Derbyshire-based Penny Hydraulics supplies specialist lifting equipment including vehicle-mounted cranes and loading platforms, goods lifts, lighting winches and specialist equipment for the mining industry. A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam University helped make their expansion into the nuclear industry a highly successful venture.
Some 18 months before starting the KTP, the company had supplied an electro-hydraulic lifting and handling device to Dungeness power station, completed via a third-party contractor. This success helped to identify opportunities to develop their own expertise in nuclear engineering and enable them to tender directly to the UK’s nuclear power stations. With other markets – particularly for mining-related equipment – in decline in the UK, the need to diversify was crucial.
The company approached Sheffield Hallam with a view to setting up a Knowledge Transfer Partnership. Following a series of meetings to establish their requirements, engineering graduate Simon Pykett was identified as the best fit for the project. ’Guidance from Sheffield Hallam in the recruitment process was paramount in ensuring that we acquired the best candidate for the job.’ comments Robin Penny, Penny Hydraulics Managing Director.
Simon set to work on the company’s behalf, networking to establish a presence in the nuclear power community, and arranging audits with commissioning organisations. This led to a successful tender to design and supply equipment capable of handling waste storage cells at Sellafield. Delivering this £160k project involved researching and developing the capability to lift, handle and manoeuvre spent nuclear fuel. Simon took the lead, managing the project and coordinating a team encompassing design, manufacturing and strict quality control. The company subsequently became a quality assured supplier to Sellafield, 12 months ahead of target.
Further contracts in the nuclear industry followed, beginning with a £240k contract to design and install a fuel element debris handling facility at Bradwell power station. The company is now a Tier 2 supplier to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which enables it to tender directly to the Site Licence Companies responsible for decommissioning and clean-up at 17 nuclear sites around the UK.
In addition to brokering the relationship, the University provided Simon with background material on the nuclear industry, as well as engineering support around design calculations, project management and specialist equipment. Jessica Penny, General Manager of Sales at Penny hydraulics comments, ’The University has provided and continues to provide excellent support.’
Simon had a huge impact on Penny Hydraulics’ nuclear business and secured a permanent role on completion of the KTP. He now heads up the Penny Nuclear division, which has expanded rapidly and turns over more than £1m per year. ’Simon has transformed our nuclear business…without the KTP, and therefore Simon’s input, we would most certainly not be in this position.’ comments Richard Short, Sales Director at Penny Hydraulics Ltd.
The company is considering opportunities for future KTPs, seeing them as an ideal opportunity to bring in a talented graduate and nurture them through the business, initially via a KTP but then through a development process lasting four or five years.