Over the years, SL Controls has completed various projects outside Ireland for clients in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. However, we took this international growth a stage further in 2019 by opening a new office in Florida, USA. We did this through an existing international client we have a strong and long-standing relationship with.
Patrick Potter is Florida Operations Lead for SL Controls, so he is the person who led the expansion into the US.
Patrick said: “The first client we started working with in the US has a sister plant in Ireland that we have completed projects for over a number of years. Therefore, we have a detailed knowledge of the products they are manufacturing as well as the machines, equipment, and platforms they use.
“It made sense to transfer that knowledge to the plant in the US, delivering the same productivity, efficiency, and OEE improvements to the US operation that we have delivered – and continue to deliver – in Ireland.”
Building on Our Reputation
Delivering according to client requirements and expectations is central to everything we do. Darragh McMorrow, Commercial Director at SL Controls, says expansion into the US is a significant milestone in the company’s growth plans.
“Having an established relationship with this client and then being trusted to deliver similar projects at the US-based sister manufacturing facility of the Irish plant is something we are very proud of.
“Technology in our sector moves incredibly fast as new and increasingly innovative Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory-related technologies come on-stream.
“The regulatory requirements that our clients must follow also mean new and creative solutions need to be developed.
“In Ireland, we are well-established as the leading provider in the delivery of these solutions. We’re also now well on our way to building a similar reputation in the US.”
The Practicalities of Expanding in the US
As he was the lead in the process, Patrick now has key first-hand experience of establishing operations in another country. Before he took on the role in the US, he was a Project Manager working from one of SL Control’s Irish offices.
Patrick said: “I’ve worked in the UK before, so I have some experience of working abroad, but this was a bit different. I wasn’t moving to an established office in the US – I was moving to start the office.
“It was a brand-new venture and, although SL Controls has done work in the US before, I had never been to the US for SL Controls. However, it was an opportunity to see other parts of the world. So, I was very interested, and so was my wife. In the end, it was an easy decision to make the move.”
Patrick spent five weeks in the US in October 2018 to get a feel for working in a different country. The plan was then to return in January although the process for obtaining a suitable visa turned out to be “painfully slow”.
Patrick has now been in the US since July, setting up home – and the new SL Controls office – in Jacksonville, Florida.
Initial Challenges But Significant Opportunities As Well
“There are challenges,” said Patrick. “I know the systems and technologies very well because of our work on the client’s sister plant in Ireland, but there are little things you have to start again with from scratch, such as establishing working relationships with key personnel in a brand new working environment.
“But, getting to know the right people was only a minor item at the start. In a short space of time, I have developed excellent working relationships with my new colleagues which have been a major help in allowing me to settle into my new environment so quickly. I also now live in the Florida heat and sunshine, which is a big plus.
“It also looks to me that there is a serious opportunity here in the US too. It’s the size and scale of this country and the number of clients and manufacturing plants that exist. I mean, Florida is bigger than Ireland and it is only one state.
“Also, automation is a growing force here in the US. Automating manufacturing and business processes is a key priority for companies, and SL Controls has a proven track record of delivering projects in this area.
“Looking to the future, the potential for SL Controls in the US, with our new office in Florida now established, is highly promising.”