Automation solutions for MedTech sector

Automation solutions for MedTech sector
Vivian Farrell, CEO, Modular Automation, based in Shannon.

Vivian Farrell discusses Modular Automation’s role in servicing the world’s leading MedTech companies.

With its recently announced plans both to create 100 new jobs in the next three years, and expand into a new site adjoining its existing facility in Shannon shortly — the future is looking very bright for Modular Automation, a leading supplier of automation solutions for MedTech multinationals.

Just before Christmas the company announced plans to create 100 new jobs by 2023 — CEO Vivian Farrell points out that in the past five years alone, this thriving firm has doubled its workforce to more than 170 personnel.

The company is also set to expand into its new site in Shannon, Co. Clare over February.

“We are in the very lucky position that in Ireland, the med-tech industry is thriving with many leading multinationals having a manufacturing presence here.

“Many of these are super-sites, in that they are the largest and most advanced manufacturing sites for their corporations - for example Johnson and Johnson is one of our most highly automated sites in the world. It is based in Limerick with a sister-site in Florida,” she observes.

“This sector has grown and is thriving. Companies are doing well and their products are in demand.

“They need strong automation partners to supply equipment into their sites to manufacture their products which are in very high demand around the world,” she says.

A good example, explains Farrell is the contact lens manufacturing sector in Ireland, which, as she observes, accounts for a staggering one-third of the world’s supply.

Meanwhile the manufacture of orthopaedic replacement knees and hips is another “massive” sector for the Irish hi-tech sector, and MA is more than happy to meet the demands for the high-tech equipment required to create these products.

“We design and make the machines required to make their products, so our services are very much in demand,” she says.

“Our machines are the latest in automation technology and robotics. They are using very innovative tech to help them make the product faster, safer and better.”

One factor in the success of MA is the high quality of the service it offers these giant corporations — and the enviable word-of-mouth reputation which it enjoys as a result.

“If you think about big brands like Boston Scientific, Edwards Lifesciences, Johnson and Johnson and Stryker, their HQs are in the USA, but they have bases here.

For us, doing an exceptional job for their sites in Ireland is helping them to succeed. Therefore, they are willing to refer us to their sister-sites in the US.

“These companies need strong automation partners like MA to help ensure that they remain at the cutting-edge of their fields.”

The recent expansion of MA’s facilities in Shannon will allow it to meet what Farrell describes as the ever-increasing, “huge demand for the services we are supplying, both for customers in Ireland and also sites in the USA”.

“We needed additional production space to be able to build the machines, so we secured additional production space in Shannon adjacent to our existing 50,000 square foot building, and we are expanding into this new site in February,” she says, adding that the site, which was acquired last summer, provides MA with immediate access to much-needed production space.

With an eye to the long-term development of this thriving firm, the firm also acquired land to the rear of the existing building.

With a strong and growing workforce — MA currently has a team of 170 people across its Irish and US sites, a workforce which has doubled over the last five years, and as she notes, is set to grow exponentially.

A major factor in its ability to attract the right kind of talent, is its strong apprenticeship programmes which offer excellent career opportunities to Leaving Cert students. Access to graduates is also important.

We’re always looking for the very best talent. We also seek to bring in people with experience as well, as we believe that people with experience can contribute to the success and be involved in coaching and mentoring of younger employees who are starting out on their careers.

One of Farrell’s priorities as CEO is to nurture diversity within the workplace - and she has more big plans here.

“Just 8% of our workforce here is female, and I would like to increase that to 30% by 2025. It’s about reducing the barriers to women entering the sector.

"Businesses like ourselves are heavily focused on engineering,” she says, adding that the company engages closely with UL and LIT in a bid to encourage more female students to opt for engineering both in terms of diversity within the workplace and as a way to reduce the current skills shortage.

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