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Young Manufacturer of the Year

Be recognised for early career achievements.

The Young Manufacturer of the Year award recognises young outstanding individuals in the manufacturing sector. Individuals must be aged 35 years or under at the date of the awards ceremony.

At a glance

Value of this Award

Industry recognition of young outstanding individuals in the manufacturing sector.


Open to outstanding manufacturers aged 35 or younger.

Young Manufacturer of the Year

2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014201320122011 | 201020092008200720062005 | 2004

2019 Winner - Nicholas Orchowski

Having completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Aerospace Engineering) at RMIT University, Nicholas Orchowski began his manufacturing career in 2014 as a Materials and Process Engineer at Rosebank Engineering, now RUAG Australia.

Nicholas currently works as an engineer in the Advanced Technology and Engineering Solutions (ATES) department at RUAG Australia. At RUAG Nicholas plays a primary role in delivering innovative additive manufacturing solutions. He has been a team leader on a number of proof of concept projects developed for local and global companies. He was also project lead of RUAG's Defence Capability Technology Demonstrator program in which he designed and oversaw the commissioning of Laser Additive Deposition systems, a program that has provided RUAG with new capability to restore damaged defence aerospace parts and return them to service. No such capability previously existed in Victoria and the outcome reduces the need to replace costly aircraft parts.

2018 Winner - Vanessa Katsanevakis

Vanessa Katsanevakis leads Sussex Taps with her husband, George. She started with the company at age 17 and has since guided the business to experience rapid growth. Bringing her passion for making beautifully crafted high-performance tapware to the company, Vanessa guided the business through a re-brand in 2015, opening a new world for Sussex. Vanessa is regularly involved in industry events, inviting suppliers and consumers to Sussex’s factory to showcase the company’s manufacturing methods, and visiting other manufacturers to forge connections and learn about their experiences.

Vanessa gains great satisfaction in continuing her father’s legacy of excellence through her journey from a junior to director, and a period of decline to renewal, and continues to focus on engineering excellence and being devoted to true Australian manufacturing.


2017 Winner - Anne Koopmann

Anne Koopmann started with Bombardier Transportation in Berlin, Germany as a Global Graduate Trainee and moved to Australia in 2012 as a Methods Engineer.

Her understanding and insights into lean manufacturing processes, strong people management skills, track record in cost reduction, business acumen, problem solving and implementation of quality excellence, led her to her current role as Head of Quality and LEAN Australia.

Anne is proving to be an integral part of the Bombardier leadership team. Her achievements at Dandenong include savings of over $2.4 million, production hour savings of 6000 hours on a key light rail project and successfully reduced manufacturing throughput time by 20% on rolling stock vehicles.

2016 Winner – Dr Ashley Denmead

Dr Ashley Denmead is one of the original inventors of the technology that lead to the world’s first commercialised carbon fibre wheel. 

During the final years of study in his mechanical engineering degree at Deakin University,  Ashley was also team leader and then chief engineer of the university’s Formula SAE-A program.  This experience shaped his future – the competition, the people involved and the challenge it represented was the seed for his career direction and the reason that Carbon Revolution now exists. 

The drive to produce the highest performing F-SAE race car was the reason one piece carbon fibre wheels were conceived, evolved and manufactured within the team and its supporters. 

Ash progressed his studies in the form of a PhD based around composite materials at the Centre for Materials and Fibre Innovation at Deakin University. In conjunction with these studies the development of carbon fibre wheels was progressed and Carbon Revolution was founded as a company in 2007.  

Now the Engineering and Design Director for Carbon Revolution, Ash has contributed to all aspects of the design of the product and process through the last eight  years with Carbon Revolution and has inventor status on all patents in the Carbon Revolution IP portfolio.  

2015 Winner – Anna Reid

Whilst undertaking her double degree (Engineering and Information Technology) with First Class Honors in Engineering from the Australian National University, Anna assisted in the design of a hand-held system to be used by Ford in their metal stamping operations in Victoria. 

Since then, Anna’s manufacturing experience has included a role with George Weston Foods as the Process Improvement Engineer for NSW, overseeing manufacturing at Tip Top Bakeries in Adelaide as Operations Manager and overseeing manufacturing of beverages at Golden Circle’s Northgate facility, QLD as well as the implementation of an $80M upgrade to the Schweppes Australia operations in Western Australia, in the role of Project Implementation Manager. Impressively she did this whilst also continuing to run the state as Manufacturing Operations Manager. 

Now Victorian based, Anna is the Site Manager of two factories in Melbourne, one at Laverton and one at Tullamarine, which together produce over 35 million cases of alcohol and non-alcohol beverages and manages a combined budget in excess of $60m.

2014 Winner – Matthew Arblaster

Matthew achieved First Class Honours in his Bachelor of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management at Monash University and won the 2005 Association of Consulting Engineers Australia National Student Engineering Project award.  

Matthew became the plant engineer at Fosters Wine Estates' state of the art Wolf Blass Packing Centre to help implement lean manufacturing.  He then took a position implementing an environmental government program as well as capital projects in the engineering team. 

Following a stint at Bayer MaterialScience in Melbourne with responsibilities for the production department, Matthew was then promoted to the Bayer MaterialScience's head office in Shanghai to help oversee production and reliability best practice. 

2013 Winner - Stephen Murtagh

A design engineer, Stephen Murtagh was solely responsible for the design, development, manufacture, sales and service of AW Bell Machinery globally. Stephen’s innovative machinery enhanced productivity of foundry operations globally. Recognised internationally for his expertise, his outstanding work resulted in doubling sales year on year for the last three years with more than 95% being export.

