When it comes to the UK nuclear sector over the past century, there are few constants. Politically, policy changes are commonplace up to the establishment of Great British Nuclear. Technologically, we are shifting towards SMRs and other innovations which make energy production in the sector more sustainable. Even Societally public perceptions of nuclear changed, not least as war in Europe drove the need for domestic energy production. UK nuclear remains a shifting dynamic and an evolving operational field.

It might surprise readers that one of the few constants in the UK nuclear sector’s metaphorical, atomic structure, can be found in Greater Manchester. Bury is a market town on the banks of the River Irwell, home to a population of circa 200,000 residents. Geographically, it is 10 miles from the centre of Manchester, 117 miles away from Sellafield and 225 miles from Hinkley Point C. What its Wikipedia entry won’t disclose, however, is that it is also home to Exyte Hargreaves.

From pedal bikes to HVAC systems

Henry Hargreaves was a prominent local businessman and entrepreneur. His vision helped turn a business from building bicycles to one of the most active manufacturing hubs in the North of England. As the UK took its first steps into the nuclear sphere 70+ years ago, one of the only businesses with the guile and skill to craft steelwork into a HVAC system worthy of performing to nuclear safety requirements was Hargreaves.

More than 150 years after the creation of their first pedal bike, it would hopefully please our founder to know that the original manufacturing infrastructure built in the 1870’s set the company on its path to being the UK nuclear sector’s specialist in HVAC so many years later.

The key to longevity at Hargreaves

Here are some interesting facts about our manufacturing facility. The factory itself is around 8,000 square metres. It is certainly the largest of its kind in our sector. We process on average 450 tonnes of steel every year. There are also 30 fabrication machines in situ used by our large team of specialist operatives.

This is the truly important thing to remember about manufacturing at Exyte Hargreaves. Several thousand feet of floor space is just empty air on its own. A large tonnage of steel is just metal if left in a raw form. And even the most expensive fabrication machinery cannot work the raw materials of an HVAC system without support.

Investing in our people

The main reason why we’ve been a part of the UK’s nuclear fabric for so long isn’t due to our building or its technology. It’s because of a reputation built by our people.

Our Manufacturing team blends a wealth of nuclear HVAC experience with some of the industry’s brightest young prospects. Our longest-serving employee is Production Controller, Barry Collingwood, whose tenure stretches almost half a century. Barry has been a part of every single nuclear project undertaken by Exyte Hargreaves. Jordan Birtwistle is a former apprentice and now Production Manager. Several more of Jordan’s apprentice contemporaries in the 2010’s now occupy supervisory or management roles, and they are obvious success stories from our Engineering Young Talent (EYT) programme. There’s also Donald Whitehead, Saf Hasan, Taylor Keenan-Garrod, Niall Birkitt  and Rhys Renzulli who are learning their trade as part of our 2023 apprentice intake.

It’s a story of people investment, talent development and individual progression which defines the staying power of Exyte Hargreaves. Our new apprentices are learning from our past apprentices. Young professionals are guided and mentored by time served welders and fabricators. The system works and helps to ensure that the knowledge and skills of today isn’t lost by the operatives of tomorrow.

Exyted to be a constant in Great British Nuclear

There is a people challenge of course and its one we’ll continue to address through recruitment and apprenticeships. It’s a similar talent conundrum faced by many construction businesses.

However, our manufacturing strategy is not simply motivated by having enough people to deliver the dreams of Great British Nuclear. There are Quality, Safety and a host of other factors which feed into that equation.

Remaining at the Nucleus of Nuclear

There is a simple aspiration at the core of the strategy. That Hargreaves remains number one in the minds of our clients and can continue to be a mainstay of the nuclear sector for years and decades to come.

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