Under normal circumstances most business owners and managers wouldn’t open up their premises for one or more of their competitors to walk in and observe their processes but, for a group of South West companies operating and occasionally competing in similar sectors, it was an essential process in order to progress their business development opportunities within the fast-growing nuclear sector.
The six companies – Arc Energy Resources, Bristol Steel Stockholders, FLI Structures, Jordan Manufacturing, Ledwood Mechanical Engineering and Technical Inspection Services UK – have all come together under the banner of the South West Nuclear Fabrication Group (SWNFG), thanks to the support through the Hinkley Supply Chain Programme.
SWNFG offers nuclear grade QA levels 1-4 radiographic-quality welding and fabrication, project & welding engineering management, on-site fabrication teams, full NDT (non-destructive testing) services, CNC machining, milling and turning, heat treatment, shot blasting, specialised coating & painting, carbon & stainless-steel stockholding.
Many individual members of SWNFG have already won work at Hinkley Point C, for instance FLI structures was contracted to erect a communications tower on-site, and Technical Inspection Services has been carrying out NDT work on metal piles bound for the site’s jetty.
However, in order to win even bigger, potentially transformational, contracts, the Hinkley Supply Chain Team, suggested they form a consortia, leading to SWNFG’s formation.
Nik Brown, Supply Chain Consultant at SWMAS, who together with Somerset Chamber of Commerce and Business West form the Hinkley Supply Chain Team, explains: “By liaising closely with the Tier 1 contractors at HPC we are ideally placed to uncover the kinds of work package opportunities that are appropriate for regional businesses to bid for.”
Several of these consortiums have proved extremely fruitful in the years since work at HPC began, such as Somerset Larder which delivers catering facilities to the entire site, and SWNFG is primed to emulate that kind of success.
By working in partnership, SWNFG is a £74m combined turnover organisation boasting:
- A workforce of 400
- Over 200 years’ experience
- 80 coded welders
- Qualified European welding engineers and project management specialists
- Over 11 acres of production fabrication space
- Flexible lifting capability up to 200te.
Dave Cook, head of business development at one of SWNFG’s member businesses, Gloucestershire-based Arc Energy Resources, says: “What we have established is a group of experienced engineering companies sharing an inherent nuclear safety and quality culture and with the capacity and capability to deliver highly-complex quality fabricated projects, de-risking the awarding of large volume and highly compliant work packages for Tier 1 & 2 contractors at HPC.”
He adds: “The Hinkley Supply Chain team were instrumental in bringing us all together, and we now have a superb collaborative offering which is ready to bid for Tier 1 tenders.”
Nik Brown continues: “What has been really rewarding is watching how all the member businesses of SWNFG have had the vision to see what can be achieved collaboratively and the commitment to make that happen.
“Not only do they meet regularly to identify the most effective way of working together, they have also taken the time to visit each other’s premises and understand how their collective capabilities and resources best serve the market.”
He adds: “What is all the more remarkable is the fact some of the group are competitors, yet they have put that to one side in order to present a united front when approaching the task of winning contracts at HPC.”
Whilst the consortium was originally created to look at work packages connected with Hinkley Point C, the group’s members are already planning how they can generate new business opportunities beyond the nuclear sector.
Dave Cook continues: “What we have is a rich proposition to take to the marketplace, where our combined experiences, knowledge and resources make us a formidable organisation across many sectors requiring the skills and capabilities we offer.”
Nik adds: “It has been fascinating and hugely rewarding to watch this group of companies on their journey towards forming SWNFG and we will continue to support and advise them as they look to leverage their size and scale to win contracts at Hinkley and beyond.”
The companies have been supported thanks to the funding put in place by EDF Energy, Heart of South West LEP, West of England Combined Authority and Welsh Government. Support is available to companies in these regions to access opportunities linked to Hinkley Point C. Interested companies should ensure that they have registered on the Hinkley Supply Chain Portal in the first instance and make contact through one of the team.