The first student to graduate from LA Services + Big Picture Program

David was one the first students we undertook as part of the Big Picture program here at LA Services. During his time here he worked with a number of our staff members who helped him engage in various activities such as our Sigma project, as well as learning new skills like effective communication, writing and advanced forms of mathematics. David even took the skills he learned during his internship and applied them to his own schoolwork.

On completing his 2.5 year long internship, David received an offer from UTS for a full scholarship, making the Big Picture program beneficial to him, both in the short and long term.


David was one of the first students to join the Big Picture Program at LA Services after he was recommended by his principal at Liverpool Boys High School. David had preconceived notions about what a manufacturing company is and what they do, which he felt didn’t align with his interests. However, upon viewing the technologies used by LA Services, David took an interest in the company and became involved in the Sigma project. Through engaging with this project, he learnt about the hardware and the operational side of the business. Working on these projects allowed David to interact with people from different industries as well as teaching him effective communication skills.

However, it also made him realise that he had previously lacked the research and literature skills to properly succeed in a technological field, something which his time at LA Services helped to remedy. This led to time spent with data scientist and former UTS student Ming Zhao, who further helped in progressing his skills with coding. Through his time at LA Services, David seemed to have worked better than he would have at school. This could be attributed to the more mature environment with strictly adult workers guiding him through the workplace. He also believes that the long-term internship was a necessity in his most formative stages of life when he started to seriously consider his future in the technological field. Ultimately David largely benefited from his time at LA Services, not only because of the skills he learned, but also later receiving an offer from UTS to join their university as a research assistant with a full scholarship.

Image : David presenting his project work to the LA Services team.

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The core project that was worked on while David was spending his time at LA Services was the Sigma project. At first he was mentored by General Manager David Fox, who delved into real life skills that are needed in any company by going through problem solving and effective communication skills, then later going through the basics of thesis writing and academic research. This project tested David’s skills mainly in problem solving, often utilising ancillary skills such as writing and visualising through the use of diagrams and whiteboard brainstorming. This allowed for more freedom and creativity as it let David and his mentors to express themselves and their ideas without being shackled down by any rules or formalities. This also paved the way for David to network and interact with people who were in the technological and engineering field, giving him more of an insight into the industry.

Image : With the General Manager David Fox, brainstorming mathematics problems

Workplace Learning and How it Differs from School

David ultimately preferred the work environment at LA Services as opposed to a regular school education environment. This was due to him being able to work with professionals in an environment which was more focused on the individual student and being able to specialise work to cater to his interests. At first, he worked with software engineer Kirk on coding which helped with supplementing small-scale projects, however, after some time someone with more experience was required to help teach David in his passion for programming. Eventually, Ming was bought on to help David with data and programming. Ming took a more tactical approach towards mentoring, providing David with weekly tasks to keep him engaged and effectively track his progress. David was later able to take these skills learned from Ming and apply them to his own classes at school. He went on to do extension maths II in year 11 and 12, despite not doing maths since year 9, a decision that can be attributed to his experience at LA Services.

Image : With Raaid, a former engineer and mentor to David.



Digitalisation of the workforce was one of the many shifts that made us reconsider the nature of our industry as the need for a different type of worker became more apparent. The expectations of an employee have also changed, where cross skilling is now a common practice of the workplace regardless of industry and company. Not only is cross skilling a wise financial decision for a business, it also allows for employees to venture out and gain new skills that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to do. These opportunities only rise with exposure to the different industries and people, where these learned lessons are then invested back into the business, which emphasises the beneficial longevity in cross skilling.

Adapting to change

With the workplace becoming more digitalised, it is important for a traditional industry like ours to adapt to the changing needs and capabilities of both our clients and employees. There has been a definitive shift in the workforce where employees are no longer required to specialise in one role, as knowledge, and to a lesser extent, skills, are viewed as a commodity as a result of the internet and connectivity. This results in workers now needing to be able to differentiate themselves from competitors who might complete a task more efficiently and hence for cheaper. Expectations have changed where workers now need to diversify their skill set and achieve a myriad of different tasks despite being hired for a specific role. Typical expectations of a role may change drastically within the next few years and we could see a major overhaul compared to where we are at today. Whether good or bad, it marks the start of a changing workforce and the need for workers to adapt accordingly.

