Home' InDaily : November 6th 2009 Contents Hill Equipment has fought hard
to achieve its enviable position
as one of the nation's top
Since 1982, when the Dry
Creek-based company won its first
piece of defence business, there's
been a steady consolidation of its
ability and reputation as a defence
That first contract was to supply
two large freezer rooms with a
pneumatic opening roof for the
Government Aircraft Factory, in
Melbourne, which was making the
wings for Hornet jetfighters.
The manufacturing process saw
the framework go from the furnace,
into a water quench and straight
into the freezer rooms, which had to
bring the temperature down to -18C
within two hours.
As Hill Equipment's chairman
Keith Turner recalls, there was little
margin for error.
"If it ever went above -14C, they
became Coke cans -- half-a-million
dollars of aluminium wasted and
turned into about $10,000 worth of
scrap," Mr Turner said.
Next, Hill Defence Products won
a contract to manufacture and
install the galleys in the Collins
Class submarines being built on the
Port River. The firm's refrigeration
and catering equipment has since
been used in a long list of defence
projects, from rocket research at
DSTO Salisbury to ANZAC Frigate
Hill Equipment has 51 staff,
including four refrigeration
engineers, a source of pride to Mr
Turner, a refrigeration mechanic by
"We do all of our own design
work, all of our own manufacturing,
installation and service," he said.
"Other companies around our size
have one or maybe two engineers. So
we just don't have any fear in taking
on anything special."
With each new contract, Mr
Turner said, the team has learned
a few tricks such as the special
requirements of the galleys and
sculleries on RAN mine-hunters.
"We had to put certain bands
around the electric motors so they
didn't emit a magnetic field,'' he
said. "The trouble was, any magnet-
ism would attract the mine to the
side of the ship. We also found out
very quickly that if you scratched
stainless-steel you could not repolish
it, because that created magnetism."
Hill Defence Product's mobile
airconditioning units were
recently field-tested by the army
on exercise on a mobile surgical
unit in Queensland. The system
incorporates heating and cooling, an
air-exchanger, a medical-grade filter
and associated ducting.
The trial was performed in front
of army personnel from the US, UK,
New Zealand and Malaysia.
"They said they had never seen
anything in the world like it, so we
are hoping we get some spin-off on
that, too," Mr Turner said.
The units have also been used
successfully by the air force in
Afghanistan for the past few years.
Strict defence requirements such
as the need to ensure equipment can
withstand shock and vibration, can
also have useful adaptations for the
firm's general commercial work.
"Certainly, we have the vibration
side of it adapted to our compressor
racks and so forth in our commercial
refrigeration -- it saves a lot of
cracked pipes and gas leaks," Mr
Turner said. However, not every
bright idea finds a market in the
"In the submarines, because they
could not have any electromagnetic
interference on the radios or that
could be detected by a satellite, we
found out that zero-volt contactors
were required that gave no spark,"
"A contactor is often the cause of
a compressor failure and this zero-
volt contactor, I thought, is a godsend
to the supermarket industry. But no
one wanted it.
"The industry typically just didn't
want to pay extra for something that
could save a $5000 compressor. As
soon as we started to try to include it
in our price, we weren't winning the
For many years, the company
has been in the "Top 40 Australian
Defence Contractors List", and Mr
Turner is upbeat about the future.
"With over 20 years of experience
in the defence industry, Hill Defence
Products is confident that it can
continue to solve the complex
demanding specifications produced
by ADF and other international
militaries," Mr Turner said.
To keep informed about South
Australia's defence sector, subscribe
to SA Defence Business by calling
8224 1605 or email
Defence contractor Hill Equipment continues to play a crucial
role in building the nation's military might, writes Des Ryan.
Defensive role for Hill
Hill Equipment's chairman, Keith Turner,
is a refrigeration mechanic by trade.
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