Paul Sheahan and Diarmaid Mulholland outline Ireland’s pivotal role in the global growth of energy tech firm Baker Hughes.
Global energy technology company Baker Hughes has a bright future on the horizon having doubled its workforce at its Shannon base in the last three years.
The company, headquartered in Houston and operating in 120 countries, is no longer majority-owned by General Electric (GE) since late last year.
GE in no longer a majority shareholder in Baker Hughes.
Today, Baker Hughes is one of the world’s largest oil field services companies.
The Shannon site, in operation since 1973, originally housed Panametrics. The company was acquired in 2002 and subsequently went through the transition to Baker Hughes.
There are now 280 people working in the Shannon branch. The company’s footprint has trebled to 120,000 square feet and revenue today is in the region of €100m.
Paul Sheahan, global strategic projects manager, says the growth “is predicated on our desire within Baker Hughes, Shannon, to get into more expansive market share sectors including oil and gas but also, other sectors, including sub-sea”.
Staffing the Shannon base hasn’t posed any problems. Diarmaid Mulholland global, vice president of measuring and sensing, says that “when we think about Shannon initially, it was primarily a manufacturing facility.
“In the last number of years, we have really been able to upskill our team. We have been able to recruit design engineers, application engineers, project managers and manufacturing engineers.
"We have upgraded the design capability and have been pleasantly surprised with the talent we’ve been able to attract locally.”
Sheahan adds that a major factor in recruiting staff is the presence of the University of Limerick (UL) and Limerick IT.
“The calibre of the graduates from both of those institutions as well as that of others outside the region has really been very good in fuelling the growth of Shannon.”
Managing the talent pipeline is facilitated by close co-operation with the higher education institutes in the region.
“In addition to that, we’re a company that is very involved in a collaboration initiative in the mid west region called ‘Limerick for Engineering.’
This is a commitment that the company takes very seriously.
Diarmaid Mulholland says that Baker Hughes is proactive about promoting STEM subjects.
“We really take an interest in students doing technology subjects.
"Many of our employees can be found in schools in the local area, participating in demonstrations, making people interested in what we do and giving them an idea of the types of careers they can have.”
“We are a global company that has made a couple of commitments,” remarks Mulholland. “We want to be a net zero carbon company by 2050.
"We have committed to reducing our own carbon footprint by 50% by 2030.”
At the company’s Texan headquarters, 100% renewable energy is used for its manufacturing facilities.
“As a company, we’re committed to a low carbon future. In terms of reducing our own carbon footprint by 50%, we are looking at what we can do today around sustainability.
Managing sustainability is a challenge but one that Baker Hughes is embracing.
That agenda is also being embraced by the mid west region.
Baker Hughes hosted a meeting in the last few weeks with the American Chamber of Commerce in the Mid-West.
Representatives from most multi-national companies attended.
The key item on the agenda was sustainability and it was stressed that achieving this is all about leveraging best practice and building information-share.
“Sharing the challenges means we’re on the right path,” says Sheahan.
Paul Sheahan says there are several factors in the Mid-West region that facilitate such management.
“For example, an international airport is key. Foreign direct investment depends very much on connectivity.
"As much as we want to travel to our parent and sister companies, we want our customers to come here as well.
“Shannon Airport is a key enabler for managing our global projects. in addition to that, the strong technical talent in the region cannot be over-stated.
“The quality of the talent from UL, the institutes of technology and other higher education institutions across the country is very strong.
"The graduates have very good project management skills in addition to very good technical skills. We’re seeing the benefits of this in our business.”
Also, Ireland has “a very favourable time-zone for managing global projects,” he added.
“I think it’s often overlooked but we are in a very good place for dealing with the different time zones.
"And lastly, being in an English speaking country really stands to us when we manage global projects because English is the global business language.”
At Shannon, Baker Hughes is involved in multiple large-scale infrastructural projects at any one time.
“We’re seeing an increase in demand and we hope to capitalize on that,” says Mulholland. “You’ve got large engineering technology houses in the likes of London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Houston. We want to capture as much as is possible of the market that’s coming on board.
“For this region and maybe for the whole of the west of Ireland, the flight connectivity, with early morning flights in and out of mainland Europe is something that’s going to be super important going forward in a post-Brexit world.
"If we lose our connectivity, then we are going to struggle to be part of the global economy.”
The longstanding US/Irish business relationship is important for a company like Baker Hughes.
“We can’t overstate the importance of the ease of movement of goods between the US and Ireland or Western Europe via Ireland.
“Sometimes, our customers want our products on a very quick turnaround. Having that easy trading relationship is definitely helping the business to serve the customers in that way.
"There is a real seamlessness between the Irish and US markets,” says Mulholland.