Collaboration at all levels Crucial to keeping business operational and people in employment

Shannon companies keeping essential supply chains moving and applying technologies in new directions to assist in the fight against COVID-19


Despite a tough few weeks, which has seen companies, whose products are essential to national and global supply chains, adjust their facilities to adhere to HSE and WHO directives, manufacturing  companies in Shannon and the region are striving to drive their businesses forward and maintain employment.

They are collaborating in an unprecedented way to guide each other through maintaining health and safety measures and adjusting them in line with Government calls. They have initiated measures that were not even thought about at the start of the year to ensure that they can remain open to meet the needs of essential supply chains. They also want to preserve employment which will be much needed when the current restrictions are lifted.

This was the message that came across loud and clear in Shannon Chamber’s weekly conference call with member companies.

As Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes explains: “This is an extremely trying time for everyone at all levels, be that in their own homes, going shopping or exercising outdoors. Step into a manufacturing plant and the effort that is required to adhere to physical distancing is substantially complex. This requires enormous adjustment as interactions between employees happen at so many levels daily, be that on the manufacturing floor, on the corridors or in the canteens and, in many instances, over thousands of square feet and in multiple buildings.

“Yet, leaders in Shannon have risen to the challenge; it has been and continues to be tough for them to keep their businesses afloat and their employees safe, and happy to go to work. Some businesses are fortunate in that some staff can work from home but that’s not implementable for a production floor. These leaders feel a responsibility to their staff in the current climate to keep them safe and well but they are also trying to sustain their businesses and in some cases, undertake research and development to bring new product lines on stream when they get the clearance to be fully operational again.

“Our industry leaders have families too and understand that while there is risk in remaining open, which they, like all essential providers, are mitigating against, they know that if they don’t do everything within their power to sustain operations, the consequences down the road could be a lot worse than they are today. That’s a very stark reality. It is also a difficult time for companies considered non-essential. They have had to implement a different set of measures to remain open with their employees working remotely. That brings a different set of challenges for companies but they have adjusted and continue to remain operational and maintain in contact with all their staff, striving to maintain business as ‘usual’,” added Ms Downes.

Giving examples of member companies that are applying their technology capabilities in a new direction, Ms Downes stated that Shannon-based SME, Advanced Technical Concepts, is deploying its additive manufacturing division to 3D print face shields for the health sector on a pro-bono basis.

Managing director Marie Clifford explains: “This initiative, which is part of a national effort to assist where needed, started out with our registering with Open Source Ventilator to assist in any way we could and this evolved into the Opensource PPE production effort. We are producing the face shields from our home-working bases and the Blood Bike network and the Southern 4X4 response support do the pickups when we have product ready. Parts are then sterilised, assembled and distributed to HSE sites from a central location.

“Our team is delighted to play its part and contribute in whatever way we can to alleviate the stresses of the current situation. It’s all about each of us doing our bit, no matter how small, in these extraordinary times.”

Another Shannon company, Modular Automation, a leading supplier of automation solutions for medical device multinationals and a key partner to respiratory device manufacturers is bringing its robotics experience to help in the fight against COVID-19.

The team at Modular are involved in designing innovative solutions for the manufacture of respiratory medical devices used in the fight against the Coronavirus. They have significant experience in robotics and bring that to develop high tech machines that can manufacture respiratory and other lifesaving products faster, safer and to a higher quality. Modular have mobilised their team to focus on the development and build of machines and solutions in the fight against Coronavirus.

Modular Automation CEO Vivian Farrell added: “We feel very privileged and proud to be partnered with leading medical device manufacturers, it’s very rewarding to play our part by developing innovative manufacturing solutions that results in lifesaving devices reaching patients sooner. Our customers need to manufacture products quicker than ever before and we are working hard to get those machines to our customers quickly.”

Modular Automation have a large team of design and software engineers and machine builders who are supporting their customers to scale up production of lifesaving hospital equipment. In new product development, Mike Lane, technical advisor at Modular Automation, is leading the development of a mobile robot sterilisation solution for hospitals. The Company is very experienced in deploying robots and autonomous vehicles into manufacturing environments and are now applying those same technologies to a hospital environment in the fight against COVID-19.   

As Mike Lane explains: “UV light can be used to clean surfaces contaminated by bacteria and viruses, UVC light is proven to be effective against other coronaviruses such as SARS.  We are combining UVC light with mobile robots to create a sterilisation solution that can be used in hospitals.  A robotic sterilisation solution has many advantages over conventional methods of cleaning infected areas; it’s quicker, more accurate and because it uses robots it means people are not placed at risk.”

Urging the community at large to get behind teams in all areas of life and business who are taking risks to protect lives and jobs, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes concluded: “What we as a Chamber, representing a membership of 300 employers of 10,000 people, pre COVID-19, call for now is support from all levels of our communities for the companies that have to remain operational, for their employees who are continuing in work, and for an understanding as to why they are doing so. We simply have to look to the future and try to ensure that the levels of employment that we had before the pandemic are maintained to some degree in the new, as yet unknown, future.”