The Benefits of Cross-Skilling


Cross skilling is becoming essential to the workforce as it teaches employees skills which they can apply to future projects. And with the inevitable start of I4.0, it reaffirms the need for us to update our current workplace structures to provide opportunities for our workers to cross skills. This is recognised within our own R&D team. As a data scientist accustomed to dealing with the expected responsibilities of data, Ming Zhao was able to find stimulation in a new role that required him to learn about the practical aspects of manufacturing and data acquisition rather than just the pure technical aspects of data science. It changed his perspective on the role and broadened his subset of skills as he gradually learned what it meant to be hands-on – an experience he did not have with previous roles. Similarly, as a mechanical engineer, Antonio Zanin would not have expected his role to intertwine with those of a data scientist. Yet, the collaboration between these two R&D focused employees emphasises the multifaceted growth that individuals can have as they branch out into different professional areas.

Cross skilling is not just beneficial to a business. It can also be the perfect work structure for those who are looking to expand their work repertoire and skills.

The collaboration between Ming and Antonio was inevitable from a business perspective as our processes started to become more digitised as we moved further into I4.0. By providing an opportunity for the two different industry-based employees to collaborate, we gained two redefined employees by learning different industry skill requirements. This opportunity emphasises our position as industry leaders as we pave the way in redefining traditional roles in a manufacturing field to encapsulate both conventional and modern techniques.

The Importance of Cross-Skilling

As a conservative industry, it is vital for us to understand who is willing to cross skill and take the next step in advancing themselves as a worker and for the company. As an ‘older’ industry, it is expected we have workers who may lack current digital knowledge possessed by the younger generation. Hence, cross skilling provides an opportunity for these workers to learn vital skills that last for life, especially with digital skills that can be used both in a professional and personal sphere. It is also important for both the older and younger generation to be open to this chance of improvement as it helps to bridge the gap between individuals and generations. To those who are planning to stay in the same role in the next five years, 40% of the core skills are expected to change (World Economic Forum, 2020), which supplements the need for workers to move forward according to expectations. These advancements are not purely limited to the manufacturing industry as it is applicable to every role, employee, business, and industry.

Teaching Cross-Skilling to Individuals

Every employee is a different individual and we must understand the workings of these people to know who can be cross skilled and who cannot. This shift also allows employers to differentiate between those who are looking to upskill and diversify their current capabilities versus those who lean towards complacency. “Employee performance can be manifested in improvement in production, easiness in using the new technology, highly motivated workers” (Vasanthi, 2008). However, how do we get these types of workers in the first place? Not only do we need to provide employees access to these technologies, but we also require those who are looking to further themselves as an important part of the business.


Cross skilling is not only beneficial to the individual worker but also vastly improves team coordination and dynamic. Cross skilling targets ‘single points of failure’ (Vasanthi, 2017) and reduces the chance of failure in complex tasks as it ensures that every person on the team is capable of completing a job and is not solely reliant on the specialised individual. This prepares the company for all types of scenarios, as well as saving time and resources as there is no need to bring in external workers.

How it benefits our business

As a business, we should redefine the role of an employee and promote an innate sense of learning by emphasising the benefits of cross skilling as a way to further an individual’s own capabilities. Facilitating the newfound passion to learn will also act as a dual means to share organisational values and stimulate a company culture of collective unity towards objectives (Gawali, 2009). This inherent desire to learn will only benefit the company as it stimulates a genuine passion to better both the individual and company, which will only translate into the offered products and services.


Therefore, we can see that cross skilling is an important part for any business and its employees to develop and further itself in a changing workforce. Though it may be difficult due to the need to cater to certain individuals, this should not detract from the immense benefits it will have on both the individual and the employer as it emphasises the need for growth on both ends. It is important for us to show the potential in employees as similarly we reap the benefits in these learned lessons.


Women in Manufacturing


As the workplace gains more flexibility and as more people start to value socially conscious organisations, it is important for us to consider how one can become a genuinely responsible company. Admittedly, one of the most glaring issues in the manufacturing industry would be the outstanding lack of women in the workplace. 

It is an awkward and uncomfortable issue to address, and it would be frankly easier to ignore the problem altogether. But as we start to encapsulate the values of a modern industry, we know that change is not necessarily scary but rather a necessity in personal development. We knew that we would require a lot of introspection and personal anecdotes from women themselves in order to truly understand the female experience in an otherwise male-dominated workforce. 

There is both a morally and organisational advantage in having more women in every field. Despite the STEM sector being one of the fastest growing industries of the fourth Industrial revolution in Australia, female employment is considerably low where less than 30% of jobs are held by women (APH, 2017). It is vital for us to close this employment gap as “diversity advantage” generates a “thriving innovation culture, a positive impact on the bottom line and incentives to remain in the STEM workforce” (Professionals Australia cited in APH, 2017). A lack of women in industries hinders the capabilities and potentials of an organisation. 

