From Left: Kathleen Horan, T.J. Kinsella, Emma Lacy, Dave Shanahan, Gerry Horan, Conor Mullaly, Sabrina Guido
An engineering company set in the village of Drangan is putting Tipperary on the industrial automation map thanks to its work with high powered robots.
However while sci-fi fans might be conjuring up images of characters from Blade Runner and Star Wars, managing director of Horan Automation and Consulting, Gerry Horan is quick to point out that the machines manufactured in Drangan are simply “fixed axis machines” programmed to carry out repetitive, dangerous or difficult tasks.
“We train the robot to do what the new task is. Teaching the robot where to go, when to catch something, when to let it go, what to do if it doesn’t catch it and all the equipment around it,” says Gerry at a special industry expo organised by the Tipperary Chamber of Commerce and Boston Scientific.
“It’s challenging work but very enjoyable. Everyday is something different,” he says, acknowledging that the company had been one of Tipperary’s best kept secrets- until now at least.
So far in 2017 the business has been nominated for three awards including The Medtech Supplier Partner of the Year, the Irish Exporters Association Emerging Exporter and a nominee at the recent County Tipperary Business Awards.
“I could still meet some of my neighbours and they wouldn’t have the first idea what I’m doing. Some of them might think oh do you make milk machines or fill bottles of milk,” jokes the man who is one of the country’s only providers of collaborative robots which are made to order for companies in the pharma, food and agricultural sectors.
Prior to starting Horan Automation, Gerry spent nearly 15 years servicing packaging machinery across the country before he decided to take the plunge and set up his own business in Cashel with his wife Kathleen in 1996 and later the current premises in the heart of Drangan in 2000.
However part of Gerry’s success was being able to identify a market opening for robot integration and adapting quickly to the latest in cutting edge technology which today means the company counts upwards of 40 clients in its books including the likes of Boston Scientific, Arrabawn, Glenisk, Dairygold, Bulmers and Stryker.
Aside from building and designing robots, Gerry and his team also provide consultancy work to businesses interested in introducing automated technologies.
The company currently employs four in Drangan with a further ten subcontractors also working closely with the business and Gerry says the workforce is expected to grow next year.
“If it keeps going for us we’ll be up to nine or ten people here. We hope to have a turnover of €1million this year,” he says adding that the growth of the company is expected to reach €4-5million over the next five years.
“We’ve very good broadband here in Drangan,” he says of the businesses unusual location, adding that the internet connection is so trustworthy they have an online programmer from Poland who is able to work remotely, without any connectivity issues getting in the way.
“We don’t really need to be near any town centres because our customers might only come to us once a year, or a lot of our customers would never visit us. We go to them, we do all the site work, they might come here just to examine a machine.”
“We’re here to stay,” says the proud born and bred Drangan man.