2012 Winner - Matt Nettleton

During a three month internship Matt facilitated a full redesign of the process layout of the Corex factory based on principles of one piece flow.

Since then Matt doubled the production in a single shift, reduced material movements and inventory, whilst achieving OH&S targets and decreasing forklift traffic movements. With improved lead times of more than 30 per cent, he also developed new safety programs, implementation of quality gates and visual checks in critical production processes.

Matt also created a national recycling program that led to the purchase of a state of the art plastic recycling plant and the creation of a separate business unit, Corex Recycling.

2011 Winner - Jason Oliver

As Operations Manager, Jason was accountable for all aspects of the company’s production including the management of 20 production team members.

Jason was instrumental in the company’s implementation of Lean Manufacturing principles, a process paying dividends for Black Widow, with physical production time cut from 11 hours to an average of 8 hours and product lead time slashed from 4.5 days to 1.2 days, as a result of his best practice philosophies and lean initiatives.

A further major achievement saw Jason achieve an improvement in gross profit margin from 48 per cent in 2007/2008 to 56 per cent in 2010 and this looks set to rise further with the introduction of two new flat pack product lines for export, which are expected to double annual turnover.

2010 Winner - James Dickey

James Dickey played a major role in quality and sanitation improvements in all departments at Kraft (now Mondelez), an outstanding achievement with only one year’s experience. In 2008, he took responsibility for the Hold and Release program which saw the achievement of zero product on hold at the plant for two consecutive weeks in 2009, the first time in the history of the Kraft Port Melbourne site that this figure had been attained.

James has implemented sustainable system improvements and has contributed to the delivery of $4 million worth of Vegemite productivity initiatives over a four year period.

As a vocal supporter of Lean Principles, James implemented several Lean-to-Green initiatives which collectively contributed to a significant 60 per cent reduction in water usage across the plant as well as a reduction in landfill waste by an enormous 50 per cent.

2009 Winner - David Fitzpatrick

Having previously worked for Renagate Shifters, Dair Industries and TriMotive where he honed his lean credentials, David’s next career move was to Hilton Manufacturing.

In his time with Hilton, David made several improvements ranging from company policy to product efficiencies, including reducing his department’s defect rate by 30%, whilst increasing output by 50%. Drawing on his lean skills, David made improvements in the way jobs flow through the shop, found superior ways to program CNC machines and altered customers’ designs to benefit all stakeholders.

2008 Winner - Luke Dwyer

When Luke Dwyer commenced an apprenticeship in fitting and tooling he had no idea that just eight short years later at the age of 26, he would have progressed to General Manager of OzPress. An interest in the company's strategic direction led Luke to the manufacturing side of the business. Demonstrated growth and the ability to adapt to the pressures of the manufacturing industry, while maintaining business success, Luke took up the position as a General Manager.

An advocate of new manufacturing philosophies such as Lean Manufacturing, the Visual Workplace and 5S+1, Luke took an active role in promoting these concepts to the benefit of both the company and on an international scale. Under his guidance, OzPress implemented a full production control system wholly based on Kanban and the principles of Pull.

2007 Winner - Dr Peter Campbell

Peter was a Lean Manufacturing Specialist and sought to create the perfect process by improving flow and removing waste.

As an Improvement Manager at Volgren, Peter managed improvements to all aspects of the business including production flow, cycle time, 5S, visual management, workforce education and training, safety, quality and environment. His major challenge lead the '20-Day Bus' project, which aimed to slash the bus throughput time from the current time of 40-50 days to just 20 days.

He was also responsible for developing and implementing a successful country-wide 5S program, as well as assisting shopfloor staff participating in 'Striving for Best Practice in Manufacturing' program with their projects and presentations.

2006 Winner - Prue Morgan

Prue Morgan started as a receptionist and was promoted to document coordinator. She is now an accredited commercial pilot.

Gippsland Aeronautics built its success around manufacturing an aircraft called the GA 8 Airvan, which was used for tourist operations, homeland security, freight, remote community transport, search and rescue, wildfire control, medi vac, disaster relief, and scheduled passenger services. The company is the only commercial manufacturer of aircraft in Australia and predominately sells most of its Airvan's overseas to countries including New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada, the US, United Kingdom and many countries in Africa.

Following the Tsunami at Christmas time in 2005, Morgan flew an Airvan VH-FGN with ferry pilot Stephen Death on a positioning flight from Latrobe Valley to Medan Sumatra delivering medical supplies into the area, clocking up 33 hours in the air over three days. This enabled the Mission Aviation Fellowship to fly food and medical supplies out of Aceh into the affected areas.

2005 Winner - Heidi Edmiston

Heidi was responsible for the day shift operation of biscuit production at Kraft. Her job included maintaining the safety, quality and taste of the biscuits the company produces - including Ritz, Premium and others that are part of the Nabisco range.

Heidi's success in her role, and the enthusiasm she demonstrates for manufacturing in general, led to her being named the 2005 Young Manufacturer of the Year. 

2004 Winner - Scott Grinter

Scott Grinter was a Business Systems and Technology Manager at leading seatbelt and airbag manufacturer, Autoliv.

Scott demonstrated and expanded his technical and commercial skills in a broad variety of positions. He managed a team of project engineers, senior engineers, specialists and designers undertaking problem solving and independent studies.

Scott has shown strong commitment to the broader industry, chairing the 1999 SAE Young Engineers Conference and acting as Master of Ceremonies and speaker for Autoweek careers seminars in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

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