Mechanical engineering at its best

10 May , 2018  

Over the past 20 years, Michael Higgins & Co Ltd. have developed a stellar reputation for providing unrivalled mechanical engineering services to the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, food & dairy sectors. We travelled to County Carlow and met up with the eponymous founder / managing director to find out more about this diverse, market-leading operation.

Established in October, 1997, Michael Higgins & Co. is a class-leading mechanical engineering firm that has successfully delivered a vast number of projects of varying sizes and complexities across the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, food & beverage and building services sectors.

The company prides itself on the fact that the vast majority of business is repeat custom and referral work – due to the fact that it offers clients a highly-personalised and tailored service. A skilled, fully-qualified, experienced and creative team of professionals boast strong in-house capabilities in all areas pertaining to mechanical contracting, including design, tendering, procurement, fabrication, installation, testing and commissioning.

Communication is key at Michael Higgins & Co Ltd. and all personnel are extremely competent in liaising with all relevant parties from inception through to hand-over, including suppliers, designers, main contractors and subcontractors.

Michael Higgins & Co’s reputation is built on the fact that they offer reliable solutions, delivering quality products whilst remaining mindful of safety, quality, schedule, budget and the environment. Their core strength lies in the fact that they provide a professional, organised and responsible service, backed by a proactive and positive attitude to problem-solving, budgeting and contract planning.

A quick glance at the client list – which reads like a veritable Who’s Who of main contractors and pharma companies – tells us all we need to know about the high esteem in which Michael Higgins & Co Ltd. is held across the industry:

Merck, Sharp and Dohme; Takeda; Ipsen Manufacturing; John Sisk and Sons (Pharma); BAM Contractors; P J Hegarty Glanbia; Rhottapharm; Mallinkrodt; Covidien Helsin Birax; Sigma Aldrich, Teva; Statoil / Topaz; PCI; Thames Water; Caloric GmbH; Viridian Huntstown; lndaver Ireland; Suir Engineering​, etc., etc.

Founder / MD Michael Higgins has been involved in mechanical engineering for almost half a century, since beginning to serve his time as a fitter in 1969. He first started to work as a mechanical contractor in the pharmaceutical sector with Schering Plough – since taken over by Merck, Sharp and Dohme – doing both plant installations and upgrades. Work soon followed with other pharma companies as well as dairy contracts, including a lot of repeat business for reputable main contractors Hegarty and Sisk.

In 2015, Michael Higgins & Co Ltd. completed all the stainless-steel process drainage on Glanbia’s new plant at Belview in Waterford. “They’re also doing an extension there and we are doing the stainless steel process drainage. We do a lot of that in both single-contained and double-contained, endorsed and recommended by Kent Stainless n Wexford,” Michael notes.

Biopharma and process water systems are other specialist services provided, incorporating quite a bit of stainless steel and bio-piping.

Turnover is around €3.5m, while employment is generated for between 20 and 25 people on average. How did Michael acquire so much expertise of the pharmaceutical sector?

“I’ve worked with a lot of companies in this area over the years and you just pick up more and more experience and know-how. I was supervisor / manager before going out on my own and had a good understanding of what their expectations were.

“Between these companies and food & dairy, that would account for a large percentage of our work. We do a lot of boiler installations, etc., and we can compete very well with the bigger mechanical contractors. Around 90% of our work would be carried out in live environments and our engineers would be well used to that by now. The staff are very important to me and I look after them well – the majority of them have been with me since I started out. They provide excellent workmanship and that’s why we have a strong core of people and companies who keep coming back to us over and over again.”

It’s an unforgiving market as margins are tight, so only the strongest will survive. “Rates have more or less frozen over the last ten years so it’s tough at times but we are very fortunate to have very good clients – especially the likes of Hegarty and Sisk,” says Michael. “We work very hard on building trust. We have a great relationship with Hegarty’s who have just finished a new biopharma plant in Damastown for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.”

The founder is joined on the board of directors by his son, Michael Jnr., with senior engineer Seamus Ryan also an integral part of the team, having joined straight out of college. Steady growth is the order of the day and this has been achieved through a painstaking process of delivering outstanding workmanship and building confidence and long-lasting relationships with clients.

The company has made impressive progress over the past two decades and, going forward it’s going to be a case of onwards and upwards for Michael Higgins & Co Ltd. – one of Ireland’s premier pharmaceutical mechanical engineering contractors.

“We have a 4.500 sq ft workshop in Rathnure, County Wexford, where we carry out all of our own stainless steel fabrication,” the MD concludes. “We have a regional office there now and this will become our head office in the future. We purchased an old creamery there in 2009 and are in the process of developing it into our HQ.”

To stand still is to go backwards; Michael Higgins & Co Ltd. is strategically moving forward. In many ways, this particular success story is only just beginning!

Michael Higgins & Co Ltd.,

The Lock,

St Mullins,

County Carlow.

Tel: 087 2772673

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.michaelhigginsandco.ie

Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, January 2018, Vol 4 No 1