Graham Hart (Process Technology) Ltd, an expert in the development, design and manufacture of high-integrity heat and mass transfer and specialised pressure equipment, has since its establishment in 1973 cleverly blended traditional family-firm values with the highest levels of design and manufacturing skills and machining technology.
The company – which is headed up by managing director Chris Hart, the son of the company’s founder and chairman, Graham - steadfastly stands by the principles of supplying ‘safe’ products (‘equipment that is intrinsically safe is, of course, paramount in the pressure industry’) and in the most ‘professional and innovative’ manner.
It has constantly done this by blending class-leading pressure system design and development expertise with cutting edge manufacturing equipment and processes to provide clients with a complete service, from process design through to full equipment supply.
In every case of capital investment, says Chris Hart, the necessity is to install technology that is truly fit for purpose. And it’s a policy that certainly applies to the company’s two most recent CNC machine investments - a Hartford double-column machining centre and a Hankook vertical boring and turning machine (VTL), both supplied by T W Ward CNC Machinery (Ward CNC), the exclusive UK distributor for these machine tool manufacturers.
‘We’re machining largely one-offs, so our prime concern is always to ensure we get each job right first time, every time using selected machines for specific tasks,’ he says.
‘Much of our machining is based on the production of holes – sometimes thousands – as well as straightforward milling, plus vertical turning and boring, in Duplex and other exotic materials such as titanium, hastelloy and stainless, as well as high nickel stainless steels – and any mistakes would cost dearly.
‘So, we must have the right tools for the job; machines that we know will consistently produce high-class results on projects that can have lead times extending to 24 months.’
It was, indeed, by following a company policy of, as Chris Hart says, ‘always looking for better ways to do things’ that prompted the move into new CNC machines from Ward CNC (milling and drilling on the Hartford machining centre) coupled with the need to bring in-house the machining (vertical turning and boring with the Hankook VTL) of rings and discs of up to two metres diameter.
‘We knew, of course, that we needed a machining centre of suitable capacity,’ he says, ‘and there were lots of machines available, but the Hartford’s robust design based on a cast iron frame stood out: in fact, it was adjudged as the most well-built machine that was affordable to us.’
The machine has since 2009 been consistently producing a myriad of holes of between 6 mm to 90 mm diameter and up to 250 mm deep. ‘Every hole must be accurate in terms of dimension, parallelism and perpendicularity, and the Hartford consistently delivers on all counts.’
It was the overall performance record of the machine and of Ward CNC’s service and support – coupled with a growing awareness of the levels of opportunity made evident by the Nuclear AMRC’s Fit for Nuclear (F4N) Programme – that prompted the investment in the Hankook VTL.
‘A new VTL had been on our wish list for some time, to replace an ageing manual machine, but F4N finally spurred us,’ says Chris Hart. ‘The Progamme made us take a detailed look at the business, from sales through to delivery, and identify where we could achieve gains. As a result, we not only created a value stream map (and a future stream map) but importantly the exercise also allowed us to maximise our capacity and reduce lead times.
‘Indeed, the Programme has been having a positive impact on all areas of the business and, since January 2014, we have maintained an on-time in full delivery score of over 99 per cent.’
F4N helped identify the need for effective and efficient vertical turning and boring capacity, to enable the company to maintain a high level of control over the machining quality of a range of components.
The Hankook VTC-160/E offers both swing and turning diameters up to two metres and a maximum turning height of 1.4 metres, plus a 45 kW main spindle motor and an 18.5 kW driven tool motor, as well as a 24-tool station carousel offering 12 tools each for turning and milling.
‘We looked at another machine of a different brand but found that not only was the Hankook of a higher build quality but that we were also more confident in Ward CNC and the overall package it offered,’ he adds. ‘We had some specific non-standard requirements that went beyond the model specification – such as a larger diameter table - and Ward CNC was readily able to accommodate these.
‘The Hankook has a 1.8 metres table (as opposed to the standard 1.6 metres) and this enables us to process workpieces weighing 10,000 kgs which is ideal for much of our larger diameter equipment.
‘Much of our work includes tube sheets used in TEMA and TEMA-type tubular heat exchangers that range from 100 mm shell diameters and up to weights of 50 tonnes.’
The company’s extensive operation in Bradford, West Yorkshire employs 40 or so people, including five apprentices ‘who are fundamental to the company’s future’. It achieves a turnover of around £3 million by supplying world-class products to the energy, petrochemical, process and other industries.
In addition to its ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 accreditations, the company has been approved by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to use the ‘U’ symbol on vessels manufactured to ASME VIII Div 1, as well as holding SEML (China) accreditation. Also, the F4N Programme has spurred interest from abroad, as well as discussions with process industries in Saudi Arabia to complement invitations to quote for Hinkley Point C work.
‘The company is a leader – not a follower – and the adoption of groundbreaking technologies has kept us at the forefront of this business,’ Chris concludes.
‘We’ve created a comprehensive, technology-based design and manufacturing facility – one that is experiencing major growth through extensive investment in new technologies and client-driven R & D – with expert teams of process and mechanical engineers, but our principles of operation haven’t changed at all. You could say that Graham Hart (Process Technology) Ltd is one of the best-kept secrets in British industry.’