Dan Osborne, Senior Advisor at Bombardier Transport Australia, has spent most of his career designing, manufacturing, engineering, and maintaining different vehicles. He has worked predominantly with RAAF aircrafts and engines. He moved into the rail industry before his previous company Adtranz was acquired by Bombardier in 2001. He has been in the managing director position for the last 14 years and has seen the company triple in size since.

The CEO Magazine caught up with Dan to discuss the company’s succession planning and Bombardier’s future within the Australian manufacturing sector amidst increasing competition in a challenging market.

The CEO Magazine: With numerous Australian manufacturers shifting operations overseas or shutting down, what have been the greatest challenges you’ve had to contend with?

Dan: The challenges have been, and remain to be, the ability to respond to market demands in an ever changing business environment. The rail market, in particular the passenger rail market where Bombardier focuses, has been changing dramatically since 1999 when Victoria’s Public Transport Corporation (PTC) was privatised, following the British franchising model. This placed delivery of rail passenger services in the hands of private operators with a less constrained focus on service delivery than was ever possible under the publically run service delivery model.

That is not to say the PTC didn’t do a good job but, as with all Government enterprises, it was more subject to variable budget constraints and shorter term considerations driven by the political cycle. This change led to greater consideration of whole-of-life cost, long-term reliability, and availability of rail vehicles, or ‘rolling stock’ as we call it. It also saw the emergence of supply-and-maintain contracting, which placed greater emphasis on whole of life cost. This opened up the market from previous design and manufacture of rolling stock to include long term maintenance obligations. These changes saw the market become attractive to not only overseas operators, but suppliers and maintainers also. While this expanded the opportunities for companies such as Bombardier, it increased competition and also placed increasing expectations on our suppliers.