Women at LA Services

As we enter a new phase in technology, it is especially important to include women into the industry as we require a new perspective more than ever. We need a new mindset and experience of someone who has grown up and understands the complexities of these technologies. We recently employed Vidushi (a graduate mechanical engineer, featured in the blog cover image) who has revitalised and brought a new approach to work giving a unique perspective to her tender and bid role – something we would have lacked if we did not choose to branch out. And this need for diversity extends to a technological realm where we required someone from a younger generation to take charge of the new technologies. She has also pointed out inconsistencies in our current system, which has reaffirmed the need for structural change for both social and organisational development. 

Insiya was the first revolutionary female employee of LA Services as she came on to help us with our marketing/UX content. Similarly to Vidushi, Insiya revitalised the workplace as she updated outdated software and helped us rebrand into a modern business. Working closely with Insiya revolutionised our perceptions with the realisation that we were limiting ourselves within the ‘normalcy’ of what we knew. Though change is typically scary, this was eye-opening as we realised the disadvantages of sticking to the known and have since then actively made efforts to include women in our small family. 

Danica is another one of our new additions to LA Services and has come on as a marketing intern. Same as Vidushi, she joined through Path4Graduate and was surprised to see the marketing opportunities in this particular industry. From the get go, she was immensely busy brainstorming ideas, with the mentoring of Insiya, to expand the organisation to make it more reachable to potential students and customers. Initially, we were very nervous. The collaboration of manufacturing and marketing is not expected, as a small business at least. But once again we were pleasantly surprised at the magnitude of diversity as she too also brought in great insight and structure to an un-ventured marketing surface. 

Women in Management Roles


According to Deloitte’s Women in Manufacturing Study (2017), companies with strong female leadership presence have shown increased innovation and profitability, and higher Return On Equity (ROE). This emphasises both the financial benefit in employing more women and reflects the genuine efforts of a company to not simply employ females as a ‘show’ of camaraderie but genuinely putting them into positions of power. Unfortunately, the reality of most workplaces is that employees do not have equal access to leadership development programmes 

(International Labour Organisation ACT/EMP, 2017), meaning it is especially harder for women to progress professionally. This provides an unfortunate insight as to why women may be even more hesitant in joining the manufacturing industry as it can be seen as a ‘boys club.’

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR) (2019), gender inclusivity leads to a more productive company when it is “normatively” accepted on a societal and organisational level. This highlights the need for a genuine effort towards gender diversity in order to experience the true benefits of including more females in our company.

Misconceptions of a Manufacturing workplace

The AMGC report has also shown that a common misconception of the manufacturing industry would be the lack of flexibility. WGEA (2015-2016) reports that female dominated organisations have higher rates of flexible/casual working arrangements and we understand the particular need for individuals. When you consider these two insights it may explain why there is a lack of women in the industry. However, as we continue to work with more students and network with other organisations, we are hoping to break down these preconceived notions as false.


We understand the need for care, compassion and understanding. As less flexibility deter women to join male-dominated workplaces, we are happy to say that this is not the case for our company where we strive for a balance for our workers.


Only when we get to a point where we no longer have to emphasise the “women” in manufacturing will we know that we have reached true equality. It is important for us to understand these issues in order to call them out and provide a welcoming environment that is safe for everyone involved. 

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The Industry Internship

Developing talent and skills for the future of work requires work-integrated learning environments that encourage curiosity and problem solving; a different kind of ‘common knowledge’ to the past, but critical for organisations working at the intersection of I4.0 and traditional manufacturing. But why would a ‘technology disruption’ demand a deliberate shift away from traditional ways of working and learning? One primary reason is ‘connectivity’. Technology and data management combined with cross generational knowhow will be what powers valuable products and services in the future.

Embracing the shift in ways of working

Manufacturing is on its way to understanding success is no longer defined by a B2B product focus alone but emotional connections between “people, planet and prosperity” (the 3Ps). Coupled with technology development and adoption, a cultural shift towards divergent thinking can reposition the workforce to embrace ideals of the new ways of working. 

Through extended internships, the manufacturing industry and education can agree on the needed skills and knowledge for future manufacturers and provide opportunities to explore applied knowledge and learning as the new norm. We talked about this idea in a post back in July 2019 proposing that learning and work need to converge to prepare workers for the continuous and rapidly changing work of the digital future.

So how does industry and education get on the same page about the skills and knowledge for tomorrow’s manufacturing? One way is through extended internships that provide opportunities to explore applied knowledge and learning as the new norm.

While internships are well established at the higher education level, there are a number of hurdles to overcome for a school student to participate in such a program, the most obvious one is a school system that provides curriculum flexibility to support alternative learning plans. It then needs to match a business and capable mentors with a student to deliver a meaningful learning environment. And to have widespread impact all this needs to be scalable. Developing such a system is doable, but will require a long transition to change mindset, infrastructure and governance, however that should not stop early adopters from paving the way and testing ideas to support change.

