West Enterprise Case Studies
Galway Case Study: JFC Manaufacturing
JFC Manufacturing was established in 1987 by Kilconly native John Concannon. “We are now the leading producer of rotationally moulded plastic products in Ireland, with a turnover in excess of €40 million, exports to 40 destinations and 250 staff worldwide”, says John. The head office is in Tuam, Co. Galway with subsidiary centres in the UK, Holland, Poland and South Africa.
JFC was established to supply specialised plastic products to the agricultural industry. John explains “At the start of the 2000s we recognised the need to diversify and expand the product range and the markets served. We now have a wide range of products in a variety of areas including water management, marine products and decking. Our water management portfolio includes stormwater management systems, rainwater harvesting and wastewater treatment systems. In addition, we also have a strong portfolio of marine products including mussel floats and marker buoys.
“Furthermore, JFC Earth-wood decking was used to construct the marina built for the Galway stopover of the 2009 Volvo Ocean Race. These new product areas represent strategic additions to the JFC portfolio however our established ranges such as our agri-products, civils and environmental products remain very important. One of our key flagship products, JFC CorriPipe (a twin wall drainage pipe) has been used on numerous major road building projects across Ireland and the UK”, he adds.
“We have an excellent team of ninety JFC people employed at our headquarters here in Tuam where the management, R&D and sales and marketing functions, as well as production, are based. We have a complete R&D facility in-house with 12 people employed to design and develop new technologies and product ranges. Our people in these key positions are all highly skilled and we have experienced very little turnover of management or R&D staff.”
He adds, “The remainder of the team includes factory floor workers and general operative workers. There is a good mixture of Irish and Polish workers at JFC and there is a great camaraderie throughout our team. Most of the Polish workers at JFC are young and have good language skills. However to minimise communication challenges, we also have a Polish production manager here at the Tuam plant.”
Research and development is a key source of future growth and will play a large part in the company’s development as it targets new markets. “The €2.5 million investment in R&D capacity in 2006 with the assistance of Enterprise Ireland has proven to be a great success and we also work with research partners including NUI Galway and BIM on numerous other projects related to the markets that JFC are involved in. In recent years, we have successfully developed a range of mussel floats and marker buoys for the aquaculture and marine industries which have proven to be a big success with exports throughout Europe and beyond”, comments John. “We also have had significant success in exporting to the big markets in Europe including the new markets of Eastern Europe, most notably Russia and the Ukraine. To be successful in these markets, we need to have the most up to date technology. If we don’t move with the times we will be left behind”, John explains.
Exports have been strategically developed through the establishment of subsidiary sales and distributions centres in the UK, Holland and Poland. Exports to 40 destinations account for 60% of total sales at the Tuam plant and so international air access is vital for sales and marketing staff as well as broadband connectivity to facilitate online sales. Air access from the West is very good with flights from Shannon Airport, Ireland West Airport Knock and Galway Airport. John is very conscious of the benefit of air access development, “When we started some years ago in 1987 the cost of flights to the UK was about £350 old pounds, but now you can fly for a few euros and the number of destinations is growing all the time. We in Galway must take out hats off to Pádraic Ó Céide and Aer Arann given what they have done for the west by providing daily flights to the very large UK Market.”
A key challenge to ongoing growth is cost competitiveness. For example Poland and the Czech Republic provide serious competition as they have far cheaper production costs. However, competition these days is global with the low-cost countries in Asia also having a significant impact. So JFC must operate in all markets against stiff competition.
However, John is not content with resting on his laurels and being satisfied with his achievements to date. John comments “In life, you are either growing or decaying - standing still is not an option. To remain fresh you need to keep moving forward. For JFC, this means expanding into new markets and new locations. Therefore, our expansion into South Africa represents an exciting new chapter in JFC’s development”.
John’s location in Tuam means he can enjoy all the social and lifestyle benefits of living in the west whilst simultaneously running an increasingly global business operation. “The West of Ireland with its great countryside and amenities is a nice place to live and rear children and you can also take time-out to refresh if needed. It still retains these characteristics despite the significant changes in recent years,” he said. His interest in golf is facilitated by local clubs in Tuam, Claremorris and Ballinrobe. All he needs now is the time to play!
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