A supplier consortia created with assistance from the Somerset Chamber’s Hinkley Supply Chain Team showcased its collective expertise at Southern Manufacturing 2016. APEC (Advanced Precision Engineering Consortium) was formed to make the most of opportunities around Hinkley Point C and other large infrastructure projects. While the majority of collaborations have been formed in response to a potential work package request, APEC was driven by a group of proactive companies prior to a specific requirement being identified.
The partnership between high precision engineering firms CAM Machine Components (CMC), Berry & Escott, TMB Patterns and Metaltech Precision has resulted in a one-stop-shop that can deliver a comprehensive range of skills and capabilities across a variety of engineering fields. It boasts over 200 years’ combined experience and a joint workforce of more than 200 employees. The group came together following events linked with Hinkley Point C, where it was identified that a collaboration of multi-skills would be required to handle any one project. Chris Escott from Berry & Escott explains: “Early on it became apparent that the potential size of projects required for Hinkley Point C could be much larger than any one of our companies could handle; it was decided that forming a new consortium would better equip us to manage these opportunities, as well as share knowledge and experience.”
All four companies within the group are on, or have completed, the Fit For Nuclear (F4N) process, ensuring they have the correct procedures and accreditations to be able to work in the demanding nuclear sector. Chris says this process has been pivotal in highlighting areas to strengthen within the businesses. “Since the beginning, we realised that early planning is essential to allow a steady progression towards being Fit For Nuclear so it does not become overwhelming. It’s clear to see that with the new skills and training built up through this process, we are continually improving our business model”.
The F4N process has been a positive learning curve for all of the companies involved. Andrew Riste from Metaltech Precision says: “Nuclear is a totally different culture. Route to market can be very difficult and painstakingly slow. By attending workshops we were introduced to the F4N programme run by NAMRC. This is a must for anyone looking at supplying into this industry. It fine-tunes your internal plans and processes to ensure you are prepared for any potential client coming through your door”.
To businesses considering collaborating for Hinkley or other large opportunities, Bill Colquhoun from TMB Patterns advises, “Make sure each company is diverse enough to support the opportunities. In APEC’s case, each of the four businesses has specific core skills to offer different avenues of engineering talents on projects. Look at what you can offer and get involved.”
Chris adds: “Trying to win contracts or business from any large organisations can be a difficult task if you are perceived as not having the resources to cope. I think you need to take a proactive stance to look at ways to secure new business. For us this has never been just about the nuclear sector, although we do recognise it as a strategic goal, but there are plenty of large scale projects out there that we feel we could facilitate utilising the skills we have in the group”.
The companies involved in APEC are already benefiting from the collaboration by offering their joint expertise for projects when the opportunity arises, as Gervase Winn from CMC explains. “As a group, we are already seeing benefits from the consortium. By talking to each other – something we may not have done previously for fear of competition – we are now exchanging drawings on which to quote. The open approach, whilst initially of some concern, is proving to be the correct one and importantly we are within a whisker of each other when it comes to quoting a price”.
Andrew suggests: “There is a massive opportunity for the supply of machined components into the nuclear industry, not just Hinkley. Since being signed off and our details being placed on the NAMRC website, we have seen a definite increase in tendering opportunities within this sector”.
Chris advises: “Getting your company ready to supply the Hinkley project is quite a lengthy process but it’s definitely not too late to get involved. We would recommend signing up onto the Hinkley supply chain portal to keep up-to-date with all the latest news and events, as this has helped us no end in keeping abreast of opportunities”.
“Although it might appear that potential opportunities for your sector are a long way off, it pays to get involved early on. It can take quite a long time to obtain the right accreditations and, just as importantly, to instil the nuclear safety culture into your business and staff”.
“There are other collaborations that have already been formed off the back of Hinkley and already are proving to be successful. Get registered on the supply chain portal as soon as possible – you have nothing to lose and so much to gain,” urges Andrew.
More information on APEC and F4N can be found here www.apec-uk.com