Taking innovation to Land Forces

“We designed a vehicle and took it to the biggest Land Defence Expo we could

David Abel, Director and Co-Founder

Integration, interoperability, and Land Forces.

This blog is a little bit different in that it comes with options! You can listen to the audio interview, or you can read all about it as a ye-olde traditional blog post.

A big thanks to David for taking time to share this journey.

Audio Interview: Why Luminact took a concept demonstrator to Land Forces 2018

2018 was a big year for Luminact, just two years after being founded, we decided to exhibit at Land Forces in Adelaide – the largest land warfare conference in the southern hemisphere.

Why?

One of the best ways to understand the marketplace, to understand your customers, and to talk with others in the industry, is at a conference. And as both a professional service provider and a speciality engineering organisation, for us it’s critical to both be seen and to communicate with people at conferences.

And so when Andrew and I founded Luminact, we knew we would be taking our company to Land Forces. With such a huge investment in holding even the simplest stall at the conference, we knew we really needed to capture attention and make our capabilities as a services provider known.

How?

One of the ways to demonstrate your ability is to use a bit of innovation. As a service provider, it’s very easy to go with a small stand and pamphlets and brochures and talk. It is the next level, in my opinion, where you go to Land Forces as a service provider – but take capability with you, capability that you have demonstrated and you have integrated and stand in front of it and own it, and say to industry: “look, not only are we a service provider but here you go. This is it. We built this. We integrated this.”

By innovating, by building a demonstration, we are demonstrating that we have capability.

Land Forces 2018 was a risk.

Extremely high risk! When we first decided on Land Forces 2018, there WAS no capability. We had to design it, build it, integrate the systems and equipment that were able to borrow from other defence suppliers.

Luminact is agnostic, which is ideal for developing Australian Industry Content. We do not have affiliations. What we aimed to do was to take these products, equip and integrate it together and demonstrate that it can be done, and within the scope and guidance of the Australian Army and their vision of integration.

And it was that race, like many people will appreciate. The clock was ticking down. Land Forces was on day X, and it was on day X no matter whether you were ready or not.

One of the great things was the team’s willingness to participate above and beyond what they were doing on their client focusing work. So, client focusing work was happening Monday through Friday, then outside of those hours they’re coming to the facility and spending their time. This effort enabled us to put on the best show possible.

The Luminact Value of “Innovate all the Time.”

One of the ways Andrew and I look to foster innovation within Luminact was for us to PROVIDE the best environment. Our workshop.

Somewhere our team can come, to have the space and equipment and the tools. To sit and think “I wonder if…” and be able to do that.

There is no requirement or expectation for our team to do this.

Our team spends so much time client focused. We wanted to give them an opportunity to express themselves. The chance to create and invent freely. That’s one of the great things we can offer. That ability.

Tinker is a good word for it. It really is tinkering. We can experiment, to envisage, to actually try things. And we provide the place for that to be explored.

The Luminact workshop with some of our spectography equipment.

The Luminact Value of “Extreme ownership”. Owning your specialty.

One of the areas that we were keen to bring to the Commonwealth was an ability to help realise their goals.  

With Army for example, they are looking to have a generic approach to the systems, the platforms and the capability offered to the Force Commander. 

It is through our engineering skillsets that we provide enablers. Whether those are to create requirements, look at standardisation and standards. Or whether it is to physically design prototype systems that could then be taken into trial to SHOW that what feasible, possible and could be done efficiently and effectively –

That was the model behind this ‘extreme ownership’ that we promote as a company. End-to-end.

Our Land Forces 2018 Demonstration

So the vehicle that we took to LF18 was never meant to see the light of production. It was a mechanised platform that provided us an environment to host systems. It was the right colour, had antennas, had integrated communications, integrated display. We had hoped to have a more commercialised vehicle but were unable to secure that in the time available. It actually turned out that what we needed to do what build our own. So that was what we did.

The mechanical engineering team within Luminact set about on Solidworks designing a vehicle. We had it fabricated, then we put it together and fitted those systems. While the vehicle was never intended for production, it enabled us to say, well look, we built this, we integrated systems onto this. This is a Luminact creation to further our demonstration of capability.

We were really impressed actually that people embraced it for the purpose that it was there to serve.

During Land Forces 2018.

We were able to stand in front of it, point at it, talk to it. To see things running. We had borrowed technology from a suite of different organisations inside Defence. And we had taken that technology and integrated it into the platform.

And it worked!

You could radiate RF signals form the platform. You could see a data terminal on the platform. It came with the right power; it was both an enabler and demonstrator of what we could do.

The Effort involved in building a Demonstrator

I think anyone who’s worked in industry, whether building a widget or a platform, will totally understand when I say it takes SO MUCH WORK. SO much work.

And it doesn’t matter how good your schedules are, how much effort you put in. It is always an 11th hr finish. And we were no different. Getting that platform to the point where we could have confidence that we could go to the biggest Land Conference that we can go to, and have a platform that worked, and the systems associated with the platform that worked, and our demonstration had some coherency to it, was a huge outlay.

It took many, many hours. Many hours. In fact I’ll say it again. MANY hours.

Why the effort was worth it.

The obvious one was that we successfully showed who we are, and what we do.

The fact that here is a company that is embracing these architectural approaches – open architectures – and are on the journey to recognising where land forces, or Army is looking to head and is willing to take that journey on. To hopefully further industries involvement in recognising how generic architectures can be employed both protecting the IP of an organisation but providing an entity that has an integration capability that brought into the right environment provides a greater outcome to the Force Commander.  

Outcomes of Land Forces 2018.

It’s very difficult to say that a single conference bought you any work directly. I think what it did do was bring exposure. And that exposure and continuing conversations have led to opportunities – have absolutely led to opportunities – that have enables us to pick up some of this work.

The 2018 Land Forces team.

Land Forces 2021. Bigger and better.

Absolutely it will be bigger and better… what we are looking to do with what we have planned for 2021 – in line with 2018, but of course it’s bigger more integrated, more systems – but there is also a strong focus on this sovereign capability, this Australian Industry Content. Bringing those together. Showing how these can be brought together to show this system of systems outcome.

And if people come and visit the stand, I think, I hope, they will be impressed with what we’re trying to show, what we’re trying to demonstrate.


Stay up to date on our Land Forces journey here.

Want to chat with David about anything in this blog? Reach out here.

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