Thursday, 9 December 2010

The whole is greater that the sum of it's parts

If I hear the word ‘challenges’ or any variation on it once more in an analysis of the state of the industry in Ireland at the minute, I swear something destructive is going to happen. I am sure this is something that many others have thought over the last twelve to eighteen months which has seen our industry change dramatically. Faced with this dramatic change everyone working in our industry is faced with having to adapt to this new world order and decide how they are to continue to grow and develop in the years to come.

The key thing here is that it is ‘our industry’ and collectively we all must take responsibility for doing our bit to ensure that it continues to be an industry where the new talent emerging from our schools and universities want to work. As is usually the case, the development of such a mindset requires a facilitator. The ‘Addressing the Challenges’ event organised by Machinery Movers magazine presented us with a great opportunity to start shaping the future of our industry in Ireland and beyond. We made our way to the Osprey Hotel in Naas positive in the knowledge that a forum had now been provided for us all to work together and exchange views and opinions that would help us enjoy future success.

I personally found the event in Naas very worthwhile and it was useful to hear the comments and experiences of people from different corporate backgrounds on what the best way forward is. What was disappointing about the event was the numbers in attendance. There are so many companies working in our industry at the minute facing the same problems and looking for solutions to these problems. Whether those problems relate to balancing quarry production with a reduced demand for product, or trying to find ways of demonstrating that investment in new equipment now will prove cost efficient in the long term the problem is essentially the same. The whole face of the industry has changed. Given the nature and extent of this change I don’t think there is one company in Ireland who is able to tackle this change on their own and come out the other side smiling. We are all interdependent – a vibrant, thriving industry is to the benefit of us all.

I left the event in Naas even more committed to working with Brian Coogan and the team at Machinery Movers to build this network of people who want to see our industry grow and prosper in the years to come. This is all of us. Everyone involved or employed with any company working in the quarrying, mining and recycling sector in Ireland has a vested interest here – be they materials producers or equipment and component suppliers.

Despite the trials and tribulations of the last twelve to eighteen months the industry in Ireland has a lot to be proud of. Our business takes us all over the world and there is not one country we go to where to do not meet someone from this little island working in the industry at a very senior level. The natural skill set that exists within us and our approach to work wins us a lot of friends and this continues to be the case. This reputation is borne out a strong industry at home so to continue to ensure that opportunities exist for Irish companies outside this island we must ensure a strong image is portrayed.

A strong industry at home is also essential to ensure the techniques and processes used in production, and the equipment we produce for the global market continues to improve. Without this we will lose the best young engineering talent to our competitors overseas and that does spell trouble for the industry as a whole. We must not let this country slip back to the ‘brain drain’ days where all of the top talent is lost. A huge amount of work has been done over the last 20 years to stop the flood of young people from Ireland and we must work together to ensure that this situation is not reversed.

The approach that CDE have taken as a company over this most recent period of time has been to continue to develop and innovate. Whether that be new industries that we can target, new markets we should be looking into or new products that we can develop. Only by continuing to adapt to the external factors that lie out of our immediate control and making the best that we can of the opportunities will we be able to sustain the growth that has characterised our recent history. However, we can’t do this on our own and welcome any opportunity to work as part of a group with the same collective aim. I believe that the work that Brian Coogan will continue to do through the ‘Addressing the Challenges’ initiative provides the ideal platform for us to do this.

Another thing that you notice on chance encounters with fellow Irish men and women who find themselves working in foreign lands is a fierce and unbreakable loyalty to their home. After all, it was largely here that they did their apprenticeships working in our local industry. It was this experience that gave them the tools to develop personally and professionally and find the career opportunities that exist outside this island. Let’s continue to give them an industry to be proud of and one which commands the same level of respect – even envy – that has allowed this country to punch well above its weight. Speaking from our own perspective I can safely say that no matter how many countries we may be present in, this market in Ireland is our home market and will always remain the most important.  By embracing the ‘Addressing the Challenges’ initiative we can go some way to doing this because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I am not in the employ of Machinery Movers magazine, nor am I receiving any financial benefit from writing this article. What I am offering here is simply my opinion on the opportunity that is presented to all of us by the ‘Addressing the Challenges’ initiative and why I think it is essential for as wide a cross section of people from our industry to get involved.

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