In episode 7 of our Switched On podcast, we share loads of insights into brand building!
Damien Kane is the current director for a Kane Engineering, a company at the top of the low-voltage switchgear industry for industrial and commercial clients in Ireland and the UK. He's been guiding the company since 1994. He and his team live up to the organization's mission of being, "... an expert partner in electrical switchgear."
The family-run business has built a strong reputation for itself in Northern Ireland's electrical industry, offering low-voltage switchboards, motor-control centres, as well as control and automation products. Clients include Grand Opera and Titanic Belfast, and many others, large and small.
Keep reading to know more, or you can click here to jump straight into the 7th episode.
What's The History Of Kane Engineering?
The Kane Engineering story reads like a family album. Damien's father, Raymond, was working as an electrician and decided to fill a need he saw in the switchgear niche. At first, he operated the company, originally called Century Engineering, as a side-business, putting in late hours during the week and devoting spare weekend time to the effort.
As soon as he had the gut feeling that the time was right, he took Century on as a full-time venture, setting it up as a limited company and registering it in 1971. Working out of a small office just north of the Gasworks industrial site, on McAuley Street, Raymond Kane's new location was in the midst of a volatile 1970s political environment.
He often encountered police blockades on his way to and from work. But he made due and grew the company and eventually took a new office in 1976 and expanded the company from there, and renamed it because he felt having his own name on the products was the right thing to do.
Raymond believed in doing whatever had to be done to succeed. He had a growing family and had literally invested his heart and soul, and finances, into making Kane Engineering a success. It's typical of his get-it-done attitude that one night, when he saw a police lights up ahead on Ormeau Road from his old office on McAuley Street (about where St. Malachy's Primary School stands today) he just wanted to get home safe and sound.
But, people were hijacking cars left and right, and it was hard to get through the chaos. So, he pulled a scarf up over his face, drove fast with the windows down, and yelled to the carjackers, "I just hijacked this one. You get the next one." The impersonation worked, and he arrived home safely that night.
What? You're Not An Engineer?
Damien's training is in business, and at first, he didn't entertain the idea of going into the company. None of his four siblings is involved today, and he only decided to give it a go after having worked in London for a while for an international firm. By the 1990s, Raymond was trying to decide whether to sell the company, retire, or do whatever felt like the best way to transfer control to someone else. He was ready to retire after a long, demanding career at the helm.
In 1994, with several years of work experience and a business degree behind him, Damien came into the firm and simply got busy learning the business from the ground up. He had sort of decided not to decide about the future, but just to work hard and see what happened next.
By that time, the enterprise had shrunk down to about 15 employees, similar to its original size. But the 1990s and early 2000s were years of growth, with new customers, new territories, and, for Damien, a brand new family. He and his wife welcomed sons in 2001 and 2003, and a daughter in 2008. Things were going well all around. And then, the 2008 economic shock happened.
Watershed Year 2008, Investors, New Markets
Sometimes very good things occur in very bad times. When the full impact of the financial crash was making itself known in late 2008, an investor knocked on the Kane Engineering door and offered to back the company, give it the resources to grow, open up larger markets, and basically enter a new phase of its corporate life.
The arrangement worked, details were ironed out, and by 2009, the company was no longer, technically speaking, just a "family-owned" enterprise. From 2009 onward, Kane Engineering has experienced its strongest periods of growth.
How did the company's director decide to invest the newfound financial resources? Damien decided to invest in the one thing that had make the company a success from day one: people. His role as director was focused on business development, bringing in new customers and maintaining relationships with the ones who were already on board.
Now with a staff of 32, headed toward 40 within the next couple of years, Kane Engineering recently celebrated its golden anniversary, marking 50 years since Raymond put everything he had into a dream of filling a need in the electrical switchgear industry.
What's Happened In The Switchgear Industry In The Last 50 Years?
Products are much more complex than they used to be, so it's more of a challenge now to build resilience and long-term quality into components, but Kane Engineering does it because that's what they do. Some of their long-time customers call and ask for upgrades on older equipment that's been in fine working order for decades. They want Kane brand switchgear to replace our original products.
That's the kind of reputation they have and it's gratifying for Damien, he says, to have his name on what the company sells. It brings a sense of pride and responsibility to get things right, to deliver quality, and to build long-term resilience into everything the company sells.
What Does The Next Decade Hold For The Electrical Industry?
Remote work is the wave of the future in the electrical business. With IoT (the internet of things) and other high-tech IT developments, it's possible for technicians to do switchgear maintenance and checks from afar, which is great during the COVID pandemic, and will continue to transform the way Kane Engineering works long after that crisis is over. The company is investing in remote switchgear management processes and technology and sees a bright future.
Hear the Interview
Listen to our full interview with Tommy by searching ‘Switched On Demesne Electrical’ in your podcast player or just click this link:
Episode 7 of our new Switched On series of podcasts is available to listen to right n