Sheffield Forgemasters

Sheffield Forgemasters is a heavy engineering firm located in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. The company specialises in the production of large bespoke steel castings and forgings, as well as standard rolls, ingots and bars. The company was nationalised in July 2021, becoming wholly owned by the UK's Ministry of Defence.

Sheffield Forgemasters
Company typeLimited company
HeadquartersSheffield, England, UK
Key people
Gary Nutter (CEO)
Amy Grey (CFO)
Gareth Barker (COO)
ProductsSteel forgings
Steel castings
ServicesSteel Casting and Forgings
OwnerUK Government Investments
ParentMinistry of Defence
Electric arc furnaces steel mill at the Sheffield Forgemaster complex in Brightside. The furnaces are contained in the building at the rear. The tall buildings at the front filter the dust and gases from the furnaces.

History edit

Origins edit

Sheffield Forgemasters traces its origins to a 1750s blacksmith forge, and then Naylor Vickers and Co. founded by George Naylor and Edward Vickers,[1] the predecessor of Vickers Limited.[citation needed] Vickers built the River Don Works in 1865.[2] In 1983, the River Don Works, then part of state-owned British Steel, merged with Firth Brown Steels to create Sheffield Forgemasters.[3]

Early years edit

In the 1980s, Forgemasters manufactured components for the Iraqi Project Babylon "supergun", which it had believed were for a petrochemical refinery. The British investigation exonerated the company's directors,[4] and the incident became known as the Supergun affair.

In 1998, the company was divided and sold to American companies. Allegheny Teledyne bought the aerospace business. Atchison Casting Corp bought the River Don and Rolls businesses,[3] which retained the Sheffield Forgemasters name. Forgemasters was threatened with liquidation in 2002.[4] Atchison went bankrupt in 2003 and was acquired by KPS.[5] In 2005, Graham Honeyman led a successful effort to buy Forgemasters; Honeyman became the company's chief executive[6] and majority shareholder.[7]

Forgemasters experienced a work stoppage from severe flooding in the summer of 2007 when the works were inundated by the River Don. Three weeks after the event, repairs were ahead of schedule and the works were approaching full production.[8]

Civil nuclear market edit

In the late-2000s, Forgemasters made a failed attempt to acquire a 15,000 tonne forging press for manufacturing ultra-large civil nuclear components. In March 2010, the company had secured £140 million in funding over two years,[9] including an £80 million loan from the British government. Plans to acquire the press were ultimately suspended. The government loan was cancelled in June 2010 with a change of government.[10] Forgemasters declined to apply for a new loan in 2011 as foreign competitors were building such presses, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster had caused uncertainty in the civil nuclear market.[11]

Financial difficulties edit

Forgemasters suffered as the British steel industry declined in the early 2010s. It reported its first operating loss, of £9.4 million, since separating from Atchison in the 14 months leading to December 2014. In January 2016, the company announced plans to reduce its workforce from 800 to 700.[12] The company's financial health attracted attention due to its involvement in Britain's nuclear submarine programme.[7][13]

In 2016, Forgemasters obtained a £30 million loan from US bank Wells Fargo. The loan was underwritten by nuclear submarine contractors BAE Systems, Babcock International and Rolls-Royce Marine Power, in an arrangement negotiated by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD); the intervention forestalled Chinese investment and control in the company. In March 2018, the arrangement was due to expire in July 2019; Sky News reported that the underwriters were seeking a replacement to Honeyman, possibly as a precondition for renewal.[7] In July 2018, Honeyman was replaced as chief executive by David Bond from BAE Systems.[6]

Nationalisaton edit

In December 2020, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Forgemasters were in preliminary talks for the nationalisation of the company.[13] In July 2021, the UK government announced that the MoD had launched an offer to take over the company for £2.56 million, and intended to invest a further £400 million over the next decade to support defence outputs. Investment will include a new heavy forge line and flood alleviation measures. The current senior management will run the company with two new non-executive directors.[14][15]

Capabilities edit

The company specialises in forged and cast steel components for the defence, engineering, nuclear, offshore, petrochemical and steel processing industries worldwide.

The company received the American Society of Mechanical Engineers N-stamp accreditation for critical nuclear components in 1992, having produced major components for the Astute-class submarines and the civil nuclear industry, including Sizewell B, the UK's only pressurised water reactor.[16][17] The accreditation lapsed some years later, with the lack of nuclear work. In 2023 the company was working to regain ASME status for heavy forgings and castings to the civil nuclear market, to position itself for anticipated expansion of civil nuclear capacity in the UK.[18]

Sheffield Forgemasters currently has the capacity for pouring the largest single casting (570 tonnes) in Europe. The two forging presses in use can exert a pressure of 4,500 tonnes and 10,000 tonnes on a billet of steel. The 4,500 tonne press was installed in 2010 to replace a 1,500 tonne press which dated back to 1897 and was originally steam powered, and after several upgrades became hydraulically operated.[citation needed]

References edit

  1. ^ "About Us". Sheffield Forgemasters. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  2. ^ "History: 19th century". Sheffield Forgemasters. Archived from the original on 11 May 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b "History: 20th century". Sheffield Forgemasters. Archived from the original on 11 May 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b Tomlinson, Heather (5 January 2003). "You're Fired!". The Independent. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Atchison's Foundry Sell-Off Complete". Foundry Management & Technology. 22 December 2003. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b "New CEO in Place at Sheffield Forgemasters". Forging. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Kleinman, Mark (17 March 2018). "UK industrial giants push for Sheffield Forgemasters overhaul". Sky News. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Forgemasters back with 'never again' warning". Sheffield Telegraph. 14 February 2012. Archived from the original on 14 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Forgemasters place UK at forefront of nuclear power manufacturing". Sheffield Forgemasters. 17 March 2010. Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  10. ^ "Sheffield Forgemasters' £80m nuclear parts loan axed". BBC. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Forgemasters to put on hold nuclear plans". The Yorkshire Post. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Sheffield Forgemasters to cut up to 100 jobs as steel industry decline continues". The Guardian. 19 January 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  13. ^ a b Kleinman, Mark (6 December 2020). "Defence chiefs plot move to take control of nuclear sub steelmaker". Sky News. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  14. ^ "UK Government to acquire Sheffield Forgemasters International Limited". GOV.UK. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  15. ^ "UK Defence Ministry takes over Sheffield Forgemasters". Nuclear Engineering International. 29 July 2021. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  16. ^ "Forgemasters to pump up capabilities?". World Nuclear News. 3 September 2008. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  17. ^ Nathan, Stuart (22 October 2013). "Power struggle: developing the UK's nuclear manufacturing capacity". The Engineer. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Sheffield Forgemasters set to regain key nuclear accreditation". World Nuclear News. 11 December 2023. Retrieved 12 December 2023.

External links edit