LINC Engineering Network, a member-led engineering cluster network based in North Cork and East/ West Limerick, is enabling indigenous engineering companies of various sizes to become stronger despite challenges generated by Covid-19.
The cluster, which was initiated ahead of its time in 2014, now boasts over 40 members with diverse engineering disciplines and ranging in size from start-ups to medium sized enterprises like Design Pro Automation, Takumi Engineering and EPS Group which employs over 500 people. The companies are spread across rural County Limerick and North Cork in towns like Kildimo, Rathkeale, Newmarket and Mallow.
One of the core areas under the remit of LINC Engineering Network is to support and promote peer learning, inter-company networking, collaboration and best practice. Several member companies have found they are growing faster together than they would on their own due to ongoing collaboration.
Chris Doody, Doody Engineering, specialists in fabrication, noted, “As a small family run company, it’s easier to grow in a group like LINC – on our own we’re living under a stone. Since joining LINC, we’ve been able to increase and diversify the range of services we offer clients by working in collaboration with other members. We don’t have our own laser cutting machines but instead of turning work away, we now sub-contract that work to fellow members Irish Rollforming in Mallow. In the last year we responded to an e-tender with two other members, this opportunity would never have been available to us in the past. We’re breaking new ground as a company and as a cluster.”
While established to ensure engineering companies in the region of North Cork and East/West Limerick are supported as major changes take place due to globalisation, the LINC network has proved to be an essential service to members during the pandemic. It has become a hub for knowledge sharing where members meet online every two weeks to discuss relevant issues, gain information in relation to supports and sub-contract business.
Fiona Murphy, Takumi Engineering, said, “Together, we’ve been looking at newer ways to develop business as everyone experienced a downturn in business due to Covid-19. We can bounce ideas and learn from each other which allows us to make better strategic decisions on our business. We’re a small nation, there’s strength in numbers.”
Mike Cantwell, Head of LEO Limerick and Innovate Limerick said, “Clusters are drivers and enablers of change and in particular helping member companies build resilience. This has never been more evident than in the last 12 months. We can clearly see the impact that engagement with LINC Network has had on members in terms of building their resilience as they face challenges posed by Brexit and Covid-19 and develop remedial actions.”
LINC also provides a central hub of information in relation to Government supports across training, funding, innovation and recruitment.
Paul Sheahan, Unison Engineering, specialists in pasteurisers, homogenisers and heat exchangers, said, “We’re exporting all over the world and dealing with export regulations is a minefield. Through LINC, we’re getting the information we need and finding best ways of dealing with the red tape involved. We were also able to send two staff members on an AutoCAD course and upskill. This is hugely valuable.”
Patrick Buckley, Managing Director of EPS Group and Chair of LINC, was one of the founding members of LINC and is a firm advocate for industry collaboration. Although being one of the largest companies in the cluster, EPS Group also realises a number of benefits.
Mr Buckley explains, “For companies like us it is a win-win. We’re contributing to the LINC Network but also gaining from it. For smaller companies, they benefit from collaborating with us as they gain visibility to large scale projects. For us, we can demonstrate to our global customers that we have an enhanced, highly capable and high quality supply chain,” he said.
“When industry collaborates, benefits ensue. Collaboration supports innovation, industrial modernisation, the scaling up of SME’s as well as the reskilling and upskilling of the workforce. LINC Engineering Network is bringing all these benefits to play. We have seen members collaborate on tenders, save money through joint procurement, access R&D through the University of Limerick, send staff on highly skilled training courses and learn from industry experts”, he continued.
LINC Engineering Network is keen to attract new members and widen its remit geographically. For more information see www.lincnetwork.ie.