Two custom-designed 30,000L tankers were shipped to New Zealand
Conor Engineering shipped two of the biggest slurry tankers ever produced in Ireland or the UK to New Zealand last week.
The Farming Independent caught up with company director Barry O’Connor to learn more about the tankers, and how his business grew to be one of the most respected manufacturers in the world.
The tankers have a capacity of 6,700 gallons, or 30,000L, and took three months to construct following a rigorous consultation process with the customers, who operate a 3,000-cow dairy farm; the mammoth tankers will be delivered with a price tag to match, at €150,000 each.
The transport is estimated to cost a further €60,000, bringing the overall investment by the farmers to €360,000.
Aside from the sheer size of the tankers, they impress with the list of optional extras which have been fitted to the customers’ request.
“The tankers were sold through a dealer in New Zealand, and we are hoping to sell more of our range there in future,” Barry says.
“The features of the tankers include forced front and rear steering, plunger-type filling arms, 12m dribble bars, air- and water-cooled pumps, sand auger, top hatch and a hydraulic draw-bar.
“We built them side by side and the only new thing for us was the size. The customers also wanted to future-proof themselves with the dribble bar installed.”
Barry highlights the importance of the dual cooling system for the tankers, capable of filling 18,000L/minute.
The tankers were manufactured in the Conor Engineering facility in Tubber, Co Clare. They were loaded onto flat-rack containers by crane and brought to Dublin port.
The company, which now employs over 40 people, was launched in 1984 by Barry’s parents, Enda and Carmel.
In the early ’90s Conor Engineering was one of the first manufacturers to develop a high-quality bale wrapper. Its reliability was widely recognised and a dealership network quickly spread across the world.
“My parents both grew up on farms,” says Barry. “Manufacturing started out with grass toppers, bale wrappers, shear grabs, round feeders, yard scrapers, buckets and the like.
“Our grass topper was very popular as it was direct drive, while others were belt-driven. We sold thousands of them in the ’90s and our name was growing within the industry.
“I joined the business in 2008 and over time I took on more responsibility. I have a bachelor’s degree in commerce and a masters in business studies from University of Galway.
“Before joining the family business I worked as an area manager for Lidl.”
“My mother and sister Suzanne work with me in the business today.”
Barry sees a bright future ahead for the company, expecting demand to grow stronger from foreign markets in the years ahead.
“The majority of tankers headed down to New Zealand and Australia come from Europe,” he says. “We have a good reputation for manufacturing there. I’m seeing demand increasing throughout the world.
“Over 50pc of our products are exported. The UK remains the biggest market at 25pc.”
While Brexit brought additional paperwork, Barry is confident that trade hasn’t been too adversely impacted.
Barry says that while the future is bright, there are some immediate challenges for the business.
“The shortage in labour is concerning,” he says. “Most of our welders and painters come from a range of countries. Housing is a main restricting factor for when they arrive here.
“Our company depends on its good reputation to source skilled labour. It would be very difficult to get up to speed if you were to start out from scratch now.
“The machines have become very specific. Each customer comes with different specifications so it’s not often that two tanks are exactly the same.”
In addition to the made-to-specification slurry tankers, Barry’s team manufactures a range of machinery including bale wrappers, diet feeders, side spreaders and agitators.