EDF Energy Somerset Chamber of Commerce SWMAS Business West
  1. “We’re thrilled to have supported such a high-profile project”

    June 29, 2018

    For many, the kudos that comes with being attached to the Hinkley Point C project and its suppliers delivers far reaching benefits underpinning their business development aspirations.

    Yeovil-based IT solutions provider CETSAT has enjoyed steady growth since it was founded in 2001, and even opened a London office 10 years ago in order to properly service its burgeoning client base in the capital.

    Further Somerset satellite offices followed, including Bridgwater and Taunton, and when the HPC project began to gather momentum CETSAT’s management team registered their interest in becoming a supplier.

    Through various networking events, organised by EDF Energy and Somerset Chamber of Commerce, in 2014 CETSAT was introduced to the fledgling consortium created to supply catering services to HPC, Somerset Larder.

    “Today Somerset Larder has about 200 employees, but in the early days the team was only a handful of people,” said Mark Grindrod, Operations Director at CETSAT.

    “Once they found out about our capabilities, including our services developing bespoke software, they engaged us to develop an order processing procurement platform which they needed to help with their HPC tender.”

    The software provided by CETSAT allowed the various suppliers that make up the Somerset Larder consortium to upload their stock availability – be it dairy produce, meat or baked goods – to give full stock visibility for the HPC-based team to order whatever they needed.

    Somerset Larder has since gone on to be one of the HPC supply chain’s big success stories, with the team at CETSAT supporting it throughout its progression.

    “It’s been really fun to be a part of,” continued Mark. “As they (Somerset Larder) have grown, so too has the amount of work and services we provide to them.”

    In addition to the original procurement software platform CETSAT has also provided a range of IT solutions and infrastructure capabilities including network cabling, firewall installation, CCTV and servers.

    Just recently Somerset Larder opened its brand new Central Production Kitchen off-site near Junction 24 where it prepares even more meals to meet demand from the rising number of people working at HPC, with CETSAT on hand to make sure all the IT systems were in place and ready to go.

    At peak construction there will be a workforce of 5,600 people to feed and already over 3,000 are working at the HPC site each day.

    “Somerset Larder is a fantastic success story,” said Mark, “and we are thrilled to have been able to support such a high-profile project.”

    “There’s no doubt that due to the success of our London office there was a perception here that we weren’t interested in working with smaller clients in the South West,” he said.

    “However, nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst we have done very well from our London office we are proud to be a Somerset business and we take our experience working for large banks and insurance firms on projects like Canary Wharf and apply those skills to our many clients throughout the South-West.”

    He added: “Our involvement with Somerset Larder has definitely helped us to combat that perception and prove we are just as committed to our local clients as to our London business evidenced by the significant contracts we are winning with South West businesses.”

    And Mark’s advice for businesses eyeing the HPC project for new business opportunities?

    “It’s all about building relationships,” he said. “Engage with the Somerset Chamber and Supply Chain Team and get yourself noticed. Also, don’t go looking for quick wins, because there aren’t any really, so look to be in it for the long haul and never lose sight of what you want to achieve.”

     


  2. Astron Fire and Security wins eight-year contract at HPC

    May 21, 2018

    A common misconception about the vast HPC project is that you have to be a huge business in order to win contracts at the site.

    Whilst it’s true that a handful of very large companies, a group known as the “tier one contractors”, are the main operators at HPC, there are no barriers whatsoever to local SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises) winning major contracts at the site.

    One such firm is Astron Fire and Security, a tight-knit team of experienced fire and security systems specialists led by Greg van Laun and based in Portbury near Bristol.

    Greg ran a successful security systems business with 3000 Clients in his native South Africa before emigrating to the South West 20 years ago and starting Astron in 2010.

    Since then Astron has grown steadily, building a portfolio of domestic and commercial clients throughout the region providing ongoing maintenance and “troubleshooting” cover for fire alarm/extinguisher, CCTV, access control and intruder alarm systems, as well as nurse call and staff attack alarms.

    “We have six directly-employed engineers, and a pool of trusted sub-contractors we use as and when required,” explained Greg, adding: “We only employ the very best, most experienced and knowledgeable people, with great communication skills, meaning our clients know they are always receiving the very best service possible.”

    Six years ago, Greg signed his business up to the online HPC supply chain portal, registering his interest in being a supplier to the Hinkley project.

    At the same time, he joined the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, and made it a priority to attend as many “meet the suppliers” events and other networking opportunities as possible.

