New measures to support smaller businesses

A collaborative drive is under way to shape proposals for increasing the access of smaller businesses to the £1.36 billion spent each year with the supply chain across the NDA estate.  

The NDA, along with its Site Licence Companies, main contractors and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will be developing practical measures over the coming months.  

The initiative arose from a workshop in Manchester, attended by around 60 delegates representing a range of organisations including the NDA, SMEs, business support groups, Site Licence Companies (SLCs) and some Tier 2 contractors.  

Discussion focused around the challenges facing SMEs wishing to access decommissioning opportunities including geographic limitations, difficulties of competing against existing relationships, lack of manpower resources for lengthy tender processes, complex and time-consuming nuclear protocols, regulatory procedures and impenetrable nuclear language.    

Noting these challenges, delegates heard from John Stobbart, Managing Director of Stobbarts Ltd, who had started out as a self-employed contractor and built his Cumbrian civil maintenance business, employing 250 people and providing services to Sellafield, over more than 20 years. Mr Stobbart said one of the greatest strengths of small companies such as Stobbarts was the capacity to remain flexible and responsive to clients’ needs.  

Delegates then developed a series of principles covering the use of SMEs and went on to suggest a wide range of possible improvements.  

Supply Chain Development Output from NDA Estate SME Tier 2 workshop September 2011 (1Mb)

Among the numerous suggestions were:

  • A standardised, transferable pre-qualification questionnaire for the estate
  • A single web portal containing providing information on tender opportunities, future procurement plans, guidance on procedures, contact details, etc
  • Possible formation of an SME board
  • Cross-estate supply chain event
  • Further workshops
  • Web-based questionnaire to further seek views of SMEs  

Ron Gorham, the NDA’s Head of Supply Chain Optimisation, said:

“We were pleased to hear a wide range of views expressed by SMEs at the workshop, we acknowledge that some of the frustrations of working in the decommissioning sector, but I was extremely impressed at the positive suggestions that came forward.  

“We all need a healthy supply chain as our suppliers are key to delivering the clean-up and decommissioning mission. The SME community has specific needs but suggested possible interventions look as though they will deliver benefits to all and hence improve the attractiveness of the civil nuclear sector but also provide a vital springboard to other nuclear work regionally, nationally and internationally.  

The workshop followed on from an earlier one-day event in July which, for the first time, brought together the whole NDA estate’s main Tier 2 contractors with SLCs and NDA to discuss possible strategies for providing additional support for SMEs. The event looked at the way in which many individual Tier 2 contractors were already informally supporting SMEs, but acknowledged that an NDA estate-wide approach was likely to prove more effective.  

The Government has challenged all public organisations to provide wider access to their markets for SMEs. Among measure envisaged by the Government are cutting away unnecessary red tape and improving transparency in commissioning.    

Meanwhile, the NDA’s recently published Strategy for 2011-2014 recognises the importance of a robust supply chain, and responses during the public consultation period indicated that support was particularly needed for SMEs.  

Volunteers are now being sought to assist with work on the practical design of some of the initiatives. Contact: samantha.dancy@nda.gov.uk