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How one Irish company delivers world-class food production solutions

April 16, 2018 No Comments

From its base in County Sligo in the west of Ireland, SF Engineering designs, manufactures and installs high-quality food production lines for customers around the world. The highly innovative company employs process design expertise that enables it to specify highly efficient food production lines that reduce costs, increase capacity and require less maintenance than competitor systems.

Since 1983, the company has installed €250 (£216) million worth of projects in 63 countries across Europe, North and South America, Russia, the Middle East, and Australia. Today, SF Engineering employs 110 high-skilled staff in Ireland, the UK, and the Czech Republic, and is projecting €20 (£17) million in sales for the coming year.

Food sector engineering experts

“We are experts in design and engineering of complex systems for the food sector,” says founder and CEO Seamus Farrell. “We have more than 450 man years’ experience in this highly specialised area. We provide a trustworthy support service to our clients who operate around the clock throughout the year and we deliver prompt, reliable support services to ensure that their time-critical production lines are not held up by maintenance issues.”

Sf Engineering food sector engineering experts

Key to the company’s global success has been its ability to add value to processes and form strong partnerships with other world leaders. “Our core values are to be as professional and competitive as possible,” says Farrell. “We are never going to be the cheapest, but we will add most value and deliver the best return on investment. We are large enough to compete around the world but small enough to be flexible when it comes to delivering solutions for customers.”

New business comes from a combination of continuing relationships with existing customers, sales and marketing efforts around the world through direct contact with potential customers, presence at trade fairs, and through referrals from partners.

“We form great partnerships with companies like Ishida, Eagle, CEIA, and Marelec,” he points out.

Ishida is a leading supplier of automated weighing and packaging equipment and solutions for the food industry with multiple capabilities to ensure the safety and integrity of a wide variety of food applications. Eagle specialises in fat analysing equipment. Marelec Food Technologies has been active in the fishing world since 1983, while CEIA is a world-leading manufacturer of electronic screening equipment, with SF Engineering supplying its range of metal detection systems, which are designed to detect contaminants in the food production chain.

“We started forming these partnerships back in the early 2000s and they have been very important to us. They allow us to combine complementary strengths in different areas to supply turnkey solutions to the global food industry,” Farrell adds.

SF Engineering has its roots in the engineering sector, to provide high-quality stainless steel fabrication services to US multinational firms which were setting up in Ireland. Seamus Farrell, who grew up in the Sligo area, founded the business in 1983, initially to service the fish sector but subsequently expanded into the red meat and broader food industry, with the focus firmly on protein.

‘Futuristic’ innovations for the fish industry

Innovation has been at the heart of its growth and success since. “What we did for the fish industry back then was futuristic,” Farrell explains. “At the time it cost around €25 (£22) per tonne to process and pack fish. We reduced that to €4 (£3) per tonne by automating the process. That was our first big kill. After that, we moved into the Scottish and Scandinavian fish sectors.”

'Futuristic' innovations for the fish industry

Since then, SF Engineering has consistently invested in both new products and processes and today offers a wide range of conveyors, packing solutions, platforms, weighing equipment, fat analysis, quality control, hygiene equipment, lifting and tipping equipment. In addition, the company has invested in world-class manufacturing and lean manufacturing programmes as well as the very latest in laser technologies.

SF Engineering’s Irish Advantage

“We have grown to sell to 63 countries around the world,” Farrell concludes. “Our continued export success is partly due to the confidence we get from supplying leading international companies as well as our focus on adding value for the customer. That’s where our real strength lies. We are fortunate to come from a country with a very strong food industry which has travelled well globally. That means we understand the continued drive for cheaper food on supermarket shelves. The retail multiples and the consumer want food of very good quality, but they want it at low cost and they want it to be convenient and presented well. We provide the production lines and technologies which enable our customers to meet that demand.”

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