Survival of the fittest

Nasmyth, Nuclear AMRC, Jason Thorpe, Kingsbury, fit for nuclear, Dave Roberts

Precision engineering specialist Nasmyth Group has won approval from new customers in the nuclear sector after successfully completing the Fit For Nuclear assessment. Solutions reports.

Fit For Nuclear (F4N) is a unique diagnostic tool to help manufacturing companies test whether they are ready to enter the nuclear supply chain. Delivered exclusively by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) and partners, the F4N assessment lets companies measure their operations against the standards required to supply the nuclear industry, and take the necessary steps to close any gaps.

Over 90 companies have now completed the online assessment, with over half receiving follow-up support from the Nuclear AMRC's supply chain experts.

Nasmyth is a group of 14 complementary businesses providing precision engineering and logistics to aerospace and other high value sectors. The group managers started to look at the opportunities of nuclear following an annual strategy review. The group gave the lead role to Chinn, a Coventry-based subsidiary with capabilities covering medium to large multi-axis machining, welding and testing.

"Chinn is highly skilled in producing bespoke fabrications from exotic materials and we have extensive experience in areas such as structural work, pressure vessels and industrial gas turbines," says Jason Thorpe, Chinn's operations director. "We have been looking for other sectors to diversify into – primarily nuclear – and wanted to break down the barriers to entry. We identified F4N as a process by which we could gain a recognised qualification and find a way into the sector."

Better prepared than we thought

Chinn's senior managers completed the initial online assessment in late 2011. The immediate assessment rated the firm at level 3 – the second highest level – and its operations were indeed of a high standard, but there was scope for development in some areas to meet nuclear specific requirements.

"It was great to be able to use that as a health check for the business and be able to say that we didn't realise how good we were and how prepared we are," says Mac Fletcher, business development manager for the Nasmyth Group. "The company had gone through a period of change and we'd maybe not appreciated just how beneficial those changes would be."
The next step was a detailed review with lead F4N assessor Dave Roberts, who spent a day at Chinn with all the business managers. Mr Roberts says that Chinn is a great example of the kind of company that can successfully move into the nuclear sector. "It was a pleasure working with Jason and the team," he notes. "The company has shown that, by leadership and focus, significant change can be achieved in a relatively short space of time to meet nuclear requirements."

"Dave was very friendly and helpful in giving us an understanding of what we needed to do," Mr Thorpe adds. "The Fit For Nuclear audit clearly measured our key operational performance processes, allowed us to address the minor gaps we had and tweak our processes and knowledge to satisfy the safety critical requirements of the industry."

Bearing fruit

One of the most challenging issues identified by the F4N analysis was around the additional quality requirements for new products. "We have had to challenge our current gated new product introduction process and establish new requirements to the gates expected within the nuclear sector," says Mr Thorpe. Other areas included quality plans, material testing within the supply chain, and customer controlled inspection points.
As well as receiving tailored support through F4N, Chinn took an active role in other information and support programmes from the Nuclear AMRC.

"We have certainly benefited from taking part in the Nuclear AMRC workshops with Areva and Rolls-Royce," explains Mr Fletcher. "Not only have they helped reinforce our understanding of the safety driven culture that forms the bedrock of the nuclear industry, but also how we as suppliers must play our part in driving that culture through our business."

The process is already bearing fruit for Chinn and the Nasmyth Group. The company has secured a significant partnership with Nuclear Engineering Services (NES), a tier one member of the Nuclear AMRC, and is in advanced discussions with other nuclear customers.

"We are committed to ensuring that our supply chain is Fit For Nuclear and are actively implementing a preferred supplier strategy of robust, sustainable sources with the capability and ability to support the nuclear community," says Richard Evans, supply chain development manager for NES. "In achieving F4N standards, Chinn has secured a position as an integral part of our long-term nuclear future and procurement strategy."
The team at Nasmyth is continuing to enhance the business to meet the required capacity and demands of the nuclear sector. The group is preparing to invest heavily in niche technology, people and process to help it increase its capabilities and support industry growth.

"The journey we have embarked on within this developing sector will certainly bring challenges," Mr Thorpe observes, “but the Fit For Nuclear process has helped us remove the blind spots about working within nuclear manufacturing and has helped our diversification strategy as we go forward."

Machining muscle

The Nuclear AMRC itself has recently added to its machine tool capabilities with the installation of a large 5-axis centre from member company Hermle.

The Hermle C60 U MT was installed at the Nuclear AMRC's research factory at South Yorkshire's Advanced Manufacturing Park during October and joins a growing armoury of state-of-the-art machining resources tailored for nuclear manufacturing needs.

The C60 is an agile machining centre with turning capability and 150 bar through spindle coolant. It is capable of working on parts up to 1.2m diameter by 900mm high and 1.4 tonnes in weight.

"The agility, precision and 5-axis mill-turn capability of the Hermle C60 will help us make real advances in high performance manufacturing for the energy industry," says Stuart Dawson, head of machining at the Nuclear AMRC. "It gives us new capabilities to develop advanced new machining techniques for large components such as pump and valve bodies."

The C60 was provided by Hermle's UK agent Geo Kingsbury Machine Tools while Nuclear AMRC member Nikken Kosakusho is providing toolholding and additional equipment.

But that's not all …

The next major arrival, due before the end of the year, is a StarragHeckert HEC1800. The large horizontal boring machine will provide even greater capacity than the Nuclear AMRC's current HEC1600 and will be used to develop new and innovative machining techniques for nuclear pumps, valves and tube sheets.

Once the basic machine is commissioned it will be enhanced with additional features including Starrag's innovative planetary turning and milling (PTM) technology, which combines an extendable boring spindle with two radial turning tools.

Future acquisitions will bring even greater capabilities for large scale machining. A Soraluce FX12000 floor type milling and boring centre – to be delivered in mid-2013 – will be capable of a wide range of operations on parts of up to 50 tonnes weight and 12m length.

The Nuclear AMRC is also tendering for a heavy-duty vertical turning lathe for delivery in mid-2014. "Like all of our machining resources these new machines will be available for companies to use in collaborative R&D," Mr Dawson adds. "We have the capabilities and capacity to help manufacturers develop innovative and optimised production methods for very large precision parts. As well as our core nuclear market, these capabilities are vital for sectors like oil and gas, renewables and aerospace."

Fit For Nuclear Nasmyth Group Nuclear AMRC

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