'Our digital future' was the theme of the third and final session at Engineers Ireland's recent national conference, and where members listened to presentations from Brian Martin, Cormac Lyons and Vivian Farrell – and here, in Section C, we examine the content of Modular Automation's Vivian Farrell.

Part I on 'Supporting the National Recovery' can be viewed here, while Part II: 'Sustainable solutions in practice' can be viewed here. Part III: 'Our digital future', Section A can be viewed here; and Part III, Section B here.

Vivian Farrell, Modular Automation CEO

Vivian Farrell of Modular Automation presented on 'Leveraging digital technologies to deliver automated factories of the future'. She gave an overview of Modular's work as a leading medtech automation partner. Case studies presentations were provided by Gerard Kennedy, mechanical design department manager, on digital technology enabling sustainable and flexible automation, while Alan O’Brien, production team manager, spoke on automation enhanced with digital simulation technologies. 

Brian Martin, Integrity360 head of product, strategy and innovation

In Section A, Brian Martin, of Integrity360, gave an address on 'Defence for today’s cyber threats'. He provided an overview of the cyber-security threat landscape; wider trends in cyber security, and providing actions that we can all put in to force in order to protect ourselves. Martin also shared slides on benchmarking, resilience and how an organisation can evolve to be more security-focused.

Cormac Lyons, managing director, Procad

In Section B, Cormac Lyons of Procad presented on 'digitalisation' and the process of digital transformation in the manufacturing context. He gave an overview of digitalisation within a customer base and the industry outcomes for those customers; rates of change; and a view of the traditional product lifecycle versus more agile product development. 

Modular Automation: Leveraging digital tech to deliver automated factories of the future

Speedy solutions for medtech manufacturers

Farrell explained in a recent interview how the Shannon-based company has expanded into equipment contract manufacturing.

“Ireland is the second-largest exporter of medical devices in Europe and Modular Automation is well placed to serve the demands of medtech manufacturers with the expansion of its team and facility”, she said.

“Our team has doubled in the past five years to over 170 employees. We continue to grow with a number of open roles on our website.

“Our team and the size of the projects we’re working on has been growing, so we needed to expand. The modular campus based in Shannon has 100,000 sq ft of production and office space spread across three buildings. The company has a further eight acres of land for future development.

“We have been investing to substantially expand our facility to give us the capacity to deliver more for our customers both at home and in the US. This includes a purpose-built logistics centre supporting multiple medtech projects and handling large volumes of material from local and global suppliers.

“We are very well known for our custom automation services and we’re now establishing ourselves as a partner to medtech customers for build to print and equipment contract manufacturing. We are about to open our third facility on the modular campus and this will be dedicated to building equipment in volume for our medtech customers.

“Our customers often come to us when they need to scale their production or build machines in volume. They simply give us the design of pre-existing equipment and we can replicate that for them at speed.

“We have been very successful at winning projects with OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] which have outsourced the build of lab and manufacturing equipment to us. Our design team can enhance the functionality of the machine and through our supply chain we can reduce costs.

'Strong relationships with tooling suppliers'

“We have been around a long time and have credibility in the market. We are dedicated to medtech and our experienced team know how to operate in this highly regulated market. We have the scale to reduce costs and speed time to market through our strong relationships with tooling suppliers in Ireland and Malaysia. The material that goes into our machines is very high quality – machines are running 24/7 so they have to be robust and well tested.

“This year we’re celebrating 35 years. The business has gone through a lot of change in that 35 years and is now a highly advanced engineering-technology company, helping the world’s leading medtech manufacturers improve output, quality and capability by leveraging the power of automation. We have been scaling our business by following our customers as they expand globally.”

Modular is now a Tier 1 automation partner, working with FDA-regulated medtech blue-chip customers in Europe, North America and beyond. Its customer base includes Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, Edwards Lifesciences and Boston Scientific.

STEM continues to be a male-dominated space, but Modular is involved in different regional initiatives to promote awareness. “We engage with local schools, teachers and parents to drive the awareness that STEM is a good, well-paid and interesting career. Over the next five years, Modular’s goal is to grow the female participation of the team to 30%. We’re always looking at ways of removing the barriers for women in STEM, and last year we introduced paid maternity leave.

“Innovation is all about ideas and the more diversity we have in the company, the more interesting the ideas we are going to generate,” says Farrell.

With the onset of Covid and the cancellation of elective surgeries, Modular’s customers experienced an immediate decline in demand for their products. “That did create a slowdown, but the sector is resilient and the recovery has been strong,” she says.

“There is a confidence in the market now hospitals are picking back up, catching up on surgeries and our customers are back to business as usual. We are very optimistic about the future.”

'Struck by all of the presentations'

At the end of a thorough and intensely beneficial national conference, Engineers Ireland director general Caroline Spillane thanked the delegates and described how she was "struck" by all of the presentations: "Whether it was the ambition of the Arup team in Amsterdam in building their timber-hybrid residential tower block (and the demand for similar such structures in the Netherlands’ other cities), or ESB’s sustainable solutions driven by low carbon electricity or the words of Leo Clancy encouraging all engineering firms and businesses to ensure they are embracing digitalisation and have sustainability embedded in all business plans.

"The challenges we face, in providing sustainable solutions, improved efficiency or making use of digital technologies, will all require and benefit from engineering. And Engineers Ireland is committed to ensuring our members can lead on sustainable development and are encouraged in their roles to be drivers of a more sustainable, green and digital future." 

(Part I on 'Supporting the National Recovery' can be viewed here, while Part II: 'Sustainable solutions in practice' can be viewed here. Part III: 'Our digital future', Section A can be viewed here; and Part III, Section B here.)