Masters of metal
Welded together with ambition and innovation, Keltech is smashing through industry boundaries to bring world-class products and services
Since we last featured Keltech in 2018, business has boomed. This specialist supplier of integrated metal assemblies has continued to maintain its focused level of expertise in reservoir tanks, cabins, over-head guards and telecommunication and acoustic enclosures. Speaking with Seamus Lawlor, the Business Development Director, we learn about how Keltech has sustained its impressive success over the past few years. “Between 2014 and 2016, we dedicated much of our energy to ensure our business in the UK and Ireland would thrive. Then when Brexit happened, we started to broaden our view and began looking to mainland Europe and pitched to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) where we gained traction pretty quickly. Now we supply five major construction machinery contractors in Germany, one in Belgium and two in France,” Seamus expresses. He is also proud to announce that the business has succeeded in more-than doubling its turnover in the last five years. “We have moved from the small enterprise category to the medium size in that period,” he adds.
With innovation at the fore of every new strategy, Keltech has managed to achieve this remarkable growth by focusing on niche areas and striving to stay ahead of its competitors. Its manufacturing processes have managed to achieve a production of 800 tanks per week, which, as Seamus notes, is not a feat that has been achieved by Keltech’s competitors. “The process is quite unique in how we do this, probably because of the immense scale. It involves dedicated cells that are dependent on the type of tank that we use, for example we have an area dedicated to manufacturing excavator tanks and then we have a part of our business dedicated to material processing tanks,” Seamus tells us.
“I suppose our area of expertise in fuel and hydraulics tanks and best practice in manufacturing of tanks has really struck a chord with some of the larger organizations. Where some of our competitors would be dedicated fabrication companies, we flipped that business model on its head and focused solely on fuel and hydraulics tanks, which makes us the experts in this area,” Seamus shares.
Speaking of innovation, in light of the regulations imposed by the Covid-19 crisis, Keltech is in the process of launching a particularly game-changing project to highlight the skills for which the business is trusted.
“One of the biggest areas at the moment for our customers is introducing the manufacturing processes for internal tank cleanliness, and we are developing a bespoke Keltech washing rig, which will be fully operational in the first half of next year. It will be something that has a very robust manufacturing processes. We want to make sure there are no potentially harmful contaminants in the tank that can be devastating for our customers and cause a lot of damage to other components in their machinery when it’s all put together on their side of the machine build,” Seamus divulges.
Being able to provide these services is owed to the exceptional infrastructure housed under the Keltech manufacturing roof. “We have a facility that we developed in line with other leading experts in tanks. We also have an engineering team that understands aerodynamics and hydraulic and fuel systems, and helped us put together the process where we clean out the tanks when they are manufactured to ensure they have an exceptional level of internal cleanliness – this really struck a sweet spot with our customers, and this element helps us stand out above the competition,” Seamus explains for us.
Clearly being a leader in its industry has been a natural progression for the company and so it comes as no surprise that Keltech continued to lead even during the Covid-19 pandemic. “From the beginning of April 2020, we had staff in face shields and masks, and we were in the fortunate position where, owing to the size of our facilities, we were able to do social distancing in-house. We had signage and hand sanitizing stations throughout the factory, which we actually manufactured ourselves,” highlights Seamus.
In addition to these measures implemented to ensure optimal safety for Keltech employees, Seamus and his team extended their efforts to assist with the disposal of medical waste for the Irish healthcare system. “We had totally pivoted the manufacturing operations here and within a three-week period, we had over 1000 bins provided to hospitals in every county in Ireland. It was a huge success and the feedback was immense, even from the staff on the ground. We developed a high-quality bin that can be operated completely by foot and is easy to remove the waste bags without having contact with the potentially contaminated PPE gear, and then of course it can be sealed so that it is safe to be in an environment filled with patients. It was a huge success and up until recently we continued to manufacture the bins because we had private hospitals, crèches, and private businesses demanding these products. Most recently, we had Covid-19 vaccination centers request them and so I think it was a hugely successful project. In an eight-month period, we probably supplied somewhere in the region of 5000 bins,” Seamus says.
Not only is Keltech passionate about the business it conducts and the positive impact that its products are having on the industry, it is also passionate about sharing its trade secrets with the next generation, which led the company to launch the Welding Academy. “It’s all ingrained in our DNA that we develop people, so I think the Welding Academy for us was just formalizing what we had been doing anyway. We decided last year around September to initiate this so part of our facility has been dedicated to training bays, we have installed classrooms and got independent people who can come in to test and certify the students. Once they’ve graduated, we happily give them the opportunity to work in production roles at Keltech, which is really the exciting part. It is a learnership-based experience where people who are training in the welding academy are being paid and then they also end up with a job,” he explains. He continues to note that over the last six months, the academy has had over 60 students move through its ranks; a testament to its success. “The retention rate is high in the South East of Ireland because we are able to provide young people with jobs. As an indigenous company here, we are very proud of our roots and it is really nice to be able to offer skilled jobs to our community and train people as well. It’s been a fantastic initiative,” he adds.
Despite such extensive developments, the business is determined to grow even further, with a focus on in-house expansions and additional product developments that will keep the business ahead of the welding game. “It’s a really exciting time here. We are doing a 40,000 square feet extension to the factory, which will bring us to 160,000 square feet under one roof. The main purpose of this is to grow and expand our capacity. We have customers who want to give us more business, because we are very good at what we do and so this is part of the journey,” he says. The additional space will hold a brand-new innovative welding robotic cell, which is going to be part of Keltech’s next chapter. “The second element that this expansion will add is that it allows us to have an excellent paint system that lets the business make modifications to the original powder paint plant. Our new paint system will be class-leading and best-in industry both from an aesthetics point of view and from a corrosion resistance perspective,”
Seamus says. Part of these expansions will also facilitate Keltech’s new welding center, which, according to Seamus, is set to be operational by the end of the first quarter of 2022.
Combining dedication and innovation, Keltech’s strategy for the next three to five years will see it continuing on its successful trajectory. “We were able to quadruple our customer base between 2015 and 2020 and we do not intend on slowing down. As we move towards 2025, the next part of the journey concerns the expansion of the building, the investment in robotic welding center, the investment in paint and tank cleanliness, but our biggest goal now is to double the size of the business in the next five years again and we believe that we absolutely have the potential to do that. We are world class in what we do, whether it’s in tanks or enclosures, we are working with the largest brands in the world so for us, and we see growth in our future,” Seamus concludes, and with a track record as exemplary as Keltech’s, there is no doubt that this team will achieve its goals.
Services: Contract Manufacturing