    “I have to admit I did wonder if Astron would be too small to win work at HPC,” he said, “but everyone was really supportive and encouraging so I stuck at it as I could see there could be good opportunities for us.”

    Then, in 2016, Greg was introduced to the Directors of HOST, the company responsible for running the two world-class accommodation campuses for HPC workers and visitors.

    After travelling to 72 events across Somerset and attending 37 one to one meetings, earlier this year, Astron signed an eight-year contract with John West (Contractors) Ltd. to provide round the clock fire and security systems maintenance services at the HOST campus facilities – one adjacent to HPC itself and another in Bridgwater.

    “Most of the contracts we sign are for a year,” continued Greg. “so, to win a contract for the next eight years is a remarkable development for us and will play a huge part in our ongoing business growth plans in the South West.”

    In addition to the financial benefits of winning the work – Greg and his team estimate the contract will be equivalent to about a fifth of their annual turnover – they also believe the prestige that comes with being a supplier to one of the most high-profile and security-conscious construction projects on the planet will help their wider business ambitions.

    “The fact we have been selected to do this work over our larger competitors is a huge endorsement of the skill, experience, all-round ability of our team, and our commitment to the local area” said Greg.

    “It’s by no means a simple task to win work at HPC,” he added, “but our experience should give any South West business owners, no matter what size their company is, confidence that if they are good enough then the opportunities are there.”

    Greg said: “My advice to anyone thinking of winning work at HPC is to get out there and do the work meeting people, making key contacts and generally getting your face seen by the decision makers.”

    He added: “I can’t praise the Somerset Chamber and Supply Chain Team highly enough. Their proactive approach and excellent focus on matching the larger contractors with local suppliers has really helped us and, no doubt, countless others.”

     

     


  3. “The rest of the world is watching progress at HPC as the UK take strides forward in nuclear new build. It’s hugely exciting to be part of that”

    April 12, 2018

    Before a single blade of grass was moved at Hinkley Point C, extensive pre-planning work was undertaken to ensure logistics for the site could be delivered safely and effectively. The sheer scale and complexity of logistics required is phenomenal.

    This is where the experience and local knowledge of North Somerset based Osprey came in to provide marine and heavy logistics advance consultation to look at the challenges related to delivering large and heavy items to the site.

    That was over 6 years ago, and today Portishead headquartered Osprey are still engaged with HPC completing live operations under NEC3 contract to Tier 1 & 2 suppliers. For the past 18 months they’ve been involved with port logistics at Avonmouth Dock ensuring large components are safely funnelled into the holding areas ahead of being installed offshore – a task easier said than done.

    “Our Projects team have handled thousands of tonnes of structural steelwork for the 490 metre long jetty that Costain are building in the Bristol Channel. When complete it will accept marine deliveries of aggregate used in the production of nuclear quality concrete” explains John O’Connor, Commercial Director at Osprey.

    This work requires highly specialised assets, all of which Osprey owns within its UK fleet, including: heavy lift barges, four heavy-lift cranes and over 100 axle lines of SPMT (Self Propelled Modular Transporter). Behind the equipment are experienced project managers, engineers and skilled operators. It’s a unique package which differentiates Osprey.

    Huge steel jetty piles, some weighing over 140 tonnes have arrived by ship from all over the world which Osprey have unloaded and positioned in a muster port facility in Avonmouth Docks ready for sequenced dispatch.

    “Many items we have then re-loaded into specially designed frames onboard delivery vessels, some items we lifted into water for float-away delivery. Long before the equipment arrived we completed the processes required to correctly import the shipments into the UK; this involved consultation, licencing and finally Customs clearance.” he said.

    A range of specialist marine vessels are being used by Costain in the construction works including three jack-up barges, delivery mulitcats, supporting towage and crew transfer craft.

    “The most innovative asset is the 8 leg jack-up barge ‘WaveWalker’. She is specifically designed to work in the challenging intertidal zone allowing the connection from land to sea to be made.” John said.

    Osprey have a permanent presence inside Bristol Port, the team has worked alongside Costain and The Bristol Port Company to load out and deliver materials during the mobilisation and operational phases.

    “We’ve been an operator inside the port for over two decades, this type of work is a natural fit for us. The jetty is a unique part of the project; whilst it’s outside the main site boundary it’s very much an extension of site in all respects. It’s required a mix of land and marine expertise and a fully integrated approach across multiple teams.” John said.

