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“We’re growing, the Covid thing was just a little blip’

WHILE the economic situation is precarious, one of Clare’s largest employers has begun work on a major expansion and is currently recruiting new people in anticipation of very high levels of business in the coming months.

Shannon company Ei Electronics is locally-owned and produces fire detection and carbon monoxide products. It already employs some 750 people in Shannon, while it is currently looking to increase this number and when their expansion opens next year, they expect to recruit well over 100 new staff.

Despite the Covid-19 crisis, the sod was turned on the expansion of its Shannon facility this week, and it will comprise a three-storey, 10,000m² building, adjoining its current headquarters. It is due to be open in the third quarter of 2021.

CEO Mick Guinee led a successful management buy-out of the company in 1988 and has overseen major expansion in the years since then. In relation to the new building, he said, “It doubles our manufacturing capacity, gives us increased space for R&D [research and development] and marketing and so on”.

Mr Guinee said that while Covid-19 is having an impact on Ei, he feels it will be a short-term one. “Our main markets would be the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and they’ve all effectively been in lockdown for the last two months, so right now our sales are at rock bottom. But once these markets open up, and they’re beginning to open up now, we believe that our business hasn’t gone away. It’ll rebound pretty quickly and we expect a big bulge in business in the second half of the year. In preparation for that, we’re endeavouring to smooth the curve, to borrow an analogy, by building stock right now and we’ll be able to cope with the surge in demand we expect in the last two quarters.”

He said Ei is committed to keeping all of its manufacturing local. “This [new expansion] is consistent with our strategy of maintaining 100% of manufacturing in Shannon; that’s been our strategy since the beginning. We could have looked elsewhere for space but we decided to expand in Shannon and be consistent with our original strategy.”

On March 28, the company announced that it was ceasing work temporarily but its employees still received all of their pay. “We shut down for three weeks. We got the factory in order for social distancing; we installed temperature-sensing cameras at all entrances and so on. Everybody is back now for the last three weeks. I think everybody feels very safe. It’s a very controlled environment and production is up at 100%. We are actually adding people at this moment in time.

“We paid everybody while we were off and we used the time to get the factory into Covid-compliance shape.”

Going ahead with such a big expansion at such an uncertain time shows a belief that the company will continue to be successful and Mr Guinee said he is confident about Ei’s future. “Oh yeah, very confident. We’re growing, the Covid thing was just a little blip. We believe we will continue to grow. We wouldn’t be expanding like we are unless we believed in the future. We’re the dominant brand in our main markets. We’ve dealt very much on what our strapline says, quality and service and innovation. We always have a stream of innovative new products coming through. Our quality and service is top class; that’s our formula.”

The new building will also be the first Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) in Shannon.

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

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Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.