Introduction to Big Picture Education Australia

Big Picture Education Australia (BPEA) is one key vehicle in school based industry-education engagement becoming a reality, by setting an adaptive curriculum framework that enables a school interested in providing an alternative pedagogy. 


Big Picture focus on providing the students with the relevant technology and information that allows them to explore the independent work in their preferred industry and create their own projects to be showcased later on to other students/industry professionals. This creates the perfect opportunity for students to build a portfolio from a young age as the program adds value to the student’s education to create a definitive edge in a competitive job market. It is also a great reflection of their tangible growth in technical and practical skills, which can be shown to future employers and universities. 

Liverpool Boys High is one of approximately 40 schools across Australia providing BPEA opportunities, LA Services is fortunate to be located near this school and has the necessary mindset and capacity to provide internship support. So, after three years of internship participation what has been learnt about this alternative learning pathway and what benefits have come from this participation?

Internship History at LA Services

To date LA Services has provided industry support for three formal school internships through Liverpool Boys High School and four university internships with Macquarie University and University of New South Wales, and each one has had a different style to suit varying student needs. 

The need to tailor each internship to the individual came to light particularly with Jacky’s case. Jacky, a student of Liverpool Boys, was one of those students who was unsure of his passion and joined LA Services after high praise from a fellow intern. Shortly along the way, we noticed a lapse in expectation but continued to explore the different paths until we found one that suited Jacky’s creative mindset. As we started to focus on Jacky’s passion in games, he showed fantastic progress under the mentorship of LA Services’ UTS placed data science researcher (Ming Zhao), gaining a deeper understanding of game development than achievable in the school environment.

Reflecting on the outcomes of this and other internships, we have pinned the critical requirements from an industry partner in this kind of an arrangement :

Provide a very focused and playful learning experience to opened up a student’s world view and make some specific connections between learning threads and their use in real world outcomes, raising awareness about education value

Provide opportunity to build technology awareness by engagement with multiple professionals across different technology domains. This broad exposure allows a student to identify areas of interest and derive a learning pathway that delivers the specific learning needs to pursue a career in that interest

Play a support role, providing specific teaching of skills to supplement an existing area of interest setting the student up with a broader knowledge base for their chosen post school pathway

Provide a hands on experience that brings theory and existing knowledge into action, and puts the realities of doing into perspective to shift perceptions and support career planning and choices

Reaping the benefits

So what benefits have internships brought to LA Services and its need for a divergent thinking cross generational workforce? An initial benefit comes via the need to pivot from the outcomes plan over the internship period which builds organisational comfort in flexibility, adaptation and change. Regardless of the internship type, there is a need for “disciplined creativity(Great by Choice, Collins & Hansen. 2011). What we have found is, existing employees involved in mentoring see a need to upskill or simply widen their own world view by investigating new threads that come from the ‘de-shackled thinking’ and freeform internship conversations.


This self reflecting process driven by cross generational dialogue is the very culture shift that is needed to A) capitalise on the potential opportunities across I4.0 and B) to shift the perception of the industry in the next generation of manufacturers.

This time is right to shift away from ‘rule following’ and a ‘this is how it is done’ mantra.

This may seem like it devalues seasoned knowledge and expertise, but it needs to be remembered, context is everything in business. Meaning past views and ways of working, that are held fast when a business environment has moved on, can hold back progress. A principle that has high relevance in the dynamic world of I4.0.


Internships, if embraced as part of the change mechanism, are a means of disrupting a business’ status quo, challenge ideals and encourage personal growth. The future of manufacturing work needs a blend of foundational experience and knowledge channeled through new technologies and to combine these there must be cross generation input and an inclusive mindset : attributes internships deliver.

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Hiring the Right People

On September 14th 2020, the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) launched a report “Ten Ways to Succeed in Australian Manufacturing” with an aim to support the transformation of Australia’s manufacturing through research. As the name suggests, the report explores ten ways for Australian manufacturers to overcome common obstacles and to ensure they remain competitive in the future.

This report draws on three major studies completed by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) in 2019. The first of these involved conducting more than 30 focus groups, roundtable discussions and interviews with individuals within 93 manufacturing companies, industry bodies, government agencies, and universities across Australia. The industry bodies represented approximately 370 manufacturers located around the country, large and small, urban and rural. The second study was a survey of 1,000 members of the Australian public about their perceptions of manufacturing. The third included a survey of 1,000 students and focus groups to learn what they thought about manufacturing and whether it was a potential career path for them.

LA Services was one of the surveyed manufacturers and was also featured in a case study in the report circling around the “Way 8” of success in manufacturing – Hiring the Right People.