    The jetty will form a vital marine delivery point, receiving about 80% of the total aggregates volume by sea, removing heavy transport from the local road network.

    Being a local supplier has allowed Osprey to be responsive and flexible during delivery of their services, reacting to changes in programme and requirements.

    “In our experience of complex projects, no matter how detailed the planning, there will always be challenges to overcome and opportunity for innovation. A practical knowledge driven approach and ‘can do’ attitude is required, it’s often where significant positive gains can be found,” he said.

    Osprey have been able to deploy a broad array of their assets including heavy cranes and SPMT.

    “Our SPMT can move virtually any large or heavy item. Synchronised 360-degree steering allows precise control of movements including side-shift, diagonal movement and even a full carousel rotation.” explains John.

    The operator works from a safe position using wireless controls, this is especially useful where there is restricted space to operate.

    “The SPMT have a hydraulic suspension system which allows heavy loads to be picked up and placed without the use of a mobile crane. This can reduce cost, risk and provide greater flexibility. We’ve found that once the client sees our equipment operating they realise it can be applied to other upcoming work.” adds John

    Not restricted to port operations, Osprey have delivered very large items into HPC by road. Advance route consultancy has been given and bespoke transport configurations built to overcome potential pinch points and safely pass sensitive site structures.

    “On public roads minimising disruption is important because when you deliver to Hinkley you are representing the project. We’ve worked closely with the road authorities, Police and the Site Operations Freight team to achieve this. Our interactions with the public during transport phases has been really positive…often people are just interested to hear about what we’re up to.” John adds.

    “Once you arrive on site there are many stakeholders with overlapping interests so when moving exceptional loads everyone’s needs have to be accounted for. To see it work well has been very satisfying.” said John.

    It’s often been said that no one company can build Hinkley, its referred as a mega project for good reason. Partnering is a theme which has been encouraged by the Hinkley Supply Chain Team at events long before work commenced on site. Linking with partners is common practice for Osprey and they’ve taken an active approach here when delivering packages for Hinkley.

    “There’s vast expertise in Somerset, we’ve drawn on our local partnerships to strengthen our offering. Our relationship with Bristol Port and others locally span decades, stable relationships release value to the project for obvious reasons,” says John

    Tier 1 & 2 contractors have seen a range of benefits come from businesses coming together. Local knowledge can be leveraged and the supply chain is simplified for the main contractor meaning that often progress can be accelerated.

    “Where our partnerships have worked especially well is where the whole delivery team understands the specific work package and service levels – where needed we adapt to fit. Agreeing a common approach from the start is important whether it be service, quality or behaviour of personnel.” he adds.

    Osprey works with a broad range of clients on diverse and challenging projects, providing logistics, consultancy, engineering solutions. The company has a long, successful track record as a land and marine contractor in areas such as the Power Generation and Oil & Gas sectors working in power stations and delivering equipment offshore. Such experience requires skills which are directly transferrable to the Nuclear newbuild sector.

    Osprey owner and CEO Nigel Fletcher said “As a company we’ve developed in line with market requirements, the sectors we work in normally require detailed front-end support. Often we face a challenge alongside the client and engineer a solution together.” says Nigel, adding: “In recent years we’ve invested significantly in new assets; combining these with our knowledge means we can deliver an outstanding service for HPC, our ongoing work packages are of significant value.”

    In common with other South West businesses HPC represents a significant opportunity for Osprey, who have worked hard at engaging with the site’s Supply Chain Team, including attending networking events, seminars and generally keeping up to date with developments affecting the Tier 1 contractors and key people within HPC.

    The pathway to contractual engagement can require a committed approach, a long-term view and the drive to be part of the Hinkley team. At Osprey this has required real investment far in advance of any work being awarded.

    “There are many opportunities, some we have been tracking for years. It takes hard work to realise them but we’ve proven they do exist.” Nigel adds. “We’ve developed our skills and expertise within the company by growing our team, it’s about being ready and a good fit for the project so you can deliver on your commitments. We’re certain Hinkley will provide a lasting legacy for Somerset companies and enhance the future for Osprey.” said Nigel.

    As to whether John would offer any advice to Somerset businesses still seeking their first engagement on the project.

    “I’d say, remain up to date, connected and be visible. Most of all though, be patient – the project has natural stages and decision milestones so while you may consider your company to be a suitable supplier, you have to appreciate the client may not be ready or have developed their team to a stage where they can engage with you yet.” he continues.

