Almost 30 years in Defence but the passion hasn’t waned for AIC Manager Andy Semmler

For Andy Semmler, being on the workshop floor with his Dad who owned a successful engineering business in Adelaide inspired his 29 year career in Defence. Andy still loves working with his hands, but his early-90s days of assembling electro-mechanical postal sorting machines are in the past and he is now the Australian Industry Capability (AIC) Manager at Naval Group Australia.

While outside of work Andy also has 40 years with the Glenelg Lacrosse Club as a player and coach under his belt, and he doesn’t hesitate to remind us that as an 80s teenager he was of course an avid skateboarder (the falls hurt more these days, he is quick to add) which affectionately garners him the nickname “Bart Simpson” within the Naval Group Australia office, his real passion is kickflipping Australian industry in the right direction.

Tell us about your role and responsibilities at Naval Group Australia.

My role is focused on ensuring Naval Group Australia achieves its commitment to maximise Australian industry involvement to create a sovereign capability to build, operate and sustain the Future Submarine Program (FSP) in Australia.

This involves, amongst other key responsibilities, the identification of industry capability needs, ensuring Naval Group Australia communicates regularly with Industry, leading the development of deep industrial intelligence to enable identification of capability gaps against FSP needs within our local capability, and helping Australian industry navigate barriers as they arise.

What is it that you love about your job?

What I think is exciting and unique about AIC is the opportunity to work with and help Australian suppliers, as well as our economy as a whole, in delivering complex solutions and products to defence platforms that currently do not exist in Australia. 

I love that my role contributes to Australian suppliers participating in the early phases of the program whilst helping set them up for long term supply of products on the FSP. This ultimately means we are helping Australian suppliers grow and remain viable for many years to come, while creating opportunities for generations to come. 

In his spare time Andy is an avid skateboarder and Lacrosse player and coach

What has been the most surprising thing you have found about your role at Naval Group Australia?

Having worked in Defence primes for almost my entire career, which includes 27 years at BAE Systems Australia in various procurement roles, I thought I understood the defence security requirements well, but it’s a whole new level when it comes to submarines. Having been with Naval Group Australia now for over two and a half years, I understand the strategic importance of submarines which drives the necessity of the requisite security requirements. 

What would your advice be to Australian Suppliers wanting to get into the Program?

Australian suppliers need to understand the timeframe for supply.

Firstly; it’s a long game and they should assess if it is the right fit for their business. I recommend they stay engaged, attend events and briefings, and reach out to the Naval Group Australia AIC team; these are the best avenues to stay across the program timelines and opportunities. It’s true that we are still some years away from production, but we are planning and qualifying product today, so we need to engage now. 

Secondly; register with ICN for access to Expressions of Interest (EOIs) for new opportunities, and subscribe to Naval Group Australia via the Naval Group Australia website to receive news and updates.

Thirdly; understand the requirements to supply to Defence and the Future Submarine Program. There are mandatory quality, security, and cyber requirements which if not in place already can take considerable time to attain. Information about FSP requirements can be found on the Naval Group Australia suppliers page here. There are also organisations such as the Defence Teaming Centre (DTC) and Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) that can assist with this.

I welcome suppliers to reach out and contact me to discuss: 

Why is Capability over Content so important when it comes to building Australia’s future Attack Class submarines?

Content tends to focus on dollars spent and how many suppliers are used, or orders are placed. Capability on the other hand draws a focus to something more and looks to the future, building upon what exists in industry already to deliver current a future defence capability requirements. Capability is focused on establishing new industrial capabilities in Australia while promoting economic growth.

Capability is critical to the Future Submarine Program as an enabler to sovereign control over the submarine, limiting the reliance on international companies to sustain the platform throughout its life and ensuring these activities are carried out in Australia, by Australians.     

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a career Australian Industry Capability?

Coming from a manufacturing background is not essential, but certainly experience in a manufacturing or production environment will help you understand the challenges local suppliers may face.

Procurement and Supply Chain roles often seem to be a natural progression due to the client/supplier relationships that are built up.

If you think AIC is an area you might be interested in, I’m happy to have a conversation to provide more detail: I’d also recommend reading up on Australian Industry Capability and the AIC Policy framework available publically on the Defence website.