The partnership between AMGC and LA Services goes way back, led by Kelly Godeau from AMGC and David Fox, GM of LA Services who first met in 2016 at the Western Sydney University Launch Pad. The partnership is focused on enabling educational institutions and industry partners to benefit from one another by providing on the job training for students.

Industry partners benefit from the fresh approach and enthusiasm brought by young talent, while educational institutions ensure their graduates leave with the right skills required in the job market.

The aim is to provide a practice based support system for secondary school students through work experience and internships that help students see a connection between education content and its application in manufacturing and engineering. In other words, it enables students to experience manufacturing in their own backyard, and then take that conversation back to the school yard or dinner table to challenge the status quo on manufacturing.

Manufacturers particularly struggle when it comes to finding and retaining new talent due to several factors like competition from other more “advanced” industries, gaps in skills as well as a lack of internship programs providing practice-based learning in schools.

Internships are particularly critical since they can expose young Australians to industrial work environments and the required skills to succeed in this field.

“The first step to getting students engaged with the industry is for the industry to engage with students and influencers. The website remains important once knowledge or interest is aroused.”


This is one area where LA Services have constantly strived to work with schools and universities over the years to bridge the gap between education and industry. In 2016, LA Services began to realise that a significant portion of its workforce was edging toward retirement and attracting the next generation of employees was a major issue. Initially, LA Services focused on trade apprenticeships to fill in the gaps, but quickly found this approach just wasn’t enough. Instead, LA Services undertook an industry-education engagement experiment with nearby Liverpool Boys High School. “Liverpool Boys High School utilises industry placements and passion-based project learning facilitated by the Big Picture Education Australia organisation, rather than relying solely on the curriculum. So we decided to collaborate with the school,” explained David Fox, General Manager.

All in all, Industry must have a place in the education system. Manufacturers need to understand how the next generation of workers thinks, so they can better engage. Students need to understand what it is we do, so manufacturing becomes a viable career choice. Concepts like SBAT have the potential to enable this, but there is presently a disconnect, in that this sort of training is not recognised by the ‘school system’ as a worthy education module,

illustrated by its exclusion from the higher school certificate. The school system needs to better understand industry skill requirements today, and more importantly what is coming down the pipeline tomorrow.

The best way to forge ahead together is for manufacturers to engage directly with schools and students which is what LA Services have been doing for the last 4 years. “The key to success is learning from one other, spanning different generations and technologies. I’ve learnt just as much from the students and the school, as they have from LA Services” Fox said.

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3 Reasons For Australian Manufacturers to Gear Towards Research & Development

Manufacturers in Australia, like many other businesses, have faced major disruptions since COVID-19. With an eye to the future, manufacturing companies need to think of innovative ideas to meet a resurgence in customer demand.
An important factor to help drive innovation and ensure the survival of product manufacturing companies as well as businesses involved in providing manufacturing services is to place a strong emphasis on Research & Development (R&D).
Once the economy stabilises, manufacturing will need to respond to a shift in customer demand. This will require a flexible approach from manufacturers, one that embraces digital capabilities.
Here we explore three reasons why it is important for Australian manufacturers to gear towards Research and Development.

1. Manufacturers in Australia – Employers of the Future

The growth and stability of the manufacturing sector in Australia, relies to a large extent on embracing innovation which is essential for producing quality products at competitive prices.
To foster growth and innovation, the manufacturing industry needs to invest resources in research and development. Each dollar invested in R&D will help in the modernisation of the manufacturing industry, encourage customers to procure Australian made products and boost employment.


According to the 2016 Australian Innovation System Report, innovative Australian businesses contribute to over 60% of sales and employment. These businesses are also 40% more likely to experience higher profits. This clearly indicates that innovation will lead to more job opportunities for highly skilled workers in the manufacturing sector.
Besides helping employees acquire new skills, user experience is an important consideration and a challenge manufacturing companies face on a regular basis.
This is because workers in the manufacturing sector are accustomed to working with control systems and machines. High-quality user experience is critical for workers who interact with machines and control systems to produce products efficiently. Research & Development for improving user experience plays an important role in delivering better, effective and efficient products which enhances user experience.

2. Keeping Abreast With Global Innovation Driven By Technology

Digital manufacturing has ushered in a new area of manufacturing – the fourth industrial revolution.
Embracing digitisation has resulted in a massive transformation of the manufacturing sector. It makes the industry more efficient and strengthens the bond between suppliers, producers, customers, as well as the relationship between humans and machines.