    “The rest of the world is watching progress at HPC as the UK take strides forward in nuclear newbuild. It’s hugely exciting to be part of that. We’ve had opportunity to show what we do best and I’d encourage other businesses to get involved and do the same” John concludes.


  4. “The knowledge-gain from working at HPC has been priceless to our business”

    November 14, 2017

    For almost 80 years Bridgwater-based construction firm RK Bell has served public and private sector clients throughout the South West, earning itself a reputation for providing excellent services which today include civil engineering, plant hire and surfacing work.

    When Hinkley Point C (HPC) was first talked about RK Bell’s management knew it presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the business, and not just in financial terms.

    “We went to the very first meetings, eight or nine years ago,” says Nick Bell, managing director of the business his grandfather started back in 1941. “We were appointed to the first steering groups set up to look at how local firms could benefit from the project, so we’ve been very involved right from the start.”

    He adds “Apart from winning contracts, which has been a massive boost to our company, the knowledge-gain we have acquired both through working alongside Tier 1 contractors and also through improvements to our own internal processes to comply with the site’s regulations, has been nothing short of priceless.”

    Recognising there were more opportunities if “strength in numbers” could be shown, RK Bell was one of the first to form a strategic partnership with complementary businesses, in this case including a Tier 1 contractor, Skanska, creating the Somerset Infrastructure Alliance (SIA) – a collaborative model which has since been replicated by many more consortiums.

    Today the SIA is involved in ongoing work in and around HPC, including civil engineering and surfacing projects for what’s called “associated development sites” – essentially delivering the vital infrastructure projects, such as the park and ride in Cannington and road improvements in Bridgwater.

    “To be able to work equally, side by side, with a Tier 1 contractor like Skanska is a huge boost to us,” continues Nick. “It shows the level of expertise we have within RK Bell, and that we are improving all the time.”

    Part of that continuous improvement journey came six years ago, when RK Bell achieved ISO 9001 accreditation – demonstrating that the firm was committed to quality management throughout the organisation, a requirement for winning work at HPC.

    “We are also now ‘nuclear approved’,” continues Nick, “proving we are completely focused on raising the bar regarding the skills and qualifications our people have, particularly relating to health and safety, and also on how we can improve our business further.

    “Another significant development is that the length of contracts we have won with HPC have given us the confidence to invest more in young people and to start our very first apprenticeship scheme to create the next generation of highly skilled and motivated construction workers.”

    Nick says RK Bell has been steadily growing its workforce to around 50 current employees, including a separate team dedicated to the SIA and HPC, meaning none of the firm’s core customers’ projects suffer.

    He adds: “In addition, we have recently seen a 25 per cent uplift in personnel working for HPC.”

    Nick has some good advice for businesses aspiring to win contracts at HPC, where construction activity is gathering pace by the day.

    “It sounds obvious, but you’ve got to be in it to win it,” he says. “The work’s not going to come looking for you, so get yourself registered on the supply chain portal and start telling people what you’re capable of.

    “Next, be prepared to ‘walk the walk’. In other words, if you say you can deliver something you’d better make sure that’s true, as there are plenty of your competitors who’ll be waiting to grab opportunities.

    “Finally, you must commit for the long-term, and be prepared to face any challenges head-on and in a collaborative way with other contractors.”

    He added: “HPC has helped us in many ways, not least by raising the bar in terms of a skilled workforce, safer working environment and increased profile, so the rewards are definitely there if you’re prepared to put in the hard work.”


  5. “We work as a coherent, united organisation focused on collaboration”

    October 31, 2017

    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.”


    Information

    • The Industrial Partners Supplier Steering Group

      EDF Energy and the Somerset Chamber of Commerce have recognised that for the Somerset and South West businesses to take full advantage of the opportunity to supply goods and services during the construction of HPC, there is a need for collaborative working between NNB HPC as the client, the major Read more →

    • The Site Operations Supplier Steering Group

      Operating since October 2013 this group, co-chaired by EDF Energy and Somerset Chamber has been briefing targeted suppliers on a series of site operations work packages at Hinkley C. These work packages service the needs of the construction teams that will build the power station – they include catering, campus Read more →

    • The South West Hinkley Supply Chain Team

      EDF Energy continue to fund the Hinkley Supply Chain Team managed by Somerset Chamber of Commerce which is identified as the single point of contact for both the regional supply chain seeking contract opportunities and main contractors seeking capable suppliers. Some 4000+  suppliers are registered on the portal with their Read more →

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