Pictured L-R: John Whelan, Design Engineer, with Pat Amond, CEO, Carlow Toolmaking Services.
In this week’s CEO Q&A, Pat Amond, CEO, Carlow Toolmaking Services, tells Business & Finance how his Local Enterprise Office has helped him achieve business goals.
Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
My main priorities for Carlow Toolmaking Services (CTS) are to keep the company performing at a steady rate to ensure repeat business from our existing customers and grow the customer base on a yearly basis.
Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?
Ensuring customers are happy with the service we provide; ongoing training for our employees to keep them up to date with changing times; training apprentices in order to keep the toolmaking trade alive for the future, as engineering and apprenticeships in general are under pressure from the lack of support from some schools where going to college is being pushed towards the students.
Q. How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?
I involve all the staff in every aspect of CTS. We are very transparent with all the workings of CTS, for example, I brought in a share profit scheme three years ago which has proven very successful and it also gives everyone a sense of responsibility in the company. Ongoing training within CTS gives everyone a different challenge in their working day.
Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?
Qualified toolmakers could be an issue shortly if the engineering trade is not careful. Apprenticeships need to be promoted both at home and in schools–in my opinion too many people are going to college with no definite goal at the end, whereas with an apprenticeship you are in the workplace from day one, learning from a qualified tradesperson and you still have to attend college for about one year of your apprenticeship to do your trade exams.
Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?
3D printing, although it’s not necessarily a new trend, it is being used more frequently within the toolmaking trade for speed and quick turnaround of prototypes which can be produced at a cheaper rate than machining.
Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
Again, apprenticeships, in order to keep the supply of qualified toolmakers available to the engineering trade–schools providing relevant information to students, career guidance teachers organising visits to workshops. I’d like to see Solas, together with businesses, visit schools to promote engineering, especially the apprenticeship side of engineering.
Q. As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?
Design engineers seem to be scarce now, maybe the colleges need to change the course a little to provide specific training for the design aspect of engineering.
Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?
Fortunately we did not suffer the downturn during the crisis; neither did we see the upsurge in the so-called boom. We were lucky enough to be dealing with a number of dependable multinational companies in the medical, oral-care and automotive industries, and these companies kept us busy through out the crisis and still keep us busy today.
Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
Indirectly we will be affected, but to what extent I’m not sure. We don’t export or import directly, and I have spoken to all our Irish and English suppliers who have reassured us that they have all the paperwork in place as this is their bread and butter. We have made provision for longer deliveries on certain materials and explained this to our customers also. We will be affected with tariffs and delays on our goods at customs.
We have attended information days about Brexit and also did the “Prepare Your Business for Customs” workshop with the Local Enterprise Office Carlow, and with this we got one-to-one mentoring which helped us very much.
Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Success to me is happy customers and happy employees. Without either or both, CTS would not succeed.
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
Pay as you go, and if you can’t pay, don’t go.
Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
We won the National Enterprise Award County Final in 2019, and we went on to represent Carlow in the National Finals in Dublin’s Mansion House. This was organised by the Local Enterprises Offices, which over the years have helped us on many occasions, providing both financial assistance and training to CTS.
We also won Best Training Initiatives 2019 with County Carlow Chamber; and we were nominated for the Apprentice Employer of the Year award with Generation Apprenticeship 2019.
Q. What’s next for your company?
Growing the business on a yearly basis, and upskilling our workforce to ensure we keep ahead of the changing times.
Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
I want to be competitive within our sector, to have increased our customer base, increased our turnover, and still be providing high quality, innovative precision components to our customers.
Pat Amond is an ambassador for Local Enterprise Office’s Local Enterprise Week 2020, which takes place from March 2nd-6th, with 300 events taking place nationwide across 31 LEOs. For more information see www.localenterprise.ie.