Automation, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are some of the products of the 4th Industrial revolution that will help manufacturers diversify through mass customisation enabling a competitive edge.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows manufacturing companies to explore new and creative ways to manufacture products. In recent years, it has contributed significantly to improving product quality, operational efficiency and productivity. Process automation, integrating machines and processes, improved data analysis, agile delivery and technology are key areas which should be the focus of R&D.

3. The Key Role of Product Lifecycle Management in R&D

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is one of the most important components of the manufacturing process. It helps manufacturers and fabricators accelerate product deliveries, generate more revenue and reduce production costs.
PLM quickly identifies shortcomings in the manufacturing process so it can be rectified before a situation spirals out of control, resulting in cost blowouts.

It comes as no surprise that manufacturers in Australia need to allocate a significant amount in their budgets each year to carry out improvements which can be directly attributed to the PLM.

PLM can yield huge financial benefits to manufacturers and fabricators, as well as help in increasing R&D efficiency. R&D makes it possible to improve technological capacities, fosters product innovation, and production processes.
In the post-pandemic economy, product development initiatives will rely increasingly on advanced information technology (IT) tools such as PLM. Collaborative software will enable stakeholders involved in product design to share updates and streamline manufacturing processes.

Investment in R&D delivers enormous gains in a company’s technological growth, employee satisfaction and capabilities. Improved processes, innovative products and quality service are reasons why it is more important than ever for manufacturers in Australia and businesses providing manufacturing services to invest in Research and Development.
As leading welding and fabrication specialists, LA Services are committed to investing in R&D to meet the needs of a changing economy. Our key focus is on optimising product experience for end users as well as developing a skilled workforce capable of thriving in a modern manufacturing environment.

Behind the scenes of Hydrogen Refueling Stations are these high-pressure storage vessels

Recently LA Services completed a hydrogen storage vessel for a renown automotive manufacturer as part of a pilot re-fueling station. The project posed design challenges that are new to the fabrication industry, but the timing is perfect for a traditional metal trade manufacturer to enter the alternative fuel cell conversation.

We thought of starting with some basics to educate our reader about hydrogen energy and provide an overview of what it means for the future of transport.

What is hydrogen energy?

Hydrogen is the most common chemical in the universe. Hydrogen has many uses as an energy source such as fuel for transport or heating, a way to store electricity, or a raw material in industrial processes.

Hydrogen energy can be stored as a gas and even delivered through existing natural gas pipelines. When converted to a liquid or another suitable material, hydrogen can also be transported on trucks and in ships. This means hydrogen can also be exported overseas, effectively making it a tradable energy commodity.

Source : https://arena.gov.au/renewable-energy/hydrogen/

How is hydrogen produced?

Even though most of the hydrogen production infrastructure currently utilises fossil fuels in some manner emitting carbon dioxide as a byproduct, hydrogen has the potential to be a clean fuel when produced entirely from renewable energy sources.

The infrastructure to produce and distribute hydrogen is currently expensive, but research to develop more cost effective methods continues globally.

A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) offers key recommendations to help governments, companies and others to seize this chance to enable clean hydrogen to fulfil its long-term potential. One of these recommendations is supporting R&D to bring down costs.

Hydrogen powered electric vehicles

While industrial processes are the dominating consumer of hydrogen energy, transport also has the opportunity for hydrogen based fuel cells becoming competitive. Hydrogen powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have been getting a lot of serious attention as a counterpart to battery powered electric vehicles, particularly because of the huge potential in producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources like wind, water and solar energy.

“It’s estimated by experts there’ll be two billion electric vehicles by 2045. Two billion. Half of these vehicles will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells.”

Source : https://www.iea.org/reports/the-future-of-hydrogen

The Hydrogen Landscape in Australia

In Australia, a $300 million Advancing Hydrogen Fund has been announced to primarily boost production and exports of the gas, but the government’s most significant hydrogen handout to date is available to finance any projects that align with the National Hydrogen Strategy.

The Strategy sets a path to build Australia’s hydrogen industry with a plan to accelerate the commercialisation of hydrogen, reduce technical uncertainties and build up domestic supply chains and production capabilities. A strong domestic hydrogen sector will underpin Australia’s exporting capabilities, allowing us to become a leading global hydrogen player. 

Hydrogen fuel-cell trucks are 10 months away from launch in Australia as US-based Hyzon Motors recently began its export drive of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles.

Source : https://www.whichcar.com.au/car-news/300-million-government-hydrogen-investment

Developing a Hydrogen Refuelling Station(HRS) Pressure Vessel

One of the primary components in a hydrogen refuelling station is the pressure vessel which stores the hydrogen gas.

