Austin Hayes

Austin Hayes apply industrial, protective coating systems by contract, predominantly to the defence, and the oil and gas markets. For the oil and gas market, customers are suppliers of subsea and offshore engineered components. The company has a reputation for exceptional quality and a customer satisfaction rating of 97%.

Optimising coating intervals

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was established to develop and embed new knowledge in order to understand optimal curing conditions for multi-coat epoxy paint systems.

By understanding these various factors and building them in to the company’s coating procedures, the goal was to reduce intervals between coatings, improving turnaround times. This would allow Austin Hayes to gain a competitive edge while maintaining the coating quality and corrosion resistant lifetime of the coated product.

Streamlining processes

The project has fundamentally changed the processing methods used within the company, including the establishment of new working practices. There has been a reduction of re-work due to better understanding of how paint viscosity affects overcoating intervals. The ability to perform coating adhesion tests much sooner than was previously possible saves the company time in the workshop, with new standard operating procedures created by the associate.

The company invested in a new, on-site research and development laboratory, where the associate carried out the bulk of the laboratory work for the KTP. Through two additional MSc student projects, the partnership gained additional knowledge, which contributed significantly to the overall project results.

The company has gained detailed knowledge about optimum curing conditions for paint system, which will enable processes to be streamlined. This ability to achieve faster processing whilst maintaining coating quality will ensure that Austin Hayes is competitive in its offering. The new technology may be protected through patents and copyright.

Julie Bickerdyke, Managing Director at Austin Hayes during the project, said: “The research has been interesting to conduct and very beneficial to the company much earlier than expected. It has been a pleasure to work with the KTP team who have provided useful guidance throughout.”

Industry feedback into teaching

The research involved in the KTP has provided useful teaching concepts, especially for use in the MSc course relating to polymers. The two MSc projects which were undertaken during the KTP enabled the students to be involved in real-life, industry-relevant experiences.

The academic team now have a greater awareness of the role of applied research in the niche area of marine coatings science and technology, with some results published in journals and presented at conferences.

Professor James Guthrie, Academic Supervisor for the majority of the project, said: “I rate KTP programmes highly. The KTP has provided members of staff involved in the programme additional opportunities to experience, appreciate, develop and learn from the real-life technical challenges that are a feature of industry practices. They were able to exchange knowledge with the company staff and participate in the development of practical solutions to such challenges.”

Future plans

The oil and gas market generates much of the demand for subsea systems, and is well-known to fluctuate. Austin Hayes is now well-placed to exploit this knowledge in response to market demand.

Thecompany is considering a further MSc project with the University at an appropriate time.

Find out if a Knowledge Transfer Partnership could help your business by contacting the KTP team at the University of Leeds at ktp@leeds.ac.uk

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