Austen Adams, Managing director, Metalcraft

The UK Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, supported by the UK government, is helping develop potential suppliers for the next generation of UK nuclear power plants. One of its programmes: Civil Nuclear Sharing In Growth programme, provides an intensive analysis of many aspects of a business hoping to play a part in the civil nuclear supply chain..

Austen Adams, managing director of Metalcraft, a UK manufacturer of pressure vessels explains why his company signed up for the programme.

"We are well-positioned in expertise and credibility to support the nuclear industry. But it has been a relatively small part of business turnover in the last 10 years: perhaps 5-10% of our sales have been in the nuclear sector," says Adams.

WIll Dalrymple, editor of Nuclear Engineering International asks:

What does Metalcraft want to get out of the CNSIG programme?

Austen Adams: Growth. When we run the numbers, civil nuclear — and these people [from Nuclear Sharing in Growth] have shared their view of the opportunity for growth, broken down to the plant or commodity level — what they expect in demand over the next 20 years, and they have also shared their gap analysis that they have undertaken, the capability and competitiveness of the UK industry, UK and globally, and there is a very clear and apparent opportunity to take part of that.

In practice, this will mean applying and developing our existing expertise to alternative applications and/or repositioning the business to take advantage of opportunities at different stages of the civil nuclear supply chain. For example, much of our current work has focused on waste management and decommissioning, but with more national investment now going into new-build, there may well be appropriate opportunities there too.

NEI: How does it work?

AA: In CNSIG, the first phase is a diagnostics phase that typically lasts about three months, where they help to provide the particular skill sets, and facilitate change. They come on site and work with management to understand the opportunities in operations, to drive process improvements. They review internal policies and procedures for quality control, purchasing, and the inherent risks and opportunities of the supply chain to supply the needs of the nuclear industry; the skill set of employees, the skill set and expertise of management, the business strategy and how it aligns with the nuclear industry. A whole collection of workshops have been run; a couple of them are to complete for the end of the month [January].

At the end of that exercise, a gap analysis is produced that indicates the current state of the business versus future requirements, in terms of the discrete needs of the industry, and then we engage in a three-year programme of work to make those improvements in business, to capitalise as the market expands as industry needs and demands unfold.
I have to say that we have had first-class facilitation from this group in terms of workshops. I was a little sceptical. But they have been of good quality, with high value-add.

NEI: How much does it cost?

AA: We pay for it in benefit-in-kind. We have to provide and meet them with an equal amount of consumed hours, for management and employees. We have to make a commitment that is equivalent to four full-time employees for the duration. No hard cash is exchanged. That’s a pretty neat arrangement.

NEI: Have you had some unease about opening your doors and books so much?

AA: That is one of the difficulties that the team of consultants have been having: getting traction in other companies. We have had to make that leap of faith and trust that they will hold our information to be confidential, that this isn’t some kind of Rolls-Royce internal supply chain project to understand the cost base of suppliers to manage them [CNSIG is administered by Rolls-Royce’s supply development organization].

I personally went through the same mental torture, but took time out to meet the people involved, and got comfortable with the idea that this is not the case — and of course they gave us a number of assurances. In what I have endured so far, nothing has suggested that the information is being centrally collated or leveraged.

Based on an interview with Will Dalrymple, editor of Nuclear Engineering International. Follow Will Dalrymple on Google+