Recently LA Services undertook a design and manufacture project for one such pressure vessel of 18,500 litres capacity

Challenges posed by a new technology 

Since hydrogen is a tiny molecule, it is prone to leak through poor joints and between poorly selected materials. Also, thorough understanding of the storage tank’s operating conditions is necessary during the design stage. 

The team of engineers behind LA services dealt with several additional design and safety factors during this project. “A pressure vessel servicing refuelling will subject the vessel to daily pressure fluctuations” says Raaid Allam, a former project engineer at LA Services.

“The volume of hydrogen leaving the vessel while refueling and then re-entering while re-filling the vessel will generate daily pressure cycles. Due to the cyclic service and the presence of Hydrogen, it was essential to perform multiple design assessments and to prove a high level of safety. To satisfy our concerns, a combination of fatigue analysis, fracture mechanics assessments and crack propagation assessments were carried out.”

Using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and while taking into account the previously mentioned assessments, the team was able to come up with the optimum design. 

A new generation solution to a new problem

While projects like this pose new challenges for LA Services, they are an opportunity to transfer established pressure equipment design and ‘manufacturing knowhow’. Fresh young talent are an important addition to the fabrication and welding space ensuring this manufacturing industry will be sustained. Capability growth across the engineering and trades that underpin the industry helps to secure an Australian based pressure equipment supply chain capable of servicing the future needs of energy production as it transitions towards a sustainable future. 

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Is Australian Manufacturing Capable of Sustaining Our Oil & Gas Infrastructure?

How capable are Australia’s manufacturers in delivering sustainment services to Oil & Gas infrastructure? This investment is so vital to our export economy and our way of life.

A recent road trip and several conversations with major Oil & Gas companies about plant sustainment and equipment supply highlighted several issues. A common theme was the importance of maintaining local capability, and more generally, the limited knowledge of what can be serviced by the Australian supply chain. These conversations inspired our Managing Director Louie Chouaifaity to reflect on the sector’s landscape and how much it has changed over the last 35 plus years since LA Services began working in this sector.

Reduction in Capability Awareness

There are perhaps two aspects as to why capability awareness has reduced:

1. The industry’s SMEs are generally not outward-facing and hence fail to provide a market presence that delivers compelling stories about capabilities, workforce skills and in-house knowledge that could improve awareness.
2. The very real decline in capacity (being the number of businesses servicing this specialised infrastructure segment) is potentially perceived as a decline in capability too.
Both factors, further compounded with changing procurement strategies over time, seems to have eroded knowledge of the local supply chain.

The Future Strategy

Acknowledging that individual manufacturers need to address their modernisation strategies, the Oil & Gas sector also needs to be thinking about local capability (workshops & personnel) that are available to supply, maintain, modify and repair industrial pressure equipment. Both capacity and capability should perhaps be mapped against the scale and geography of Oil & Gas investments and considered as a sovereign capability or contingency plan for facility owners. Consistently supporting the Australian supply chain would ultimately improve performance, capacity and develop capability, and in doing so deliver assurance that our critical Oil & Gas infrastructure can be supported quickly and effectively if the unexpected happens.


The ‘Future of Work’ – Academic Theory vs Learning Integrated Work

It seems like the only constant at present is that the old order of doing things is being challenged in every corner of the economy. While different sectors are dealing with the opportunities of change at varying rates, the responses are primarily within the realm of the relevant industry, bringing some comfort to the change agents. What is interesting in the ‘Future of Work’ proposition, is how enterprises will compete for the best talent as technology and business models blur the lines between once disparate sectors, and hence widens the playing field for attracting top talent. Imagine a manufacturer looking to hire UX or UI design capability to grow a new thread of an advanced manufacturing service, how might this outside industry attract such talent and compete with the incumbent normally engaging these capabilities. Defining the future of work makes for a fascinating conversation that spans everything from how we educate the next generation, to business strategies and re-skilling established talent.

Dr Sean Gallagher says learning and work need to converge to prepare workers for the continuous and rapidly changing work of the digital future.

While this topic was not front and centre for LA Services when it began dabbling in digital in 2016, it quickly became a conversation as we contemplated how our future state may look. So it is not a surprise to us that the ideas raised in Swinburne University’s recent Centre for New Workforce report, title; “Peak Human Potential: Preparing Australia’s Workforce for the Digital Future” are aligned with where LA Services stands today based on its recent digital transition

experiences. In our minds, there is no question a deep digital dive by a traditional business like LA Services will:

a) force a definition around the ‘future of work’ that will influence strategic planning, and

b) change the landscape on what are considered high-value skills versus baseline competencies.

