Like many South West businesses, the owners of Cam Machine Components were excited at the prospect of winning work at Hinkley Point C as activity at the site increases.
However, that initial enthusiasm dissipated when they realised the full colossal scale of the construction project, where many of the Tier 1 contractors are some of the world’s largest, most successful multi-discipline construction and engineering firms.
Assuming they could not compete in an environment dominated by PLCs and multi-nationals, CMC founders Simon Farr and Gervase Winn put their aspirations of winning work at the site on the back burner…until a friendly word of encouragement changed everything.
“I remember we were at one of the Somerset Chamber meetings when someone high up at EDF Energy asked if we’d ever considered forming a consortium with other local businesses,” said Simon, who initially formed CMC in 1995 when, back then, he worked alone as an advanced engineering consultant.
The company moved to its current premises and transitioned into a full precision engineering provider in 1999. At the time the company was operating conventional, more manually-operated machinery.
Things really took off for CMC in 2002 when it invested a significant amount on a new “Computer Numerical Control” (CNC) machine, which made an instant impact on the company’s productivity.
“Within six months we’d bought another,” continued Simon. “Fast forward to today and we have 11 turning centres and 2 vertical mills which can run 24 hours a day, seven days a week if needs be.”
The company works across multiple sectors, including automotive, agriculture and oil and gas. Their customers come to CMC from far and wide, including prestige car makers Audi and Aston Martin.
Simon’s business partner and joint owner of CMC, Gervase Winn, says: “We’re very good at what we do and have had a successful 10 years, during which time we have gradually grown the business to meet demand from all over the country.
“When we heard about what was happening at Hinkley Point C we recognised this could be a great opportunity but, with so many huge Tier 1 companies on site, we didn’t see a straightforward opening for us.”
It was then that Jamie Driver, Senior Supply Chain Engagement Manager, Nuclear NEW build for EDF Energy put it to Simon and Gervase that if they joined forces with other local businesses, forming a “strength in numbers” consortium with multiple areas of skill and expertise, they would have a much more compelling proposition.
“That’s when the Advanced Precision Engineering Consortium (APEC) was formed,” says Simon. “There are six companies altogether, and we work as a coherent, united organisation focused on collaboration and on passing work to each other.”
Along with CMC the other APEC members are Technical Inspection Services, Berry & Escott, TMB Patterns, Metaltech PrecisionEngineering and Amitec. As a consortium, APEC delivers a comprehensive range of skills and capabilities across a variety of engineering fields. It also boasts hundreds of years’ combined experience and a joint workforce of more than 200 employees.
Earlier this year, under the banner of APEC, CMC was invited onto the HPC site to meet representatives of Premier Modular, the firm building temporary accommodation units who required a supply of bolts to hold the structures together.
“That was on the Tuesday,” explains Simon. “By the Wednesday we’d produced the specified samples which were delivered by Thursday morning. By the end of the following week we’d received an order for 1,000 units.” – a very speedy response
With construction work at Hinkley Point C picking up pace CMC expects more contracts to come their way and, just as importantly, opportunities for their fellow APEC members.
“We’ve just received an enquiry from a Hinkley supplier that we’ve passed to APEC member Berry & Escott in Bridgwater,” says Gervase. “It’s fantastic to be part of a consortium where its members’ honesty and integrity is rewarded with the ability to win valuable work for each other.”
Simon adds: “To businesses considering the opportunities at Hinkley Point C I would say don’t be despondent and think you can’t win work there, because you definitely can.
“Also, take a lesson from our experience and look at the possibility of forming a consortium of like-minded companies to give you that increased skill base and headcount.
“Thirdly, don’t waste any time! Get yourself signed up to the supplier portal sooner rather than later, and find out when the supply chain team events are taking place to make sure you attend and get up to speed about what’s happening there and what the latest opportunities are.”