Limerick Business Leader: Packing a punch as Rigid continues to show flexibility

Mark Munnelly heads up the Irish operation of Galvone-based Rigid Containers, a company which prides itself on recruiting locally

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

Mark Munnelly heads up Rigid, which is based in a facility affectionately known as the 'box factory’ at the Galvone Industrial Estate

Mark Munnelly heads up Rigid, which is based in a facility affectionately known as the 'box factory’ at the Galvone Industrial Estate

Tell us a little about Rigid Containers:

Rigid Containers is a manufacturer of corrugated packaging. To everyone in the consumer world, it’s your standard cardboard box. We belong to the British subsidiary of VPK Packaging. Our parent company is VPK. Rigid containers operate in the UK. We have three sites. They acquired the former Europaks site in April 2015. Following this, it embarked on an integration process. Since then, we have invested almost €10m in capital upgrades and infrastructure and improving the site in general. Based in the Galvone Industrial Estate in Roxboro, we employ up to 100 people depending on seasonality. We recruit locally, and would have a number of staff here who would have worked for us for 40 years or more. It’s something we value and view as a positive that people are committed to the business, they have significant knowledge and a strong skillset.

What does your role entail?

My role is to run the Limerick site and ensure at the end of each month, we are on target in terms of our financial forecast, and any support we need from investment to our overall strategy. We would have a lot of synergies.

Where were you born and raised?

I am from Co Laois originally, around 15 minutes from Carlow town. Now I live in Castletroy.

What is your educational background?

In the year 2000, I moved to Dublin, where I studied for an undergraduate degree at Trinity College in business, economics and politics. From then on, I spent the next four or five years in Dublin. I’d worked for a separate company, and did a placement in Limerick in three months in 2008. I completed my final MBA last year, as I was working.

How did you get to where you are today?

After completing my time in Trinity College, I did a masters in peace studies to further the political aspect, at the same college. I went working for a year before joining Smurfit Kappa on its graduate programme for two years. I did a further two years with Smurfit Kappa. Eventually, I left and joined an American firm Humanscale International, which produce high-end ergonomic furniture for large offices. I stayed there for two and a half years.

The role here came up, I was approached, and came down and took a look. I decided it was an exciting opportunity so grabbed it with both hands. Rigid were here 14 months when I joined.

What made you want to join Rigid Containers?

Previously, I had been working in an operational role, and I wanted to make that step up to being a business units manager. This role provided the opportunity to do that. I went through a recruitment process, and interviewed with the managing director Richard Coward. In him, I found someone I wanted to work for. Everything was in line, I was familiar with the business from my time in Smurfit Kappa, and having met Richard, that sealed it. He’s a gentleman, he’s been a mentor as well as a boss.

Who do you admire in business?

From all my previous bosses, I’ve picked up something. In business, there are so many people. I read as many autobiographies as I can. You keep what works for you, and forget the rest. I think you learn something from everybody. Day-to-day, you are always learning: or you should be.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

We have an ambitious growth strategy. We currently operate on a two-shift strategy. From a manufacturing point of view, a third shift is more efficient and profitable. That’s the short-term goal.

The general mission for Limerick is to provide VPK with the strategic footprint it requires on a pan-European level to support its growth objectives. You see in the world of business, all industries are consolidating more. You need a geographical footprint, particularly with Brexit on the horizon. We have short-term goals in Limerick, but the long term one is to be part of the pan-European network VPK is creating.

Would that mean more jobs?

With the introduction of a new shift, we would imagine there would be 30 new jobs, and we’d imagine there would be a third phase of capital investment which will range between €5m and €10m, depending on the range of market growth.

Are you guided by any particular motto?

I believe in fairness. I know it’s a subjective term, but I feel Irish people have an innate sense of what’s fair and what’s not. I never ask anything of anyone that’s not required. When I give my word on something, I see it through. That’s what builds credibility. It’s important for me to be fair. People can trust that.

Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?

For the last couple of years, my pastimes have been thinking of how to reach our objectives. In the last four years, it has been hectic. The MBA took two years of time. That was a huge undertaking. It took all my spare time. Moving here, and trying to turn the business around required energy, as all things do. But I’ve been fortunate to have a good group of people.

In 2019, I’ll try to get back to reading. Some physical exercise would not go astray. I’d like to get back playing GAA.

My brother Ross plays inter-county for Laois and my brother Colm plays senior for my club at home. I fell away from that, and I’d really like to get back to that. It’s good for the mind.