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Ei Electronics Manufacturing Director, Jim Duignan, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin and Ei Electronics CEO Mick Guinee at last Friday’s announcement.

Ei Electronics leading the way for Irish manufacturing

In the wake of last week’s jobs announcement, Owen Ryan spoke with Ei Electronics CEO Mick Guinee about the company’s evolution and expansion

THE TAOISEACH visited Shannon last Friday, officially opening Ei Electronics new Group Headquarters, with the company planning to hire another 200 people over the coming year.

The development comprises a 10,000m2 facility, with additional manufacturing capacity along with Research & Development and office space. It underpins its long held strategy of maintaining 100% of manufacturing in Shannon, in addition to the co-location of other key functions on a single site.

The Taoiseach was full of praise for one of Shannon’s greatest industrial success stories.

“I’m pleased to be here to witness first-hand the continued expansion of Ei Electronics, one of Ireland’s largest and most successful manufacturing and electronic companies. For over five decades the company has made a remarkable contribution to Shannon and the Mid-West region and its ambitious plans for future growth and job creation are very welcome.”

“Ei Electronics is an outstanding Irish-owned company creating solutions with a global reach and I commend Michael (Guinee, the company’s CEO) and his team on today’s milestone announcement.”

The company had a turnover last year of around €320 million and has 1,100 employees around the world, the vast majority of them in Shannon.

It has been fully Irish owned since Mick Guinee led a management buyout from General Electric in 1988.

It has customers in more than 30 countries, with wholly owned overseas subsidiaries in the UK, Germany, France, the USA and Poland.

While the fact the company is adding 200 jobs drew some attention last week, the company has recruited a large number of staff in recent years and Mr Guinee said adding another 200 isn’t exceptional for the company.

“We’re constantly adding jobs, we don’t make any noise about it, but we know we’ll be adding at least 200 jobs in the next year.”

The jobs market is very hot at the moment, but he says they have always been able to get the staff they need.

“It’s a tough jobs market at the moment, but our package is very competitive and to date we’ve managed to fill any jobs that we wanted to fill.”

He said staff numbers have constantly increased since the management buyout over 30 years ago: “We’ve grown every year, we added 300 jobs during the pandemic. It’s not about jobs, we do business and if jobs result, that’s it.”

Asked what he attributed the company’s level of success to, he said, “We deliver quality products and give good service. Business is very simple.”

Recent years have seen a lot of political and social instability, causing difficulties for many companies, but he says businesses just have to adapt to whatever happens.

“Business is full of challenges and we just take these challenges in our stride. Whether it’s Brexit or the pandemic or whatever, we manage on.”

Thousands of manufacturing jobs have migrated from Ireland to low cost economies, but he says Ei shows that companies in the sector can have success from here.

“We’ve broken the mould on that. For years we Irish have been trying to convince ourselves that you can’t manufacture in Ireland and compete. We’ve proved that you can.”

He said they have adhered to some principles over the years, which have served Ei well.

“There were a few ground rules we set from day one. One of them was to manufacture 100% in Shannon, we believed this is where the skill base was, and is.

“We also decided to market under our own label, that we wouldn’t be subcontracting to anyone else and that we would compete on quality and service. You can do that from any base, you can do it from here.

“We might have higher manufacturing base costs, but we compensate with the lead time, we’ve short timelines, we’re not dependent on an overseas manufacturer, we’ve total control over the manufacturing process so we can ensure the quality and service.”

Long known for fire and carbon monoxide alarms, Mr Guinee says its products are always improving and he is confident about the coming years.

“We have a stream of innovative products coming along and we’re very competitive in the markets we play in.

“We’re going into new areas, our sensors are now at the core of the connected home and the Internet of Things.

“Our sensors are now in homes and the data extracted from these sensors is used by social landlords to manage the health of their tenants, by monitoring the air quality.

“Also managing their assets, i.e. the houses, again knowing the air quality, whether there’s mould or any dampness or high humidity in a home, we can give them that information.

“R&D has been part of our business right since the beginning. Without new products coming through a business will die, so that’s an ongoing thing.

“We’ve done it mostly in-house although we did acquire a UK company in 2020, a data analytics/artificial intelligence start-up company, a small company.

“We did that to acquire the technology to enable our sensors to transmit the data from the home to the cloud.”

Enterprise Ireland CEO, Leo Clancy said the continued success of the company is very encouraging.

“Enterprise Ireland is delighted to see Ei Electronics continue its ambitious growth strategy. The new state-of-the-art facility here in Shannon means a bright future for an excellent company that is a great example of Irish innovation and advanced manufacturing.”

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