Upwardly mobile: How one Limerick company is coping with Covid

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Email:

donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

Upwardly mobile: How one Limerick company is coping with Covid

Samco's Robert Shine is standing at the door of the mobile home in Adare waiting to finish his isolation while Matthew, on the right, will take up residence after his travels this month

THE SHINE family in Adare have purchased a mobile home but it is not destined for Ballybunion or Kilkee.

It is located at the side of Samco Agricultural Manufacturing’s newly built factory which they moved into in November 2019.

Matthew Shine, Samco sales director, said the reason for the purchase is because they export 80% of products they produce in Adare.

“For us to continue maintaining our business abroad we must visit our customers and the only way to keep our work colleagues and families safe when returning from trips is to isolate away from everyone,” said Matthew.

His brother Robert - who has recently taken over as managing director from their pioneering dad Sam - is the first to stay in the mobile home as he visited Holland, Belgium and Germany in August.

“Then I will be heading to the UK for a number of weeks while our colleague Damian Tobianski will be heading to Poland and we will return at the same time. So that the isolation period will be the strict 14 days for myself and Damian.”

Robert’s European excursion was the first one abroad since March for the normally jet-setting family and their employees.

“I was actually in southern Chile in early March visiting customers and planning orders. Then the schools closed back in Ireland and things started to go pear-shaped as my return flight back to Ireland on March 25 was cancelled. I contacted the Irish Embassy in Santiago, Chile and I found a flight out of Chile and landed back in Ireland on a very surreal, quiet St Patrick's Day,” said Mathew.

In the agricultural industry, clients like boots on the ground on their land and not in Ireland.

“Most of our customers on a day-to-day basis do not have much contact with people as they are busy working the land and caring for animals and for us to explain to our long-standing customers that we couldn't travel due to the situation - I must say they were very disappointed. Now six months on, I think everyone truly understands the situation regarding travel abroad and the risks associated.”

Now that Samco’s staff are air-borne again they are doing everything to minimise those risks before they leave, as well as staying in the mobile when they return.

“Before any of us travel we always check the essentials - rain jackets, welly boots, company embroidered shirts, leaflets, pens, the basics when meeting customers to set up machines for simply to walk the crops. Now we nearly have to bring a full medical kit with us with disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, masks etc. Today we see it everywhere and it’s good to see everyone trying their best and taking the necessary precautions.”

One good thing that came out of lockdown for Samco - best known for its 3 in 1 machine - was it gave staff more time to innovate.

“We are always planning 10 months of the year for two special months of ultra madness which is April and May. Those two months are nicknamed "the silly season" as in April and May the majority of our 3 in 1 machines are in the fields working from Japan to Europe to Canada. So normally there is virtually nobody in our offices, production or assembly floors because we always send staff to those parts of the world to support the customer with technical advice and hands on backup service.

“The fact that we were all grounded this April and May made it very challenging to support our customers. It made us more innovative where we did short social media videos of both technical and common problems customers might come across, and we actually found from all of us being grounded within the factory walls so to speak, with open discussions with our team members. We have identified some common issues which we will look to update and upgrade on some current machine models. So if anything that was very beneficial to us.”

Self-isolation will take a toll on family life as a two week trip, for example, will mean four weeks before they can come home again.

“When speaking to Robert through the open window he is looking forward to finally getting home to see his wife and children. He has given me some pointers though. He said that when I move into the ‘isolation unit’ an extra bed cover is required as it is much colder than he expected and also he recommended a good set of earbuds as the birds like to sing very early in the mornings!”

But the show must go on and Samco has recently signed a contract to be the main dealer for County Limerick for the Kverneland brand.

More details to follow in the coming weeks.