Ermen Systems: The right combination to save energy and costs

Athlone-based green energy company puts existing technologies to new use

Martin Curran, founder and MD  of Ermen Systems: ‘By identifying and combining smart ideas we can provide tailor-made solutions that are future-proofed and offer reduced running costs’

Martin Curran, founder and MD of Ermen Systems: ‘By identifying and combining smart ideas we can provide tailor-made solutions that are future-proofed and offer reduced running costs’

 

Not all new business ideas start with a big eureka moment. Sometimes they evolve as an opportunity unfolds, and this is exactly how Athlone-based green energy company Ermen Systems came into being in July 2018.

Ermen has not invented new technology per se. Instead it is taking existing niche solutions and either combining them innovatively or applying them differently to achieve significant cost savings for its customers. For example, by writing a new software programme for an existing off-the-shelf control unit, Ermen saved one of its customers between 30 and 40 per cent on its heating bill plus the cost of an expensive bespoke energy management system.

The company’s founder, Martin Curran, has an electronics background and set up his own engineering supply company back in 2001 to service large industrial clients such as Boston Scientific and the Abbott Group. Over the last few years, however, he noticed environmental and sustainability issues had moved centre stage for his customers and reducing energy costs had become a priority.

Curran started looking at existing energy savings systems and quickly discovered they were all broadly similar, but some were way too pricey for smaller companies to contemplate. This made him realise there was a gap in the market for novel, affordable green energy solutions and he set out to find them.

“I go to a lot of trade fairs so I was aware of what was out there, and many of the systems coming from Germany and Italy, for example, are way ahead of what we have here,” says Curran, who has since sold his previous company to focus full-time on Ermen.  

Weak spots

Ermen’s bread-and-butter is cost reduction in areas such as ventilation, heating, lighting, water and industrial piping; Curran starts the process by analysing a potential customer’s business to identify the weak spots.

“We work behind the scenes, by which I mean we don’t target frontline operations, so if it’s a manufacturing unit we’d leave production alone but would look at the facilities feeding into the plant such as piping or heating and how we could make savings there. We’re buildings rather than product oriented,” Curran says.

Development costs for the new business, which employs four people, have been in the region of €250,000

“Over about three years this new strand to my original business began growing strongly, and last year I decided it had the potential to be a standalone company focused on new and exciting solutions in the green energy space,” Curran says. “By identifying and combining smart ideas we can provide tailor-made solutions that are future-proofed and offer reduced running costs. For example, we have developed a six-year package for domestic and commercial boiler users (not steam boilers), that will reduce running costs by up to 25 per cent and carbon emissions by similar figures while also prolonging the life of all parts in the heating circuit.

‘Payback periods’

“One of the big issues for companies is that payback periods for renewable technologies can be prohibitive, especially for smaller companies,” Curran adds. “This led us towards technologies that would reduce energy consumption while also ticking the box for less capital expenditure.”

Ermen has now partnered with companies in the solar PV and rainwater harvesting areas so it can help its customers plan their short- to medium-term energy/environmental strategies. It is also focusing on eco-friendly technologies such as chemical-free treatments for drinking and heating water systems.

Ermen’s potential customers are both domestic and commercial, and current clients include Kingspan, Tesco, Allergan and Lidl. Development costs for the new business, which employs four people, have been in the region of €250,000 and the company has been supported by Local Enterprise Office Roscommon.

An unexpected spinoff from Curran’s novel approach to technology tweaking is that one of his suppliers was so impressed by his re-engineered solution for the plastics industry that it is planning to sell it separately and pay Curran a commission on sales.   

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