Comprising around 12,000 individual parts, the engine removal and installation mobility trailer for the F-35 Lightning II is one of the most technically advanced mechanical systems ever designed, manufactured and assembled in Australia.
Engineered, manufactured and sustained by Marand Precision Engineering, the trailer allows the engine of the F-35 to be safely installed in challenging environments, even in the hangar of an aircraft carrier at sea. As the sole source of the trailer for the global fleet, and as a supplier of the vertical tails for the aircraft, Marand has worked in close concert with Lockheed Martin on the F-35 program for many years.
“Our relationship with Lockheed Martin spans back 20 years to the very inception of the F-35 program here in Australia,” said Rohan Stocker, Marand’s CEO.
“At the time, Marand had a strong background in automating manufacturing for the automotive industry. Because of our expertise, two of our engineers were integrated into Lockheed Martin’s team at Skunk Works in California to advise on how the production of the F-35 could be scaled-up and automated.”
This initial interaction paved the way for an enduring partnership between the pair. And in the years that followed, Marand and Lockheed Martin built a mutually beneficial working relationship defined by its interconnectedness and agility.
Since starting work on the F-35 program, Marand has grown from a family-owned business to a global supplier of precision engineered solutions servicing an array of industries including aerospace, defence, rail, mining and energy.
Critical to Marand’s expansion has been the company’s investment in the maturity of its processes and systems.
“There's no doubt the F-35 program has helped us develop and improve across every department, from HR to finance and engineering,” Rohan said. “Our work with Lockheed Martin has shaped every part of Marand’s business for the better, and it has also helped us build credibility within the aerospace and defence industries.”
In recent years, Marand has leveraged its maturity to demonstrate the sophistication and complexity of its business offering, enabling it to win other programs of work and take on new opportunities. And last year, the company expanded its presence to the United States, establishing a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility for the F-35 trailer in Fort Worth, Texas, to better meet Lockheed Martin’s sustainment needs.
“Working on a program of a scale like the F-35 has been invaluable. It has enabled our employees to operate in an agile business that can remain creative, innovative and energetic due to its size. And at the same time, it has provided us with a glimpse into one of the biggest industrial programs that have ever existed and enabled us to learn from and be mentored by an incredibly experienced and advanced global enterprise.”
Reflecting on his 20 years at Marand working with Lockheed Martin, Rohan notes that although production milestones are significant, such as delivering the 150th trailer or the 350th vertical tail shipset, the most memorable moment was the day the first F-35s touched down in Australia.
“I remember it vividly. It was one of the most significant moments of my working life. Marand’s team was there celebrating our contributions to such an extraordinary program of work.”
And while that day was a historic one for Marand, for Rohan it was an achievement they shared with the whole of Australia’s defence industry, which has been strengthened and united by the F-35 program.
“So many of us have worked closely on the F-35 program for many years, supporting each other, collaborating and solving challenges. It has had a big impact on Australia's engineering and precision manufacturing sector, collectively driving us forward.”
Looking ahead, Rohan said Marand will continue to work hand in glove with Lockheed Martin to invest in the people, processes and practices it needs to service Australia and the world’s expanding defence industry.
“Marand is now part of a bigger ASDAM group and one of the biggest exporters operating within Australia’s defence industry. Our service offering has been bolstered by a number of acquisitions in aerospace and defence, and we look forward to leveraging our strengthened capability to meet our customers’ needs.”