A reputation for manufacturing excellence
Ireland’s rich talent pool and our impressive work ethic are key factors behind US companies’ reasons for locating here
Samira Kaissi of BD Bioscience: “We looked at locations all around the world and chose Ireland, and then Limerick, because the quality of engineers and scientists and the quality of work is very high.”
Ireland has a global reputation for manufacturing excellence. It’s why so many US companies come here and stay.
Beckman Coulter is one such, having been in Ireland for more than 40 years. Last year, it announced an expansion of its plant in Tulla, east Clare, adding to the 350 people it already employs there, making the reagents used in blood tests.
With operations across the US, Europe and China, it could have invested anywhere, so why here?
“Initially, it would have been attracted to Ireland in the 1970s by IDA grants. It has stayed because it is still attracted by what is a good economic location and because of the success it has had here,” says Piers Devereux, managing director of Beckman Coulter Ireland.
Much of this is down to the talent pool it can tap into here. “Even now, when the labour market is a little tighter, there is still an availability of good talent. The college education system has responded well to the need for more STEM graduates and currently 60 per cent of our workforce is third-level graduates,” he says.
The company, which operates to a range of international standards including ISO 14895, IMB and FDA standards, also benefits from Ireland’s strong supply chain capability.
“Getting materials in and products out is not a problem. We are just two hours from Dublin Port and half an hour from Shannon airport.”
Productivity levels and work culture are both good too. “The culture of collaboration and team work is very strong in Ireland. It’s something we’re good at. We also see a very ‘get the job done’ attitude and a very focused workforce,” says Devereux.
Samira Kaissi’s experience backs this up. She is site lead at BD Biosciences in Limerick, a medical technology company that was founded in 1897 and which has had a presence in Ireland since 1964.
It already had manufacturing plants in Dún Laoghaire and Drogheda to which it recently added a new research and development centre in Limerick, which Kaissi heads up.
BD’s new Research Centre Ireland is focused on product and software development, clinical research instrumentation and prototype development.
It’s the first centre of its kind for BD worldwide, a huge coup for the Ireland team and one which has already led to more than 100 new jobs.
“We have built it from the ground up to serve all business units. We looked at locations all around the world and chose Ireland, and then Limerick, because the quality of engineers and scientists and the quality of work is very high. We felt this is a place we can get good skills,” says Kaissi.
‘Impressive work ethic’
Since she arrived from Beirut to set up the R&D facility in 2017, her experience has borne this out. “I have found there to be an impressive work ethic here – and I’ve worked on three continents. It’s a very positive environment, people don’t complain and in fact go over and beyond what is required of them.”
US foreign direct investment has been a “huge success story” here, says Mark McKeever, who heads up PwC’s supply chain practice. The fact that seven of the world’s top 10 blockbuster drugs are manufactured in Ireland is testament to the operational excellence that exists here.
An area currently showing particular growth right now is that of regional or global hubs for activities such as shared services, human resources and supply chain.
“Ireland offers a tax-efficient model, access to the EU and its 500 million consumers, plus, post Brexit, will be the only English-speaking country in Europe. On top of that is the ease of doing business here. As a nation, we’re very pro-business,” he says.
Right now, some in UK business circles fear top scientists and researchers may be reluctant to relocate there, worried about visas and possibly concerned about whether or not they are really welcome, given that so much of Brexit was driven by anti-immigration sentiment.
Ireland offers no such concern and is, moreover, a tried and trusted location for FDI, says McKeever, who suggests that advances in digital technology and automation could make Ireland an even more attractive location in the future.
As labour inputs fall in manufacturing, there will be less need to locate in low-cost countries. “Instead, automated manufacturing could be relocated closer to the end user, providing for shorter lead times and mass customisation options. Ireland stands to benefit from that,” he says.