Big sky thinking for southeast Queensland aerospace industry

Image: Getty Images / Gorodenkoff; Monty Rakusen

Image: Getty Images / Gorodenkoff; Monty Rakusen

Joe Bryant has wanted to work in the aerospace industry since he was a child. He has big plans for manufacturing in the state’s southeast.

The aerospace industry has always encouraged people to dream. From the first plane flown by Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903, to Amelia Earhart’s non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in 1932, to putting Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969, it’s a sector that has – quite literally – encouraged big sky thinking.

Modern aerospace engineering is constantly pushing limits. There’s the challenge of designing drones suitable for load-bearing tasks, like delivering pizzas or dropping lifesaving supplies to stranded people. Composite materials offer new limits in weight and durability that could slash emissions and fuel costs. Then, when it comes to space flight, reusable launch vehicles are getting closer by the day.

Joe Bryant, Director at aerospace engineering and professional services company Aeromech, has wanted to work in the sector since he was a child. He founded the business in 2019, with the view of setting up and opening an aerospace-grade manufacturing plant here in southeast Queensland.

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Close-up of the top of an airplane with a white background

Image: Getty Images / Dirk Lehmhus; EyeEm

Image: Getty Images / Dirk Lehmhus; EyeEm

He’s spent the last 15 years in the industry, including a decade with French manufacturing giant Airbus, during which time he led Airbus Australia’s only composites manufacturing plant in Brisbane. He was also responsible for the final delivery of the company’s NH90 military helicopters, which use a composite fuselage to cut weight, resulting in 30 per cent more endurance and an increased resistance to damage.

Joe Bryant graduating from the University of Queensland

Joe Bryant graduating from his MBA at The University of Queensland Business School

Joe Bryant graduating from his MBA at The University of Queensland Business School

“I love manufacturing. Australians have a can-do attitude and always find ways to fine-tune processes, maximise efficiencies and save costs, all while maintaining safety. We’re tinkerers by nature,” Bryant says.

“Aerospace-grade products are the benchmark; if you can do that, you can manufacture anything. I’m really committed to Queensland as there’s a strong hub of companies here in this sector and so many amazing things we can do together to be a part of the growing advanced aerospace industry.

"All the big companies need to be able to prototype. It just needs to be cost effective and rapid. That’s something I’m looking forward to doing with Aeromech.”

Different kind of investment

The decision to venture out on his own, with the view of opening a composites manufacturing and assembling facility in the state’s southeast, has been a big one. Transitioning from a management position at a multinational corporation to running your own business takes careful planning.

Mr Bryant realised that he needed to develop a skill-set that would help him push past the barrier of middle management and help him begin to sell his ideas to people working at an executive level. He enrolled in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at The University of Queensland (UQ), which he says played a big part in maturing his thinking and decision-making as he developed his plans.

“I started it while I was a manager – I did all the leadership subjects as I progressed to be head of the manufacturing plant, then I did all the operations and economics topics and progressed from there. It reflected my responsibilities at work and gave me an extra push,” he says.

“People know when you’re speaking from a position of knowledge. It’s a shared language that attracts investors and major customer interest as it gives you the confidence to have conversations about strategy, opportunity and long-term growth while fulfilling your stakeholder’s fundamental business.”

It’s been a juggle. He has two young children, aged seven and five. His wife, Deanna, a chemical engineering graduate who works as a manager at Urban Utilities in maintenance innovation , is also completing a UQ MBA. They divide and conquer: Mr Bryant might get up at 5am and work for three or four hours in the morning; Mrs Bryant might study in the afternoon. The kids adjust to the routine and, with a little bit of strategic thinking and a lot of discipline, everyone's needs are met.

Joe Bryant celebrating his MBA from the University of Queensland Business School with his family

Image supplied by Joe Bryant with his family, celebrating his UQ MBA graduation.

Image supplied by Joe Bryant with his family, celebrating his UQ MBA graduation.

“If you want something bad enough, and you really want to make a difference, you work hard as a team to make it happen,” he explains. If things get too much, they simply take a break and reset.

Images: Getty Images / Roman Becker; EyeEm / Zhihao

Close up of a plane propeller
Inside a plane cockpit during a flight.

Focus on people and jobs

One of the best things about taking the time to study, he says, was an opportunity to study abroad through the UQ MBA at Harvard University for four weeks. It gave him the opportunity to learn from and network with people who work with companies like IDEO and Boston Dynamics, who are working with cutting-edge technology.

“I came back even more motivated. I learnt so much during my time overseas, sharing ideas with the world’s brightest thinkers and achievers,” he says.

People are the key to success at any company. Aside from potentially creating jobs in southeast Queensland, Mr Bryant is committed to nurturing talent in the region. He’s currently working with TAFE Queensland to establish four new scholarship programs to support apprentices within the Marine, Aerospace, Transport & Automotive and Industrial programs at the Mount Gravatt campus. 

He is also working to set up a scholarship to support professionals who embark on an MBA with UQ.

“When you start a career, you don't necessarily know what you want to do. When I got to Airbus, I had the opportunity to specialise in composites and a really good mentor of mine sent me to Eurocopter (now known as Airbus Helicopters).

"Someone invested in me, and I will always invest in people because I know first hand how inspiring and life changing a commitment like that can be.”

This article was originally published in The Courier-Mail.

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