A novel use for one of its existing products combined with a new addition to the range has opened up new markets around the world for Dundalk-based engineering firm Multihog. Winter maintenance applications had been one of the main uses for the company’s range of highly manoeuvrable and versatile tractors until UAE machinery dealer Intercare came calling earlier this year.
“They found us through our website,” recalls Multihog marketing manager Fiona Reburn. “They bought a machine with a combi snowplough and brush attachment. Lots of airports use that attachment to clean snow from under planes where larger vehicles can’t go. Intercare’s end customer Bee’ah bought it to clean sand from the streets after sandstorms. This was a new application for an existing attachment for us and our first deal in the Middle East. It is opening up a new market for us and there is definitely potential there for more orders.”
The launch of the Multihog Sweeper in 2019 has broadened horizons. “The Sweeper is taking us into new markets in warmer climates,” says Reburn. “It is opening up lots of new markets where they almost never have snow or harsh winters. Everyone needs a sweeper, whether they are in Montreal or Dubai. The Sweeper contains the Multihog DNA – it’s small and compact and can operate on steep inclines. And you can put different attachments on it to make it a snowplough, a de-icer or a pressure washer.”
The Multihog DNA she refers to can be traced back to the company’s origins in 2008 when it was founded by Chief Executive Jim McAdam, the former Managing Director of Moffett Engineering. McAdam had played an instrumental role in the development of the revolutionary Moffett Mounty truck-mounted forklift before applying his engineering skills and innovative mindset to solving a problem at his home – a lawn on a steep incline that was proving extremely difficult to mow.
His initial design for a dedicated grass-cutting machine quickly morphed into a multi-purpose tractor which is now used by some of the world’s busiest airports, local authorities and maintenance contractors.
Innovation and market diversification have been critical to the company’s success over the years. Airports were a very significant component of the Multihog customer base, but that has diminished somewhat this year along with the dramatic downturn in air travel. “We have diversified a good bit in recent years,” Reburn adds. “In the US, we are targeting municipalities and maintenance contractors for parks and zoos and so on. We are also expanding in Europe and we delivered a machine to Antwerp Zoo recently. We have diversified into warmer climates as well, again targeting municipalities.”
Business in the US is very strong, she continues. “Municipalities make up our strongest market there. We have grown our American dealer network quite a bit this year. Even though our sales team was grounded by the pandemic they were able to go online, do the lead generation, and sign up quite a few dealers in Canada and the US.”
The Sweeper has taken the company into new market segments. “A huge amount of knowledge and effort went into its development and getting the suction right,” says Reburn. “The machine needs to have really good suction, but the noise has to be kept down as well. A huge amount of work went into that. We are very happy with it and the feedback from customers has been really good. The Sweeper also received a four-star rating from the European Engineering Industries Association particulate tests, the highest rating possible.”
Enterprise Ireland supports continue to play a significant role in the company’s success, according to Reburn. “They have always been a huge support to us. We are in constant contact with their overseas office network and Alan O’Mahony is helping us with our dealer search in the Middle East. We are also currently undertaking a digital marketing strategy project with the support of Enterprise Ireland’s e-Marketing Improvement programme. That will help us refine our digital strategy and grow our brand online. The Intercare order for the UAE market showed the importance of having a strong online presence.”
New product and market development will remain key to the company’s future growth strategy. “We are constantly innovating, and we always have new products in the pipeline,” says Reburn. “We will also continue to expand our dealer network both in existing markets and further afield. We signed up new dealer in Australia earlier in the year. That was another first for us and we are hoping that Australia will be another big market for our products. Again, they wouldn’t be interested in our machines for winter application. They will use them for weed control, grass mowing and so on.”
Closer to home in a more traditional market, the company has just won a contract to supply a number of Sweepers to Swedish airport operator Swedavia. “The beauty of the Sweeper is that it can be put to multiple uses in summer and winter,” Reburn points out. “And we’ve just appointed Frissen Kehrtechnik as the importer for Sweeper for Germany.”
According to Enterprise Ireland’s Middle East, Africa & India market advisor Alan O’Mahony “Multihog’s latest innovation in machinery highlight’s their adaptability to operate in some of the world’s harshest climates. Enterprise Ireland MENA team continue to support Multihog and provide new avenues for growth for the company across the Gulf markets.”
The Covid-19 pandemic had an adverse impact earlier in the year, but the company has made up for lost ground since. “It was very tough,” Reburn recalls. “Production stopped earlier in the year because we couldn’t get parts in and that slowed our growth. We are back up and running at full production. We are lucky we can stay open and we are catching up now.”