Elec­tric cars force new fo­cus at Mc­murtry firm

Mar­ket dis­rup­tion could hit petrol and diesel com­po­nent sales at bil­lion­aire Ir­ish in­ven­tor’s Ren­ishaw, writes John Reynolds

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

IR­ISH bil­lion­aire in­ven­tor David Mc­murtry’s Ren­ishaw is tar­get­ing its R&D ef­forts at the elec­tric car mar­ket as the com­pany ac­knowl­edged that earn­ings at the €4bn Ftse-listed pre­ci­sion en­gi­neer­ing and mea­sur­ing de­vice maker that he co-founded could be hit by the move away from petrol and diesel cars.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers of parts and com­po­nents for cars have been a large mar­ket for the busi­ness, but speak­ing at the com­pany head­quar­ters this week new CEO Will Lee — who has taken over the role from Mc­murtry — spoke about how it may be af­fected, though the com­pany does not break down its sales by in­dus­trial sec­tors.

“The pace of dis­rup­tion that’s tak­ing place brings op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges. We’re look­ing at the op­por­tu­ni­ties it may give us — par­tic­u­larly re­lated to elec­tric mo­tors — and re­fo­cus­ing our sales and R&D ac­cord­ingly,” he said.

Car maker Nissan said this week it will gradu- ally phase out diesel car pro­duc­tion in Europe, while some cities have said they will ban petrol and diesel cars as soon as 2025.

Ren­ishaw also out­lined how parts for elec­tric cars may also need to be made by 3D print­ing (also known as ad­di­tive manufacturing), which its lat­est quad laser-equipped 3D metal printer could make. The print­ers, which are priced from €745,000, can al­ready make a key com­po­nent for range ex­ten­ders for elec­tric cars, it demon­strated.

Hav­ing four lasers re­duces the pro­duc­tion time for a part by at least 50pc — help­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers in­crease their ef­fi­ciency and re­duce pro­duc­tion costs ac­cord­ingly, com­pany ex­ec­u­tives ex­plained.

Sup­ply­ing them to the mak­ers of these high-value parts, as well as com­po­nents for air­craft en­gines, for ex­am­ple, are an­other key fo­cus of the firm’s R&D. “We’re tar­get­ing ar­eas that our com­peti­tors aren’t in. At the mo­ment most of the patents we’re fil­ing are in this area. Our staff are also look­ing at the role ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will play in 3D print­ing,” said its head of en­gi­neer­ing Ge­off Mul­hol­land.

Mc­murtry added: “We’re con­fi­dent that our profit mar­gin in this area should be high as long as we can get a niche in the mar­ket. Though [US in­dus­trial gi­ant] GE have now bought sev­eral 3D-printer mak­ers, none of their ma­chines have four lasers like ours. Most in the mar­ket have only two lasers.” Mak­ers of flat screen TVS — which have been boosted by the trend for big­ger screen TVS — are among Ren­ishaw’s cus­tomers, while an ex­pected in­crease in manufacturing of them in China, rather than Korea, could help boost de­vice sales, as could a rise in semi­con­duc­tor manufacturing for the elec­tron­ics mar­kets, the com­pany said.

Its laser en­coders fea­ture in ro­bot­ics, and can also be used in self-driv­ing cars, as well as in manufacturing pro­cesses.

As its global work­force ap­proaches 4,600 peo­ple, Ren­ishaw fore­casts sales this fi­nan­cial year of €665m-€693m, with pre-tax prof­its of €165m-€181m. Both sets of fig­ures are up slightly on its pre­vi­ous trad­ing up­date.

Sales for the nine months to March 31 were up 11.9pc on the same pe­riod last year, to €488.5m, while pre-tax profit is up 39.2pc on the same pe­riod last year, to €111m.

Speak­ing to the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent, Mc­Murtry, 78, ex­plained how he now fo­cuses on the firm’s R&D, hav­ing be­come ex­ec­u­tive chair­man over­see­ing in­no­va­tion and prod­uct strat­egy.

“My wife jokes that I’m per­haps work­ing harder now, spend­ing time on R&D, than I did as CEO,” he said. “In­vest­ing in it is crit­i­cal for us. Just this week there’s a patent on my desk on which I’m the named in­ven­tor, and we now em­ploy six com­pany patent lawyers.”

Bil­lion­aire in­ven­tor David Mc­murtry

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