SME Student Consultancy in Action at MTU Cork

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By Laura O’Donovan, MTU

As part of the SME Cluster Growth project, Munster Technological University (MTU) reached out to engineering SMEs to identify a challenge to their growth for students to address on a Student Consultancy project. The SME Student Consultancy project is designed to enable engineering SMEs access to student expertise that can provide insights into a current challenge to the company’s growth.

Redmond McDonnell, CEO of DesignPro Automation answered our call. DesignPro Automation is an Irish-owned company based in Limerick offering one of the largest machine build facilities in Ireland. Redmond presented two problems for the students to work with:

  • difficulty recruiting suitably qualified staff
  • difficulty growing their international market without sales and support in each territory.

DesignPro operates in a very niche space with a modern skillset required such as Automation & Mechatronic engineers, Machine Vision Engineers, Design Engineers, and Project Managers all required to deliver cutting-edge machinery and robotic solutions to its customers. With such a specialised skillset already in high demand, they find significant competition for talent from their own multinational customer base which can offer significant employee benefits. This is difficult for an SME to compete with. The company tries to offer a flexible and innovative working environment, but they do find it hard to compete on purely financial grounds.

A challenge that prohibits international growth is the need for local support on the ground. As a 50-person SME, they cannot yet justify bodies on the ground internationally which provides a stumbling block when delivering machines internationally from a maintenance and support point of view. To enable the further sales of machines and robotic solutions internationally the company is looking for a model that its customers will buy into to overcome the current lack of local support for international machines.

Jane Leonard, a lecturer at MTU worked with two groups of four students, one completing a master’s in International Business and another, a master’s in Human Resources (HR). These projects were completed without academic credit and tackled with great enthusiasm by both groups. The students travelled to the DesignPro Automation site in Limerick to see the reality of what the company creates and how it operates. They interviewed numerous competitors and industry experts to ascertain what others are doing in this space and also visited a MedTech marketing company in Leuven, Belgium.

The extensive research was clearly on display when the students delivered their findings and recommendations to Redmond McDonnell, the CEO of DesignPro Automation and Sharon Lyons, a marketing executive with the company.

Redmond McDonnell, CEO of DesignPro Automation, Drashti Oza, Ciara Mahoney, Maureen Azubuike and Rahul Pandey (students of master’s degree in International Business) and Sharon Lyons, Marketing Executive for DesignPro Automation.

The master’s degree in International Business students’ Ciara Mahoney, Drashti Oza, Rahul Pandey and Maureen Azubuike presented their findings and recommendations in relation to a global expansion strategy, and supply chain and inventory management.

Masters’ students in Human Resources, Wiktor Mazur, Sophie Cooney, Nicole Sim and Maia outlined their findings on the company branding, outcomes of website analysis, their potential candidate journey map and the benefits of accessing graduates.

Redmond McDonnell, CEO of DesignPro Automation, Wiktor Mazur, Nicole Sim, Sophie Cooney and Maia (students of master’s degree in Human Resources) and Sharon Lyons, Marketing Executive for DesignPro Automation.  

Afterwards, there was an interesting conversation between the SME representatives and the students, regarding recruitment and retention of skilled workers from Ireland and abroad . They were both very impressive and beneficial presentations.

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