Celebrating and Reflecting on a Decade of Success: The Story of Cumbria O&M Services

Celebrating and Reflecting on a Decade of Success: The Story of Cumbria O&M Services

Celebrating and Reflecting on a Decade of Success: The Story of Cumbria O&M Services

Company Background: 

Ten years ago, in 2014, Cliff Woodman and Dave Garratt laid the groundwork for what would become Cumbria O&M (Operations & Maintenance) Services (COMS). Their journey began earlier when Cliff sought new career opportunities after working in the pharmaceutical industry. Around the same time, Dave, who had recently transitioned to a contract position after a long career at Sellafield, proposed Cliff join his team on a short-term project in the nuclear industry.

Their combined expertise in maintenance and asset care, having jelled from that successful project, sparked the inception of COMS. With the launch of Sellafield Ltd’s Small to Medium Size Enterprise (SME) initiative and a discernible gap in the market, COMS embarked on its maiden project in December 2014, collaborating with Atkins Ltd and Sellafield Ltd on the Site Security Enhancements Programme (SSEP). The addition of Grant Taylor, bringing operational insight, solidified COMS’s foundation.

Milestones and Achievements:

The inaugural contract with Sellafield proved pivotal, propelling COMS towards remarkable growth and garnering business essentials such as ISO quality, safety and environmental certifications and all required security clearances. Amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, COMS showcased resilience by fortifying agile working practices and developing bespoke procedures. Having doubled in size annually for the initial years and again, post pandemic, expanding its workforce and capability, COMS now boasts a team of over 80 experienced nuclear professionals and capable business support team members.

Growth and Expansion:

COMS’s tailored skill sets have seamlessly aligned with the nuanced demands of the nuclear and regulated industry sectors. While opportunities beyond this realm beckon, COMS remains steadfast in its commitment to nuclear civil and nuclear defence projects, prioritising safety and stringent standards. As the industry continues to expand, COMS is a valuable asset, helping to ensure safe, efficient, and responsible nuclear operations plus economic growth in West Cumbria.

Impact on Customers and Community:

COMS distinguishes itself by addressing client challenges within defined scopes, delivering solutions autonomously to minimise disruption to clients and their workforce. The numerous long standing client partnerships in place, repeat contracts and positive references are testament to that and something the team are very proud of.

Beyond business endeavours, COMS actively supports the West Cumbrian community through various local Social Impact initiatives and having contributed circa £40,000 to charitable causes over the past decade. In honour of their 10th anniversary in the Summer of 2024, COMS are pledging all proceeds from a series of events to the Great North Air Ambulance. Engaging in environmental initiatives and offering opportunities for local youth, via work experience and apprenticeships, underscore COMS’s dedication to community welfare.

Employee Perspective:

Employees at COMS appreciate the autonomy and integrated work style that empowers them to build strong relationships with clients. This approach enables them to focus on specific projects and support clients effectively. Team leads engage in local business development, fostering organic growth within their areas of expertise and positive working relationships.

Future Plans:

Eyeing a permanent residence at Westlakes Science Park, near Whitehaven, COMS aims to accommodate future expansion while exploring new avenues within the nuclear market, locally and nationally, including potential partnerships with several industry giants in the pipeline. A recent collaboration with three other Cumbrian Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) — Forth Engineering, React Engineering, and CORE Nuclear Solutions’ – is an exciting and promising development. This joint venture, named ‘Resolve Engineered Solutions’, is a strategic partnership that provides end-to-end engineering services, bringing together the unique strengths and capabilities of each company.

Plans for making inroads to different market segments, more diverse career pathways into COMS, as well as achieving ambitious sustainability goals are also in development.

Reflections on the Journey:

COMS has faced numerous challenges over the years, particularly as a startup in the nuclear industry, known for its high standards of regulatory compliance and thorough procurement processes. The support of, and collaboration with, established companies was crucial in helping COMS navigate these early hurdles, which lay a strong foundation for the rapid and continued growth that followed. Occasional budgetary constraints, project disruptions and national resource shortfalls posed further obstacles along the way. It can also be challenging to disclose some of COMS activities in the public domain to raise awareness of the excellent work the team does, especially when there are so many security and confidentiality aspects relating to projects that need to be considered. The reputation COMS has within its industry as being professional, reliable, skilled and adaptable, has overcome this and enabled its remarkable organic growth.

Focussing on its core offering by outsourcing non-core activities has ensured that their full attention is on client satisfaction and that local specialist resources are on hand to support their growth projections.

Working within the nuclear industry has taught COMS many lessons and that the willingness and ability to adapt to challenges is essential. Clients and projects are all unique. COMS prides itself on its high standards of understanding client requirements. We excel at defining and scoping work, establishing what is required and when. We’re committed to delivering against what has been promised and adapting when unforeseen circumstances arise.

As COMS commemorates its ten-year milestone, the journey thus far serves as a testament to resilience, innovation, and community spirit. With eyes set on the horizon, COMS remains poised to conquer new frontiers, guided by a steadfast commitment to excellence and collaboration.