In the last year, Rhino Doors has undergone significant expansion, with the creation of a new parent company, Rhino Engineering Group, and two new specialist subsidiaries, Rhino Site Systems and Rhino HySafe.
In this instalment of Spotlight on Team Rhino, we’re focusing on Rhino HySafe, which produces Ultra-Fast Explosion Relief products for the global hydrogen market, and its Project General Manager, Andrew Davies, to find out about his career journey with Rhino and his ambitions for the growth of Rhino HySafe.
You’ve been with Rhino for quite a long time now, so tell us how it all began and the different roles you have had throughout your time with the company.
I arrived at Rhino Doors as an engineering apprentice in 2005. Although my course was in general engineering, I decided to specialise in electrical engineering and I completed my apprenticeship in 2010. During this period, I spent most of my time travelling the UK, installing and wiring our products, but I was also trained in the manufacturing process.
Following this, I worked as a site supervisor for several years, before transitioning into a project engineering role, where I was able to learn about design principles and project management techniques. I’ve had a number of different roles at Rhino, and these wide-ranging experiences have equipped me with a strong set of engineering skills.
While I was working in project engineering, we were acquired by the current investors, and the organisation set out an aggressive growth strategy. As part of this, the new owners recognised the need for an experienced management team and I was fortunate enough to be offered sponsorship to complete my MBA. While I was completing this degree, I also worked in the sales department, obtaining direct sales and marketing experience, before I was offered the opportunity to lead the installation and servicing wing of the business.
Since completing my MBA, I have transitioned into the role of Project General Manager for Rhino HySafe, which is an exciting new part of my journey with the company.
Given the broad career you have had to date at Rhino, you must have seen some significant changes in the business. What do you consider to be the major changes?
I’ve witnessed many changes during my time with the business, but the most significant was our transition from Rhino Systems to the Rhino Engineering Group. The substantial new investment allowed us to move from our old premises into a much larger, better equipped manufacturing and design facility.
This change, as well as the commencement of the aggressive growth strategy, helped to motivate the workforce. You could feel a new buzz within the organisation and a real sense of excitement for what the future might hold.
We now find ourselves at the start of a new era of change, becoming a group of companies, which I feel excited and privileged to be a part of.
What does your current role as Project General Manager at Rhino HySafe involve, and what does Rhino HySafe specialise in?
Rhino HySafe has been established to provide Ultra-Fast Explosion Relief products and resisting components of protection structures, aimed at reducing the risk and consequence of fire and explosion at hydrogen refuelling stations and across the wider hydrogen supply chain.
As Project General Manager, it’s my responsibility to take the original design concept from theory to a marketable product. This involves thoroughly testing all products using the latest Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulation software, and undertaking a series of explosion trials to prove performance of the products.
This process requires the input of organisations and individuals who understand the unique characteristics and intricacies presented during hydrogen explosion scenarios. My role involves the coordination of all activities, liaising with different people and organisations, and reporting to ensure we adhere to the requirements of the SMART Cymru grant we received.
In addition to typical project management processes, I am also heavily involved in the marketing and commercial activities which are critical to bringing a new product to market.
Tell us a bit more about the ongoing project with Rhino HySafe.
The primary project we’re working on is Project UFER, a research-led project which involves the development and prototype testing of Ultra-Fast Opening Explosion Relief panels and doors for the hydrogen industry.
Its pedigree stems from the experience of key Rhino personnel, who have significant experience with blast-related protection systems for the onshore and offshore oil and gas industries.
How is funding from SMART Cymru supporting the development of HySafe’s products?
An R&D project of this scale is a costly endeavour. The funding we received from SMART Cymru has been critical, allowing us to expedite the project and hit the ground running.
In addition to funding, the exposure afforded to us through working with SMART Cymru has also proven invaluable.
How do you see the company and its product offering developing in the years to come?
The ultra-fast, stainless steel explosion relief panels being developed are ideally suited to be combined with other Rhino products. I can clearly see how these products can be incorporated within our wider door offering, and Rhino’s profiled corrugated wall system can also be used for the blast and fire resisting structures of any enclosure.
Extending beyond the protection of process critical structures, hydrogen blast resisting doors and windows for any manned shelters and muster areas could also become a future offering.
We are no longer simply a door designer and manufacturer. Rhino is a supplier of a wide range of portals and barriers for protection from hazardous environments, so the opportunities for us to develop our product offering are wide-ranging. Watch this space!
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