace Technologies of Australia (ASTA) is Australia's major player in the international aerospace industry and competes directly with international aerospace companies. Previously known as the "Government Aircraft Factory", it manufactured aircraft and guided weapons for over 50 years. A strategic push towards privatisation during the mid-1980s and the need to achieve international benchmarks of performance highlighted a number of areas for improvement within ASTA. One such area was the chemical milling process that detects flaws and imperfections in aeroplane parts. To achieve the required productivity, the detection process was effectively redesigned and now incorporates computer control of all process variables and automatic transfer of parts within a single building. This was a significant change from the traditional process and resulted in a doubling of productivity within two years, greater quality control and better utilisation of employees. The change involved application of unprecedented software and plant technology, liaison with consultants, training and multi-skilling of employees, and changes to traditional job descriptions. This article details these issues and examines the planning and implementation strategy used by ASTA and the limitations and benefits of such a change in process technology.