In another first for the electrical industry in Ireland, Demesne are excited to bring you the first episode of our new Switched On podcast. In the first episode we discover how Paul Fitzsimons went from the Demesne Electrical stock room to becoming a co-owner, and our tech talk is with Schneider Electric’s Mark Keogh about the future of the electrical industry in Ireland and the U.K.
Our featured guest for the 1st episode of our new series of podcasts is our own Sales & Marketing Director Paul Fitzsimons, who talks about how he went form sweeping the floors in the warehouse in our premises on the Belgard Road in Tallaght, to eventually buying the company in a management buyout in 2008!
Following that insightful interview is our 'Tech Talk' segment where we talk to electrical industry professionals about new & innovative products coming to the market as well as the future of the industry in Ireland and the U.K.
Mark Keogh, VP for Buildings & Industry with Schneider Electric and outgoing president of EIFI is our first 'Tech Talk' guest.
We have more info on both guests below, or you can click here to jump straight into the 1st episode.
Paul Fitzsimons | Demesne Electrical
Ireland's electrical industry was completely different in the late 1970s, when Demesne opened its doors. Paul joined the company in the mid-1980s in the stores. Later, he seized opportunities as they arose, at the trade counter, in the office, and on the road. Eventually, he became one of Demesne's co-owners.
What was it like to break into the electrical industry in those days, how did Demesne grow, and how are things different today for people coming into the industry? Here's what we gleaned from our chat with Paul:
Demesne was a tiny company from the late 1970s until snagging its first
big contract, in 1980, with Telemecanique (which is now a part of Schneider Electric). The majority of training and education was done on the job, either through courses you took or just learning from those you worked with.
Noel McLoughlin, Demesne's founder, had a unique way of bringing newly hired people along by making sure they were exposed to training courses and any opportunity that came up. Because the economy was so strained at the time, and the job market was tough for anyone seeking work, people who were lucky enough to get hired into the electrical industry kept their job at all costs.
There weren't formal "job descriptions." Instead, you just did what was needed and what your bosses told you to do. One day you might be working in the store, at the trading counter, or wherever you were needed.
The best companies in this industry are home-grown. In other words, you learn most of your skills on the job, not before you arrive. This is an ideal way to make sure new people learn the business from the inside out, and not just as an academic subject, so to speak. The most successful employees in the electrical, or any industry are positive people, people who are willing to do whatever they're asked and not complain or have a bad attitude about pitching in to the group effort.
The relationships that Demesne has with its suppliers is a core part of the
company's success and its ability to thrive. Many of those relationships
are decades old, dating back to when founder Noel McLoughlin asked Telemecanique if he could be their distributor in Ireland. After that, Noel built connections all over Europe with other manufacturers and the company grew from there.
After a rough period, following a management buyout in 2008, times were tough but the company cut costs and forged ahead. Today, we're one of the Deloitte "Best Managed Companies" and were the EIFI Distributor of the Year for the last two years in a row.
Mark Keogh | Schneider Electric
Mark Keogh is VP for Buildings & Industry with Schneider Electric and outgoing president of EIFI. He's been at Schneider Electric for 30 years and in the electrical industry for 37 years.
Mark started out as an application engineer with Schneider Electric (when it was Telemancanique) and worked in many roles, including marketing, customer support, office management, sales, distribution, and sales. Now he's the VP for sales.
Because the industry is changing so rapidly, due to imposed conditions of
COVID and other forces, we're now in the midst of what's called "industry 4.0," or the fourth industrial revolution. It's about integrating software and artificial intelligence to truly revolutionize the manufacturing process.
The biggest challenge of Industry 4.0 is making sure people in the company have not only the right skill sets but are able to upgrade those skills constantly. You do this by making sure people have access to education and training with regard to innovations and new technologies.
Specialized training like that costs money and also calls for a time investment on the part of management. It's takes commitment for a company to keep its workers up to date, but the investment of money and time pays off in the long run.
The other big change has been COVID, which forced so many companies
in the electrical industry to move to tele-working for office employees and remote work for some of the technical jobs. Hopefully, after the pandemic is over, we'll be able to revert, at least partially, to some of the necessary client, in-person interaction. But remote work is here to stay for some jobs
where it's a workable way of doing things.
Equal in importance, for the industry, to the new industrial revolution and COVID-related changes is the challenge of climate change. Electrical manufacturers and distributors are continuing to reduce their own carbon footprints. But, and even bigger repercussion is the gradual, but certain, switch from fossil fuels to electricity. That means we'll continually be working to develop more and better renewable resources, like wind.
Plus, there's a push for coming up with more efficient batteries and ways to store electricity.
It's been a challenge to bring more women into the electrical engineering field because of age-old perceptions that it's a "hard-hat" career, even though it really isn't. Especially with today's shift to more high-tech applications, digital systems of all kinds, and management openings, we're working hard to bring more women into the industry. It's a journey, and we'll continue to focus on making these career paths attractive to women who want to join.
As outgoing president of EIFI, Mark sees his role as working to lobby for the entire industry. Two of the goals are to enhance up-skilling, or specialized training of workers, and to reward success in order to encourage people who do a great job.
It's essential to lobby government agencies on topics like standards,
efficiency, sustainability issues, and more. The key to what EIFI does best is working together with all the industry's representatives and acting as a unified voice to get things done for the betterment of the entire industry. Lobbying organizations thrive if their members work to recognize shared needs of all the members, not just one company or one group of companies.
There are exciting things in store for Ireland's electrical industry and EIFI is part of making sure all those changes take place smoothly and for the benefit of the industry as a whole.
Episode 1 of our new Switched On series of podcasts is available to listen to right now!