We thought it would be interesting to compare the theory of this recent report with what has been experienced on the ground at LA Services during three years of experimentation with an I4.0 pathway. Here is a summary of what we think, framed around the report’s executive summary content and noting our business context is “a least-disrupted industry” meaning jobs have typically not previously been displaced by digital:

Future-ready Workers

Future-ready workers areunderstood to represent how different workers view skill value and hence job security. Simply put, task orientated (traditional skills) versus the softer social type skills. Our experience is aligned with the results in that traditional expertise are valued far more than social competences by our workforce (a least-disrupted industry). Yet as we map out our manufacturing future it is apparent the knowledge sector workers view of; “collaboration, empathy and social to entrepreneurial skills” will play a lead role in bringing new value to products, services and revenue opportunities. It seems the OECD forecast of a ‘balanced skill set’ will become unavoidable as we transition towards a digitally literate workforce and knowledge markets.

Learning-integrated Work

Learning-integrated Work is a term the report uses to take ‘learning off campus and immerse it into a disruptive work environment, such as an Industry 4.0 setting’ in a quest to meet future learning needs. Reflecting on our last three years, which can be described as an education in ‘intrapreneurship’ framed around wrestling the diversity of I4.0. Our own disruptive learning-integrated work setting has been instrumental in shifting our family SME mindset from ‘not knowing what we don’t know’ to ‘knowing what we don’t know’, and equally important what are the levers we can pull to change the future of the company, depending on succession ambitions and the choices that will underpin strategy.

A new Learning Infrastructure

A new Learning Infrastructure represents the convergence of industry and education working together to bring a new context to our education efforts. Not to say that present educator efforts are not valued, but in our minds, this means adding a layer of application context led by industry. . In reviewing the details of the report, the only difference appears we call it Learning Through Internship (LTI). While this experiment has underpinned many lessons in an industry/education partnership, the test bed is about to evolve, with a UTS led Research Placement Project that will allow us to immerse two LBH interns into this higher learning environment to experience the mathematics, data architecture design, literature review and business planning that will underpin our I4.0 uptake.

Overall the theory represented in this latest Swinburne report has a high degree of correlation to the learning pathways LA Services has formulated through practice, and the views we hold about the future of work as we move towards our advanced manufacturing ambitions. It is another indication to us that academia and the manufacturing industry including SMEs’ are converging on outputs that will begin to restore our industrial commons, and with it create new value that will ultimately improve employment potential and impart a positive social impact community by community.


How a Gaming Enthusiast Benefited from Workplace Learnings at LA Services

Jacky came to LA Services in 2019 and spent 18 months being mentored after hearing about the Big Picture Program from his principal at Liverpool Boys High School. Jacky had a passion for game design, which was a career path that wasn’t viable through regular schooling, so he saw LA Services as a viable option as somewhere to start. While spending his time at LA Services, Jacky worked alongside another student, David, and data scientist Ming Zhao, a former UTS student who possesses a master’s degree in IT. This was beneficial to both Ming and Jacky as it allowed Ming to gain experience mentoring and imparting his knowledge onto aspiring students and provided Jacky with sufficient knowledge to get engaged with university level discussions.

At the end of his experience with LA Services, Jacky was largely satisfied and believed that the internship was a suitable alternative to the regular school curriculum for his desired career path in game design. This was due to the more intimate mentor mentee relationship, which allowed him to foster his creativity, as well as developing his hard skills such as using the software efficiently and soft skills like effective communication with others.

Core Project and Skills Learnt

Jacky’s core project used the software UNITY to help in furthering his passion in game design. Through using this program, Jacky was able to gain a greater understanding of software programming through utilising practical thinking while working with Ming. This led to Jacky being able to engage in university conversations whilst having a sufficient understanding of what was being talked about. These skills were all learnt directly from Ming and without any type of outside course, demonstrating the effectiveness of the BP Program and the benefits of a one on one mentor-mentee relationship.

Image : Jacky working with another student intern David

Workplace Learning and Opportunities Presented

Like others before him, Jacky found that working at LA Services through the Big Picture Program much more effective than regular schooling as the one on one nature of the teaching made the process more effective and enjoyable. Another benefit was that it gave Jacky the opportunity to interact with others who weren’t his teachers or fellow students, giving him a different perspective on Industry 4.0 and an overall different learning experience. Ming also provided Jacky with weekly tasks to chart his progress, making for an effective learning environment for both mentor and mentee.

The Big Picture Program greatly benefited Jacky as it taught him many valuable skills that were relevant to his interests such as coding, that a regular school environment couldn’t provide. His experience at LA Services also led to university programs being offered, setting him up for early successes. He was able to connect with key stakeholders and eventually secure a spot in the Information Communication Technology course at Western Sydney University with the presentation of his portfolio, emphasising his hard work from a young age.

Image : Jacky working with Ming Zhao of UTS