Building a thriving export business is not just about the products you sell, but also about the logistics and after sales service you provide. So says Colman Doyle, Operations Director at Blackwater Engineering, which has been exporting their range of stainless-steel vessels, silos, road-tankers & process systems from Ireland since 1980.
“We have won contracts worth over £2 million in the UK in the past six months,” he says. “The fact that we are exporting for many years, and know all the regulatory paperwork requirements and the issues that can arise with customs, means we can ensure our products are dispatched and delivered without issue to our clients. Since Brexit, our shipments are being delivered in the UK as normal, which offers great peace of mind to our end clients.”
“Export has been the main focus of our business over the past 20 years. On average, we export between 40 and 50 percent of our production annually, and that is running at 60 percent this year, most of which is to the UK. We are well established there so much of that is repeat business. We have a very loyal customer base in the UK.”
Specialising in stainless steel process vessels, silos, road tankers and process systems for the food, dairy, beverage & pharmaceutical industry Blackwater also exports to clients across Europe and the Middle East. It ships silos as large as 21 metres long by four meters wide and of up to 300,000 litres in capacity, which underlines why its expertise in logistics is so valued by its customers.
Thriving for over 50 years
Blackwater Engineering was started in 1968 by John and Dermot Doyle, who saw the need for stainless steel process vessels, silos and road tankers in Ireland’s then-emerging dairy industry. Both had started their careers in the engineering sector, and the growth of the dairy industry coupled with the demand from the then emerging petroleum and chemical industry in Ireland contributed to the company gaining vast experience in process design. Both founders remain active in the business. “The experience, technical knowledge and business knowhow of Dermot & John is something that is invaluable to the company,” says Colman.
Over the intervening decades, the business has expanded greatly from its origins, completing over 12,000 projects across 25 countries from its 33,000 sq. ft manufacturing facility in the south of Ireland. “The dairy industry is still a huge market for us,” says Colman, “and we also focus on the food and beverage sectors, the pharmaceutical industry and on environmental projects such as water treatment.”
The company is currently in a growth phase and has increased its workforce from 26 to 48 over the past decade.
Focus on high-tech manufacturing
In recent times, Blackwater has also been focused on automating its manufacturing processes to ensure its products are competitive and to ensure the higher quality finishes. Blackwater’s engineers handle all aspects of customer projects from design, construction and manufacture to final commissioning, testing and documentation.
“We see the food and dairy sector continually evolve to require similar specifications as the chemical and pharmaceutical industries,” says Colman.
“The products we manufacture are mostly designed for storage and processing of end product for human consumption so there is an extremely high quality required. All our vessels are bespoke to meet each customer’s exact requirements and we have the process knowhow to ensure the vessel or system manufactured is capable of mixing, cooling or heating and ultimately protecting the end client’s product concerned, whether that is milk, infant formula, beverages, chemicals or any of a huge range of products handled”
Making the most of expert market knowledge
While the company has always made extensive use of Enterprise Ireland’s supports and market knowhow in the Middle East, it’s only in recent times that it has also looked to the organisation in the UK.
“The team in the UK knows the ins and outs of the market, have excellent sector knowledge that assists us with leads on new projects,” says Colman. “I couldn’t speak highly enough of the teams in any of the Enterprise Ireland offices that we deal with. We’ll continue to work with them as we focus on export over the next five years and really focus on our experience and know-how in that area.”