Midleton firm is expanding with its cryogenic cleaning service, writes Trish Dromey.
Company: Polar IceTech
Managing director: Damien McDonnell
Business: Cryogenic cleaning service
Winner of the South Cork Local Enterprise Office Award for 2017, Polar IceTech in Midleton believes it is the leading supplier of eco-friendly cryogenic cleaning solutions in Ireland.
On its way to the National Enterprise Awards finals at the end of the month, the company, which uses dry ice blasting to clean delicate and abrasive sensitive equipment, has over the last 12 months expanded into the North, doubled its workforce, invested in new equipment, and grown its customer base by 30%.
The high level of growth followed the purchase of the 12-year-old company by Damien McDonnell, previously Polar IceTech’s business manager, and now its managing director.
Since the takeover, he says the company has invested in making the cleaning process leaner and more efficient, and is now focusing on expanding the customer base by educating the industry about the benefits of cryogenic cleaning.
Explaining that dry ice blasting technology was developed some 30 years ago, Mr McDonnell says it is now being widely used globally because it is cleaner, more environmentally friendly, and more efficient than traditional methods.
“Our solution is used to clean high-value, moisture-sensitive and abrasive sensitive equipment for clients in industries such as food and beverage, medical device, oil and gas and pharmaceutical,” he says, naming Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, the ESB, Diageo, and Kerry Foods as some of Polar IceTech’s largest customers.
When he took over Polar IceTech, the company was already providing its service to customers in the food and beverage sector, as well as medical device and oil and gas companies.
Planning to expand all of these markets, Mr McDonnell is also working on growing sales in the pharmaceutical sector. Also seeing potential in the North, he set up new premises with a staff of three at Limavady near Derry.
“We have eight new customers in the North this year, all are food and beverage companies and include Bushmills and Coca-Cola,” he says.
Last year the company rebranded with a new logo and also launched a new website. The company received assistance setting up the website from South Cork Local Enterprise Office. InterTrade Ireland provided additional support.
Polar IceTech has also received some funding from Enterprise Ireland for research being carried out at CAPPA at the Cork Institute of Technology into the impact of cryogenic cleaning on bacteria.
“Our strategy now is to work with organisations to implement leaner and more efficient cleaning processes,” says Mr McDonnell, adding that the company has also invested in new equipment and in training.
At present, the company’s three largest markets are power generation accounting for 35%, medical devices (30%) and food and beverages (25%).
Noting that the food and beverage market is now the fastest-growing market, Mr McDonnell is targeting significant growth in sales to the pharmaceutical industry.
Currently involved in discussions with the Irish operations of three global pharmaceutical companies, he says he expects to bring at least one of these on board by the end of the year.
Mr McDonnell also has international plans for Polar IceTech. In the last 12 months, the company tendered for contracts in the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Middle East.
It is aiming to target power generation companies in both the UK and Europe in the future. Mr McDonnell believes the company’s experience and its investment in high-tech equipment will enable Polar IceTech to compete successfully in these markets.
Immediate plans involve moving the company headquarters to Hoffmann Park in Little Island at the end of the month.
Currently employing 14 staff including some part-time workers, Polar IceTech expects to grow its workforce by 20% at the end of the year and to increase turnover by 25%.
Given that some companies in Ireland are still unfamiliar with dry ice blasting technology, Mr McDonnell says that educating the industry is now the key strategy for Polar IceTech.
Part of the plan will be to engage with universities with a view to educating engineering students about the dry ice blasting process.
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