Multihog gets to grips with the snow
Margaret Roddy talks to Jim McAdam the Dundalk man behind the company making machines to clear up after severe weather events like the Beast from the East
As airports and local authorities across Europe battled to keep services running in the face of last week's Beast from the East, one piece of equipment made in Dundalk played a vital role. The Multihog, the brainchild of Dundalk man Jim McAdam, could be seen in TV footage and news photos being used to clear runways and roads as the Siberian weather brought havoc across the continent.
The Dublin Road native was able to take some grim satisfaction from seeing twelve of his company's machines in operation at Dublin airport on Wednesday morning before having to return home due to his flight being cancelled.
Jim came up with the concept for the Multihog, which now sells to 26 different countries worldwide, after selling his shares in Moffett Engineering, the forklift manufacturing company of which he was Managing Director.
Initially, he was planning on developing something completely different. 'I live on the side of the mountain between Omeath and Carlingford and the garden is on a slope so I went looking for a machine to cut the grass,' he recalls.
He couldn't find one, not even in the United States, and decided he was going to make one. He subsequently changed direction, but kept his focus on innovation, and came up with the Multihog product.
The Multihog is a multi-purpose tractor which can be used for a variety of purposes from grass cutting to snow clearance, although the latter accounts for just 10 per cent of the company's sales.
He set up the company in March 2008, just four months before the bottom fell out of the economy. It wasn't the best of timing for a new enterprise, but he says 'if it had been later, I probably wouldn't have done it.'
As a fledgling company there was a lot of work to be done in designing and building the product before putting it on the market.
'It was not easy,' he admits. 'It's taken a lot of work but we have come through and got to where we wanted.'
The same could be said for Jim in that it was always his ambition to be an engineer.
He attended the Christian Brothers School in Dundalk before going to study mechanical engineering at DkIT and DIT Bolton Street.
'After college I went straight to work in Moffett Engineering and became one of the shareholders.'
It was there he met with Gerry McHugh, Multihog's technical director. The two men worked together before Gerry left to set up Aisle Master, later coming back to work with Jim in 2010. 'He has a lot of technical experience behind him which is great for the company.'
Multihog now operates out of the former ABB factory on the Finnabair Industrial Estate and employs 60 people.
'It's a six acre site so we have great scope for growth,' says Jim. 'We do intend to grow the business. It's always a challenge, it's a matter of surviving the bad times and growing in the good times.'
The Multihog, which comes in a number of different models, sells to 26 countries worldwide including the United States, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and China. Their customers are busy airports, municipal councils and contractors working on road and ground maintenance. A range of attachments mean the machines can be used year-round; from de-icing and snow sweeping in winter to grass cutting and weed control in summer.
Although Brexit is naturally a concern, Jim remains sanguine.
'While the UK would have accounted for a large portion of our sales at one stage, it's only about 10 per cent currently. We will be directing our focus on to other markets, with the United States being a big growth area.' In fact Jim's son Robert, who studied electrical engineering and who works in the company, will be heading up Multihog's US dealer network along with another young employee. His daughter Sarah is also following in his footsteps and is now studying engineering at Dublin City University.
Product development and adherence to a plethora of accreditations and regulations is of utmost importance for the firm.
'We do extensive R&D and have up to ten engineers working on a very good project which is due to be completed at the end of the year. We have full European type approval and everything has to be designed and manufactured to the highest standards,' he says. 'There is no other company in Ireland making a fully road going vehicle.'
Safety is a top priority and vehicles are tested and approved for use in a variety of taxing situations so that driver safety is ensured.
'This is a very big selling point for us and the whole design process is very sophisticated and exacting. We have our own software engineers and a very good team of development people.'
Jim is appreciative of the wonderful support the company has had from Enterprise Ireland since the beginning, and feels that Dundalk is 'a fantastic location, just 45 minutes from the airport with motorway the whole way.'
Right now the Multihog team is expanding, in line with its ambitious plans for growth.
'We have a very good team of people in Dundalk, and are always on the lookout for more - we currently have vacancies in quality control, technical aftersales and assembly,' says Jim.
If you'd like to join the Dundalk-based team, please visit www.multihog.com/career-opportunities to apply for a role.