Axiom Precision Manufacturing was established in 1979, as a family-owned Australian company providing advanced manufacturing services, including high precision machining of low and high-volume projects, injection moulding, electronic hardware integration, and full unit assembly and testing. The company originally specialised in automotive tooling, production and manufacturing, however in recent years it has diversified and now specialises in advanced manufacturing for the defence, aerospace and medical devices industries where it serves both national and international markets.
Axiom had specialised in the automotive industry for thirty years, but the demise of the Australian automotive industry over the previous decade meant Axiom had to look at other industries if it wanted to survive, let alone grow. Defence and aerospace were both possibilities and defence was particularly attractive for two reasons: government investment was increasing, and defence manufacturing was less likely to be done offshore, due to security concerns and the risk of losing critical IP.
“Axiom was already doing high level, A-class automotive tooling, machining and manufacturing. We felt those skills and capabilities could transfer straight across to defence manufacturing and that we could produce the quality that was required,” Craig Maynard, GM
With the government making a big push into defence and building defence capabilities, many lucrative contracts were available, and Axiom could see the potential for rapid growth. The CEO and GM were not afraid of growth, but were concerned that the company would grow too quickly, and not have the opportunity to put the proper foundations in place that would ensure the company’s ongoing survival.
“We looked at the amount of money the government was going to spend over the next ten years, and we wanted to be in a position to compete and win some of those projects, which meant we’d need to grow. What we were concerned about was growing too quickly and not being able to manage this expansion.” Craig Maynard, GM
The Axiom executive team decided they needed to learn the principles of growth, how to lead, manage and accelerate growth, and how to develop a plan.
The Axiom CEO joined a Growth Clinic in 2016, then he and his General Manager, plus a third member of the team began work completing Growth Modules in May 2018. The three modules provided information about how to grow all aspects of the business, from marketing and sales to innovation, product development, hiring and managing people. The Axiom team identified multiple areas where they needed to make changes so that they could fully capitalise on the increased defence sector investment.
Understanding the Customer
The Axiom team were reminded that they needed to understand what their customers needed and wanted – it was about more than just telling them what Axiom could provide. The small number of very large defence Primes had needs and requirements that were quite different from Axiom’s auto industry customers, and the time between meeting with a new defence customer and getting work from them could be one to two years, or even longer.
“It took a lot of time to build relationships with defence companies and understand their needs. What kinds of documentation did they need? It’s very different from manufacturing an automobile part and shipping it – there is a lot of due diligence and boxes to tick before you even get to quote on a defence project. But once you establish that relationship, understand what defence customers want, and demonstrate they can depend on you, it becomes a long-term relationship. And once you have demonstrated that you understand what defence customers need and can deliver it, those customers will open doors to other defence customers.”, said Craig Maynard.
Long-term planning and communication
Long-term planning was critically important to securing defence customers who are fearful of subcontracting to a small company that turns out to be unable to deliver. They want to see that the company has a long-term growth plan because their long-term success depends on working with well-managed, stable companies. So Axiom needed to have a long-term plan and demonstrate how it was going to grow and support its customers for the long haul, and Axiom developed a three-year growth plan as part of the Centre’s Program.
“Our future plans require us to think through how we’re going to expand to support all these defence projects over the next thirty years, and what facilities, people and machines we are going to need. We have to talk to and communicate with the defence companies about the projects that are coming up, their plans, and what they are going to need from us – and then predict how that will impact our growth. Their success and ours depends on good planning and communication.”
Managing the supply chain
Axiom identified that major defence companies are currently trying to reduce their exposure to supply chain risks, and that created an opportunity to add extra value for customers.
“Rather than the Primes managing lots of small companies and integrating outputs themselves, Axiom is able to manage parts of the supply chains in house and deliver higher-level finished assemblies to the Primes. A single point of contact reduces risk and makes our customers’ job a lot easier.” Craig Maynard, GM
Since beginning work with the Centre, Axiom has grown its workforce from 40 to 71 people. The CEO and GM predict major growth and estimate the company will triple in size over the next three to four years. The Axiom team feels well-prepared and well-positioned for the future thanks to establishing these programs and strategies.