*Colin Hehir. 

FROM ITS global headquarters in Shannon, Panametrics produces cutting edge technology that is making a difference across a multitude of critical industries, including energy, power generation, food and beverage, water and energy transition.

Panametrics, a Baker Hughes business, provides solutions in the toughest applications and environments for flow, moisture, hydrogen, oxygen, liquid, gas and steam measurement. Experts in oil and gas flare management, Panametrics technology also reduces flare emissions and optimizes performance.

Established in Shannon in 1973, it has evolved over five decades thanks to its culture of continuous improvement. In 2005, Panametrics moved into its current facility in the Smithstown Industrial Estate. Ten years later it expanded the premises by 100,000 sqft and added a further 20,000 sqft in 2018.

Seven employees started out with Panametrics in Shannon, fifty years ago. It now has a global workforce of 600 which includes eighty engineers and six PhD graduates.

At its Shannon site, Panametrics designs develops and manufactures ultrasonic flow meters used by customers to monitor and control the flow of any liquid. The Shannon team also produce Process Analyzers, which measure moisture, oxygen and hydrogen.

Colin Hehir is a native of Shannon who now resides in Newmarket-on-Fergus, he is the Vice President of Panametrics and has been with the company since 2005. “Baker Hughes generates more than €20bn in revenue per year with around 55,000 employees. Focused on taking energy forward, Baker Hughes is a leading driver in the energy transition.”

Colin is one of seven plant managers in the company’s history in Co Clare. He held the post from 2013 to 2016. Since 2022, John Earls, a man well-known within Clare sporting circles has been in the role.

Steady growth has been experienced in Shannon every year according to Colin. “We pretty much have every part and every function you need to run a successful business here in Shannon. In addition to the manufacturing teams, we also have a quality team on site, product management, global marketing and technology engineering teams. We also have the wider operations team including many of our buyers, planners and production leads”.

From the creation of Panametrics’ first product, an aluminium oxide probe hygrometer developed in the US in 1967, adaption has been integral for Panametrics’ growth. “That the Panametrics business has been so successful over the years is partly attributed to continuous improvement. For example, the Shannon team has managed to keep one step ahead thanks to continuous improvement in every area of the business. Whether it is design, quality, cost control, lead times for products, every year the team has got into a strong rhythm of looking forward and finding ways of doing things better.”

Industries served from the Shannon based company include oil and gas, power generation, waste and wastewater, steel and renewable energy. “Where our customers are adapting, particularly on technology, we have to adapt with them or keep ahead of them. For example, we’ll try to develop new technologies before a customer realises that they need it,” Colin said.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Colin highlighted how the company tries to stay ahead. “We have a strategic marketing team who spend a lot of time looking forward at the macro trends. For example, in the hydrogen space electrolyzer manufacturing has really taken off. We’ve a strong track record in the hydrogen market but being able to really understand it helped drive the recent launch of a new product called the ‘HygroPro II’ which is used across hydrogen applications. In addition, we also go through a yearly cycle where we look at the next five to seven years, including all the marketing data, the macro trends and feedback from our peers in other parts of the industry. This enables us to make good decisions about where to invest, what technologies to focus on and which markets to enter.”

Diverse markets are a strength of Panametrics, he noted. “We sell our technology to some very well well-known soft drink manufacturers, into salmon farming in Korea, and to control water leakage in California. Our technology hits every corner of the globe across a huge spread of sectors. Often regulations are a big help to us – tight regulations increases the likelihood of an organisation investing in technology that accurately and reliably measures their flow or the presence of gas or moisture. Meanwhile, many of our products are very bespoke, designed for the customer in-house here in Shannon. We’ll partner with the customer, understand what their challenges are and work together to develop a technology solution that solves the problem.“

For a global headquarters, location is vital with Colin able to attend a meeting in Shannon in the morning and making another engagement in Boston US (home to a number of Panametrics global functions and an additional manufacturing facility) later that evening. “The link with the Airport in a global company is critical -you need to have that connectivity. COVID impacted on a lot of those connections, but thankfully they are coming back. We have 3,000 customers in 88 countries. As our technologies are considered critical, some customers send teams to inspect an order before we can ship it – and so every week we have people from all over the world visiting our HQ here in Shannon – therefore good transport links are vital for our business.”

Links to third-level institutes in the Mid-West region are also important “The proximity to the University of Limerick, University of Galway and TUS is a big selling point and we enjoy very positive partnerships with them. What we’ve found is that once people move to the West of Ireland, they tend to stay here – but you need to get them here first. Further education is a big draw.”

Staff retention is high and is referenced with pride by Colin. “There is a pride in the work that people do here. We develop cutting-edge technology that is key to the energy transition, helping to protect the planet and reduce our customers’ costs. I think that’s worth getting out of bed for, and thankfully so do Panametrics people! I mentioned continuous improvement and that drives people – it’s like winning a hurling match, they want to keep ahead all the time and be better than everyone else – we have a strong culture of that here in Shannon. So much so that we have gone from just a core manufacturing site to a global headquarters. Over time we’ve proven we can drive that continuous improvement and stay ahead of our competitors.”

Although Panametrics is one of the few companies to have a global headquarters in Shannon, Colin admitted that they have been guilty in the past about “not shouting enough about successes”. “We have a very good attrition rate where we don’t lose people and we tend to be more focused on that continuous improvement journey. However, we’re increasingly conscious of raising awareness to help drive new orders, but also to help drive recruitment.

“I would say that Panametrics is an Irish export success story. We export 98% of our products, contributing to the local economy. There are very few businesses in Shannon that have been around for fifty years and are continuing to grow. I’m proud that we’re bringing dollars back into Ireland.”

Colin concluded. “We have a very bright future! We have a number of exciting new technologies that are on the brink of launch; we’re seeing demand for our products increase; while we anticipate expanding the workforce here in Shannon over the next 12 months. Celebrating fifty years in Shannon is a big achievement. It’s a privilege to be leading Panametrics at such a pivotal and exciting moment in the company’s history”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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