The 30-year partnership celebration between Australian Munitions and Hodgdon Powder Company Kansas, USA took place at the Mulwala facility on Thursday, May 10.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Hodgdon, Steve Kehrwald told a core group of 65 employees that Hodgdon has worked with nearly all the manufacturers of gunpowder around the world in its 70-year history.
“I can state unequivocally that Hodgdon’s 30-year relationship with Australian Munitions is the best relationship Hodgdon has enjoyed with any partner,” he said.
Mr Kehrwald said Australian Munitions was special because: of its innovation - temperature stability and clean burning; quality, with tightest specifications in the industry; integrity - doing what said will be done and meeting challenges head-on.
“Hodgdon is very much looking forward to continuing our 30-year relationship with Australian Munitions,” he said.
“We are confident we can continue to increase our sales of Australian Munitions-supplied propellants and creating an even stronger partnership in the future.”
Managing Director of Australian Munitions Dion Habner welcomed everyone to celebrate “another great milestone in the long and successful history between Hodgdon Powder Company and Australian Munitions”.
Mr Habner introduced Mr Kehrwald, Chief Financial Officer of Hodgdon Dan Thelan, Australian and New Zealand distributors and freight forwarders Daniel Galea and Wayne Pilkington from OSA, Jeff Gordon and Brian Mortensen from Winchester, Steve Collings from Steve’s Wholesalers in NZ, Lloyd and Lyn McCallum from Deflog, Frank Dugdale and David Fenderson from McHugh and Eastwood, Tania Hunter representing the Commonwealth, Daniel O’Dea from SSAA, Catherine Berry from NRAA and John Robinson from Guns Australia.
“I would especially like to thank the Australian Munitions team for their attendance,” Mr Habner said. “I know we cannot easily invite all 700 to this event, nor even the couple of hundred who are directly involved in propellant manufacture given our 24-hour operations but we have assembled a core group.”
At that point, the managing director called Mulwala’s longest ever serving employee - who has been directly involved in propellant manufacture all of his near 54 years’ service, 72-year-old John Crosthwaite, First Stage foreman/team leader - to centre stage.
“To think at the start of our relationship with Hodgdon, John had over two decades of experience in propellant manufacturing already!” Mr Habner said.
Thirty years of propellant exports to the United States is a remarkable achievement, Mr Habner said, “as well as testament to the excellent business relationship”.
“It is a story of building a commercial business from a small starting position to something that now accounts for the majority of work we do.
“It is a story of growth and mutual learning between our two companies and the very strong relationships that have been developed over the years that have been the cornerstone of this success.”
The “hard work” by both companies has enabled Australian Munitions to help Hodgdon be “the undisputed leader in the propellant distribution”.
Recalling some history in the late 1980s, Mr Habner said he doubted if anyone on either side of the Pacific fully realised how successful the 16,000km relationship would be when started with a single shipment of three tonnes of propellant from Mulwala to Kansas.
Then, on March 28, 2018, the 9,000,000 kg of propellant left Mulwala and arrived in the USA on April 21. That equates to over 700 shipping containers, roughly one shipping container every two weeks for 30 years.
Three names synonymous with the business success were mentioned by Mr Habner. “Alistair Wylie from Mulwala was the instigator on the Australian side and with his dogged determination started the journey for us.
“Warwick Spencer successfully took up the mantle on the Australian side of driving propellant innovation and really growing the relationship for more than two decades.
“Tom Shephard had been setting the northern star for us to achieve for the previous 17 years in his role as President and CEO of Hodgdon and providing such a wonderfully close and effective relationship with the Aussies down under.”
The signs for continued success well into the future are conspicuous, as explained by Mr Habner, with the “incredible, brand new propellant facility” which, when brought up to full rate production, will be “the most modern and capable extruded propellant facility in the world”.
He also referred to the work by Australian Munition’s research and development team to drive innovation and new propellant solutions.
“Australian Munitions commits more than $1.5 million a year in R & D,” Mr Habner said. “We see innovation and new product release as absolutely essential to our future growth.
“With Hodgdon’s market knowledge and insights, coupled with our R & D skills, we are mapping a path of new product releases that will delight our collective customers.”
Mr Habner presented cutting machine blades, cutting machine blocks and die holders from an old cutting machine mounted on wood containing the words ‘Australian Munitions/Hodgdon Powder Company 30 year partnership 20 million pounds May 2018’ to Mr Kehrwald.
The special gift was very much appreciated by Mr Kehrwald who said: “It will take great pride of place in our office.”
Hodgdon Powder Company’s Chief Financial Officer also spoke, which included some wonderful remarks: “We enjoy getting your propellant because that’s what our customers demand.
“Nothing is as good as what is made here. We’re looking forward to another 30 years, 100 years, going forward.”