Trail blazers... Broughan Engineering firm in Carlow
The new regulations have given another lift to the booming Broughan Engineering firm in Carlow
When it comes to successful machinery stories, the county of Carlow is in a league of its own.
A good example is Broughan Engineering. Located just outside Tullow, it is a rapidly growing trailer manufacturing business owned by local brothers Patrick and Paul Broughan.
The firm was established 16 years ago, but the brothers' engineering legacy was first started by their father, Paddy, who combined his love of farming with an interest in engineering.
"One day, a local farmer came to us and asked if we would make a trailer," explained Paul. "That turned out well and it led to another order, which led to another and eventually it led to where we are now."
Both brothers actively work on the factory floor, and they have witnessed firsthand the business go through a sizeable expansion: "Due to the demand for trailers, we have grown the size of the premises and increased the workforce," Paul added. "We currently employ 18 full-time staff. In the last few years a finishing shed has been added to the factory and a new lifting gantry has also recently been installed.
"We are looking at expanding again this year with another new shed; we are completely booked up with orders for new trailers for the next couple of months."
The largest percentage (around 60pc) of what Broughan Engineering constructions are silage and grain trailers, ranging from a 16ft long with twin axles to a 26ft model in tri-axle specification.
They also make a fair quantity of cattle trailers from 16ft single axle, up to 34ft tri-axle in whatever specification the customer wants.
In flat-bodied bale trailers, the duo manufacture 25-36ft tri-axle trailers as well, again with the emphasis on the specification that the customer wants.
Orders this year are looking very good, something that Paul Broughan had been expecting with the introduction of new trailer regulations by the RSA at the turn of the year tempting lots of farmers and contractors to open their cheque book.
Last year the firm manufactured and sold close to 350 trailers around Ireland and abroad. Already this year around 90 trailers - or seven each week - have been manufactured and delivered in the first quarter of 2016.
A look at the sales breakdown shows that exports now account for around 40pc of Broughan Engineering's production. The firm sell a lot of trailers into Britain, with France, Sweden and New Zealand also emerging markets.
At last week's open day a batch of four yellow liveried Broughan dump trailers were lined up ready to be dispatched to New Zealand for delivery to another new client. The business has grown significantly during the past 24 months, with production confidently forecast to hit 500 trailers for the first time in 2017.
Grain and silage trailers are produced steadily all year round, while there is also big demand for bale trailers. Orders for dump trailers are coming in again now as well after a quiet period during the building recession.
However, as with all manufacturing businesses there have been challenges in balancing demand and supply.
"We always encourage customers to place orders in advance so that we know the if they want air brakes, the colour or tyre size required and whether they want things like hydraulic tailgate doors," said Paul.
"Typically, we can deliver a trailer in between four and six weeks once we get the advance order and spec level required. We are heading into a very busy time of year for silage, which is why prefer to take orders; we prefer to get orders at the end of the year for a spring delivery to ensure customers get their trailer on time."
Initially the Broughan brothers used to handle all the sales themselves from their base in Tullow but they found that to get coverage all over Ireland, they had to go through dealers. Several dealers have been appointed and this move has allowed the firm to get good coverage across Ireland, which remains the key market.
The Broughans were not overly worried about the new trailer rules that have come into play, saying they had always been building trailers to a higher specification level than what was the market norm. "We build all our trailers on commercial-spec axles, for example,"
Paul explained: "We build a lot of trailers already to the top spec, with air suspension, air drawbar, ABS and probably the safest hitch on the road - the ball and spoon drawbar, supplied by Dromone Engineering in Meath."
The Broughans say only a handful of customers are choosing to upgrade trailers to meet the new rules. Instead, the majority are opting to buy a new trailer instead. "If a farmer has to spend €2-3k on an older trailer adding air brakes, fixing lights, upgrading tyres etc, that sort of money often makes them look at buying a new trailer altogether," said Paul. "We expected lots of retrofitting work for older trailers to come our way since the rules came in but it hasn't materialised."
The firm offers a range of tyres from BKT for customers looking for lower ground pressure wheels. The size of the most popular option, according to Paul, is the 560/60R22.5 tyre. This can run on air pressures as low as three bar to help minimise rutting when working soft ground.
As for the outlook ahead, the future is looking bright for Broughan Trailers but the owners are still keen to keep ahead of the curve and offer top quality. Prices for Broughan grain/silage trailers start at €11,000 plus VAT for an 18x8ft basic specification and go up to around €23,000 plus VAT for a 26ft full-spec, three-axle, on air, up-and-over tailgate.
For more information visit broughanengineeringltd.com.
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