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Shannon region employer not ‘overly worried’ by Brexit impact

Ei Electronics worked with freight firms to ensure correct customs arrangements in place

Mick Guinee: ‘For our EU business, we decided to avoid the UK land bridge and begin shipping directly from Rosslare to Dunkirk.’

Mick Guinee: ‘For our EU business, we decided to avoid the UK land bridge and begin shipping directly from Rosslare to Dunkirk.’

 

Ei Electronics is an Irish company that was first established back in 1988 and has grown to be a world leader in residential fire safety products, embracing the cloud-based “connected home” and the Internet of Things (IoT). Based in Shannon, Co Clare, it also has sales and marketing subsidiaries in the UK, as well as Germany, France, the US, Poland and exports to 30 countries.

Mick Guinee, co-founder and chief executive of the company, says the UK is by far its biggest market, accounting for about two-thirds of its sales. Under its UK brand Aico, the company is the third-largest supplier to UK electrical distribution. Despite this, he took a philosophical approach to Brexit, saying he believed it would not have a negative impact on the overall health of the business, which is a major employer in the Shannon region.

However, he knew it might produce some temporary headaches. “I wasn’t overly worried as it wasn’t going to change the fact that the UK was and will be our number one market. We believed that any customs tariffs would be small and could ultimately be recovered via pricing,” he explains. The referendum result caused the value of sterling to plummet; it’s now becoming stronger but exchange rates are just another business variable to be managed, he adds.

However, the company does not engage in online trading, so various preparations had to be made as Brexit loomed for their shipments coming both ways. “For example, we worked with our freight companies to ensure the correct customs arrangements were in place, as we ship a 40ft container of product to our UK subsidiary every day,” Guinee explains. “For our EU business, we decided to avoid the UK land bridge and begin shipping directly from Rosslare to Dunkirk.”

Rosslare to Dunkirk

There have been some small hiccups since January 1st. Although the company has experienced little or no delay for container loads shipped to the UK, there have been delays of up to two weeks for “LCLs”, or less than container loads, such as pallets. Guinee admits that the UK customs capacity has been “stretched but this is a short-term issue”. With incoming freight, there have been no delays, and the Rosslare to Dunkirk route is working smoothly too. “There is no time difference to the UK land bridge, although we are paying around a 20 per cent premium to use this route.” Freight companies are charging a small fee for customs clearance, he adds.

Meanwhile, Ei Electronics has continued its expansion into the UK, having recently acquired a Bristol-based technology start-up company called SafeLinks, based on its expertise in IoT, artificial intelligence and data analytics. Guinee says that with a 60 million population on our doorstep, the UK remains “Ireland’s natural market”.

“Apart from some minor customs delays on UK side for smaller shipments, it is working out as we expected. And I believe any short-term issues will come good.”